Dear Friends and Neighbors,
The committee cutoffs are behind us. On Wednesday, we reached the halfway point of the scheduled 105-day session, and we are working long hours in the House chamber, considering all the bills that survived their respective committees and were sent to the House floor for a vote. House bills not sent to the Senate by next Wednesday, March 8, are considered “dead” for the session. Bills necessary to implement the state operating budget are exempt from the deadlines.
Surviving Pike bills progress to House floor, Senate
I'm pleased to report a few of my prime-sponsored bills made it out of their committees. One has passed the House and the other is awaiting a House vote.
PASSED THE HOUSE
House Bill 1606 – Transparency in Transportation Benefit Districts (TBDs): Cities/counties can establish a Transportation Benefit District with independent taxing authority to provide transportation improvements within that district. A number of constituents have complained to me that TBDs have very little transparency when it comes to votes on tax and fee increases. I believe it is imperative that TBDs hold public hearings to allow for citizen input BEFORE raising car tab fees and other new taxes that could be imposed with or without a public vote. That's what this bill would require. House Bill 1606 passed the House unanimously on Wednesday, March 1. It has been referred to the Senate Transportation Committee. Read my press release on this measure.
AWAITING A HOUSE FLOOR VOTE
House Bill 1504 – Recognizing rail importance under GMA: This bipartisan measure would ensure access to short-line railroads and development for freight rail under the state's Growth Management Act (GMA). There are 23 short-line railroads in our state. This bill would allow our short lines to work for us by attracting new manufacturing jobs and ensuring these new businesses have rail access in order to get their goods to market.
The bill is needed because in Clark County and all over the state, the availability of rail-served land is scarce. I've been working hard on this issue for the past two years because our own Columbia River Economic Development Council was recently forced to turn away four new companies who wanted to locate here. That's because under the current GMA, these parcels don't exist. Company #1 needed at least 200 acres with rail access that would have created 6,500 new manufacturing jobs here. Company #2 needed a minimum of 150 acres with rail access to provide up to 500 jobs. Company #3 needed 100 acres with rail access to provide 308 new jobs in the first year with an option to expand on 250 acres and 1,104 jobs by year six. Company #4 needed 100 acres with 200,000 square feet of rail service to bring 250 new jobs to our community.
These jobs will locate in a state that welcomes them. This measure would help bring these new manufacturing jobs to Southwest Washington. In Clark County, we have a prime opportunity to offer rail access from the existing Chelatchie Prairie Railroad. My legislation would make a few small adjustments to make these new jobs a reality!
I'm working with the chair of the House Environment Committee, along with lawmakers on the other side of the aisle to find a workable solution. I hope to bring you good news next week about the passage of this bill.
On transportation issues, we need visionary, forward-thinking solutions
I'm disappointed politics got in the way of common-sense solutions included in my House Bill 1222. The measure, which would have created a bi-state bridge legislative work group to address the woefully inadequate transportation system between our two states, died in the House Transportation Committee. Instead, the committee advanced a controversial, reactionary bill that could send us backward toward a revival of the failed Columbia River Crossing with a 14-10 vote along party lines.
As I have promised you, I will not give up until we get the transportation congestion relief our Southwest Washington citizens want and deserve. I've said this needs to be a process whereby legislators from both sides of the river meet face-to-face to agree on a comprehensive plan that would address current and future transportation needs.
Next week, several of our local newspapers will be publishing an opinion-editorial I wrote on this process. You can read it now here.
Keep informed and involved!
I'd like to encourage you to contact my office via phone, email, letters and by appointment in-person as we vote on legislation. Your silence is consent, so speak up, become involved, be heard and make a difference! You'll find my contact information below. Thank you for the opportunity to allow me to serve and represent you!
"Protecting life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness!"