Posted by: sweeneyblog | February 28, 2015

Sen. Doug Ericksen’s 2015 Legislative Proposals

Sen. Doug Ericksen
Sen. Doug Ericksen

Sorry this article took so long to publish, but I wanted to get more details on some of the material.

After the raising over $500,000 from big business to fend of Seth Fleetwood in 2014, Sen. Doug Ericksen (R-Ferndale) returned to the Senate with two key changes from last year. Firstly, he was solidly in the majority – no more kowtowing to the hybrid Coalition of Republicans and turncoat Democrats, now the Republicans had a firm grasp on the chamber. Second, Ericksen owed his funders plenty of favors.

As a result, he proposed twenty-six pieces of legislation, covering topics from oil safety to labor laws. His proposals can be grouped into three main categories; the Good, the Bad, and the very Ugly.

As always, you can click on the bill number to read the original legislation. You can also see my breakdown of Rep. Kris Lytton (D-Anacortes) and Rep. Vincent Buys (R-Lynden) here.

The Good

Yes, Ericksen has proposed a few decent bills that tackle local issues. First, he has co-sponsored SB5447 with Sen. Ranker (and a few other Ds and Rs) that would allow Bellingham and Ferndale to add a fuel tax for improvements related to the border. Right now, towns within 10 miles of the border are able to impose a fuel tax to handle the extra traffic, this bill extends that to twenty-five miles.

"Did you get my call"

“Did you get my call”

He also co-sponsored a bill, SB5310, requested by the Energy Facilities Siting and Evaluation council that clarifies the language around the Department of Ecology fining permit violators for Energy facilities. Sen. Ranker has also signed on for this bill and it seems like a regular “clarify the process” sort of bill.

SB5490 would allow Point Roberts to spend some of their transportation tax funds on a bus to shuttle students to extra curricular activities. This is one of the priorities for the Whatcom Council of Governments, who employed Tom Parker, a lobbyist, to get passed. Parker was spotted earlier this year buying Ericksen dinner (of course).

Alright, that was a short segment. Onto the rest of his bills . . .

The Bad

Yes, I had to separate these bills between “Bad” and “Ugly”. The Bad bills are not going to destroy the fabric of reality here in Washington, but they are still bad ideas.

Sen. Doug Ericksen

Sen. Doug Ericksen

For instance, SB5705 would create a mining advisory committee that “represents the interests of small-scale mineral prospectors” who, according to Ericksen’s bill, do not have enough influence in our government. Yes, let’s give business more ways to influence the public process.

SB5706 would extend a property tax exemption for non-profit fair associations, SB5429 drastically limits how much the state can charge for license plates (no more than 125% of the materials cost) and removes the requirement that have to buy them from inmates (this bill would cut $31 million from the state budget). SB5460 removes restrictions on how much towing companies can charge drivers – allowing them to gouge away.

When it comes to construction, Ericksen is cutting restrictions and oversight left and right. SB5855 would take the emergency permitting process (and environmental exemptions) used to repair the Skagit I-5 bridge and apply it to all highway construction projects, oh and SB5427 would make sure that the Department of Transportation (or their subcontractors) do not have to pay sales tax on the materials blowing an $87 million dollar hole in our state budget. SB5428 concludes this slew of legislation by expanding permit exemptions for highway construction.

SB5426 would require our Ferry system to switch to Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) for fuel. Currently they run on diesel and earlier bills proposed would allow them to switch over to biodiesel. This would instead switch over six ferries to LNG – with no financing for the change.

SB5425 creates a sales tax exemption for qualified broadband internet equipment, a move that would cost the state a measly 3.4 million but would cost local governments around 1.2 million. Not a bad return on Comcast’s $950 donation to Ericksen last year.

SB5659 limits how litter tax funds can be spent. Right now, a litter tax is charged on products that generate the bulk of the litter (plastic bags, cigarette cartoons, etc). Municipalities used to have some latitude on how these funds were spent to reduce litter – Ericksen’s bill restricts it to just spending on recycling, compost and waste reduction. No public education campaigns or infrastructure development.

The Ugly

Didn’t I hear something about Ericksen’s climate change shenanigans? Something to effect of him trying to block Governor Inslee’s climate change efforts. For that whole discussion, stay tuned for tomorrow for a special report from The Policy Junkie.UPDATE: Click here for all the details on Ericksen’s efforts to thwart climate action!

SB5830 is a bill in direct response to legislation being proposed by Rep. Kris Lytton to allow the Salish tribe to enter into a fuel tax agreement with the state. Lytton’s bill would allow the negotiations to move forward, Ericksen’s would squash them dead.

Yes, he does get more sweaty in every picture

Yes, he does get more sweaty in every picture

SB5707 is my choice for Ericksen’s worst bill this cycle REVISED – SEE SB5021 below. It removes the requirement for small cities (under 10,000) to pay prevailing wage for public projects. Right now, if you are building a new water system in Lynden, you pay the subcontractors a fair wage – this bill would gut that requirement.

SB5057 is the so-called “Oil Train Safety” and is classic Ericksen. Take an issue that needs serious work (Oil Train Safety), take a much better bill (SB5834 for instance by Sen. Ranker) and water it down. In this case, Ericksen removed the requirements for the train companies to disclose to the communities what they are shipping. The cost of emergency response is shifted to the locals and Ericksen’s bill would drain the state coffers directly rather than taxing the oil companies for the cleanup.

Similarly, SB5056 would ban two toxic chemicals in children’s toys and mattresses. But the bill is a watered down version of a much stricter provision from a few years ago – that version was killed in committee when Ericksen broke state law by illegally tabling that bill.

UPDATE: Steve Lydolf brought to my attention that I skipped SB5021! This bill, in a clear gift to big business, allows manufacturers to use the toxic metal Cadmium in children’s jewelry. From the staff report, Cadmium has some pretty intense effects.

Acute exposure from eating food or drinking water with high levels of cadmium can cause vomiting, diarrhea, and possibly death. Chronic exposure of cadmium accumulates in the kidneys and liver and causes kidney damage and failure, bone damage, and lung disease.

I would put that down in the “very not good to have in Children’s jewelry” category but not Sen. Ericksen who wants to allow manufacturers to put however much they like. Bleck!

Like I said, we have an article on tap for tomorrow dealing with the Climate Change initiatives but for now, this is my summary of Ericksen’s legislative efforts. UPDATE: Here it is!

Hello Loyal Readers,

Welcome back to another edition of Friday Odds and Ends. Recently, I just had to fork over a big chunk of change for all the domains that this site uses, so whether you type in, or just, you go to the right spot. You can help defray this cost and help me expand my reach, with a donation today!

Rep. Suzan DelBene

Rep. Suzan DelBene

First, the Federal Communications Commission did the right thing recently. I know, after years of approving media mergers that have drastically increased corporate influence in our lives, they came down and ruled to protect the internet from that same creeping influence. They ruled that the internet was a utility and that internet carriers must treat all content equally. So if you get internet from Comcast, they can’t slow down your Netflix just because they are competing with them.

When it originally looked like the FCC would side with big business, Congresswoman Suzan DelBene co-sponsored the legislation to keep broadband providers from discriminating against various content.“I support the FCC’s efforts to protect a free and open Internet,” DelBene said. “This proposal prevents blocking, throttling and paid prioritization, which are positive, bipartisan goals.”

Meanwhile, City Councilman Jack Weiss provided some more context on his decision not to seek reelection.

Every time I hear of an elected official stepping down from office they say how much of an honor it has been. This cliché term does not ring as true as when it actually happens to you. It has not just been a sincere honor for me, it has provided me with a reverence and respect for how our local government works and the commitment we collectively have for the best interests of our citizens and businesses.

He cites his accomplishments as passing Rental Safety Ordinance, opposing the “poorly designed Port of Bellingham waterfront master plan” and passing two resolutions “endorsing the reduction of fossil fuel use, especially from Alberta tar sands.” As many people mentioned on my original article, Weiss’ strong voice for oversight will definitely be missed.

Meanwhile, in the news of the weird, a maraschino cherry plant in Brooklyn was raided for pumping red syrup into the nearby water ways . . . and they instead discovered a giant marijuana grow and several high-end vehicles. Just a friendly reminder, as weird as Whatcom politics gets, other states have us beat cold.

More legislative news this weekend. Stay tuned!

Posted by: sweeneyblog | February 26, 2015

How the Party Treats Jeb and Hillary Tells You Everything

I try to shy away from national politics but with the presidential campaigns beginning to heat up, I wanted to share these thoughts about Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush.

Hillary Clinton

Madam Secretary

First, let’s start with the assumption that Hillary and Jeb are running parallel campaigns. Both are well-funded insiders, with close connections to previous presidents, and are viewed suspiciously by their own base for their moderate positions (Bush on Common Core and Immigration, Clinton on siding with Wall Street). Both have a close inner circle of advisors and are planning elaborate campaign roll-outs with the best staff money can buy.

On the surface, they seem to be very similar candidates however they will be received completely differently because of how the parties interact with their base.

In politics, the “base” is the group of people who form your most ardent supporters. They are the die-hard volunteers, the passionate doorbellers and small donors and that one guy who shares EVERY SINGLE environmental petition on his facebook page (thanks, Jerry).

A presidential candidate needs support from their base to win – without it, they can only limp along, struggling to generate enthusiasm. John Kerry was not beloved by the Democratic base. John McCain was not popular with the base until he brought on Sarah Palin, then he was able to pack arenas with cheering supporters.

However, while the people at the top need the base, they do not necessarily love them – and this is where the political parties differ and it explains why Hillary Clinton will be the Democratic nominee and Jeb Bush will not.

The Democratic leadership disdains their most passionate supporters, the Republicans are actually afraid of their base.

I’m not talking about local parties, I’m talking about the upper echelons of power. The Democrats view their base as dirty, loud hippies that make unreasonable demands. “$15/hr minimum wage? Are you kidding me?” They say at their cocktail parties, “What’s next, legalizing marijuana and free housing for the homeless?” The democratic party leadership knows that even if they ignore, insult or marginalize their supporters, they still will show up to vote for the centrist Democrat because the Republican is scarier.

Fmr Gov. Jeb Bush

Fmr Gov. Jeb Bush

On the other side of fence, the Republicans fear their base. After several prominent incumbents were defeated in the primary by Tea Party upstarts, the GOP leadership has been in a defensive crouch (see: Boehner, John), constantly afraid that the rabid hordes will storm their gates and throw them out.

This is why Hillary can remain comfortable in her centrist positions, while Jeb will go through Romney-esque contortions trying to persuade his base that he is the second coming of Ted Cruz. As a result, Hillary will be seen from a position of strength, the national media always likes it when politicians stand up to their friends while Jeb will be seen as caving to the tea party right, a position of weakness.

Does this mean that Progressives are doomed to irrelevance? Absolutely not. One of the other key differences between the two parties is that the Democrats are actually interested in legislating, while the Republicans haven’t brought any serious legislative proposals to the national stage since President Bush tried to privatize Social Security in 2005.

As a result, the Democratic base has passed a number of strong legislation in the last decade. While they are unable to push a truly progressive candidate to forefront, they have passed a strong financial consumer protection agency, the stimulus package which included the largest single investment in education and green energy in a generation and on the state level, they have legalized marijuana in a handful of states, and passed marriage equality in all but thirteen.

There is still plenty to be done, progressives have lost ground on women’s health issues nationwide, for instance, and I strongly doubt we will ever see a true progressive from the Democratic base as the Presidential nominee. However, the Republicans will be able to bend their eventual nominee to their will. Will that give them electoral success in 2016? I don’t think so, but it will be revealing about the continual evolution of our political parties.

Posted by: sweeneyblog | February 24, 2015

BREAKING: Jack Weiss to Retire, Candidates Loom in the Wings

Bellingham City Council Wards

Bellingham City Council Wards

It is official: after two terms as a city councilman from Ward 1, Jack Weiss has decided not to run for reelection. Since 2007, when Weiss was elected, he has provided a strong and consistent voice for oversight, specifically around the redevelopment of the waterfront, and his passion for environmentalism and ethical government will be missed.

Ward 1 is an odd district. It covers the venerable Columbia neighborhood, the rapidly infill-ing Birchwood neighborhood,  and the newly constructed Cordata neighborhood. It includes Whatcom Community College, the growing commercial space west of Guide-Meridian, and an abandoned coal mine beneath its residents. Out of this area, two candidates have begun to emerge:

April Barker

April Barker

April Barker is a para-educator at Birchwood Elementary. She is also the current president of the Birchwood Neighborhood Association. Last year, she spoke before the City Council advocating a proposal that would create a 3-acre public open space site dedicated to recreation, urban food production, education and off-street walking near the traditional center of the Birchwood neighborhood and within 250 feet of Birchwood Elementary School.

Her previous political involvement includes organizing a town hall meeting about Bellingham airport noise issues – bringing both sides to attendance and maintaining the neighborhood’s neutral stance on the issue. She has no record of political donations that I could find.

Steve Crooks

Steve Crooks

Steve Crooks has also expressed interest. Currently, he is on the Planning Commission and is the former president of the Cordata Neighborhood Association and a veteran of the Vietnam War. Professionally, he was responsible for handling eminent domain and zoning appeal cases for BP Exploration Oil’s retail and distribution sites. He served as BP’s information officer for the Deepwater Horizon oil spill response team in the summer of 2010.

As a planning commissioner, he spoke out against raising downtown parking rates in a recent Bellingham Herald article. “‘You’re going to take those areas and raise the parking prices, when we want more people to come downtown?’ commissioner Steve Crooks said. ‘It sounds like you’re trying to soak people.'”

In terms of political involvement, he has donated $280 to the Whatcom Republicans and $100 to Kelli Linville when she ran for mayor in 2011.

The only other candidate I have heard mentioned is Clayton Petree. Since losing in Ward 4 to Pinky Vargas, Petree has since relocated to Ward 1 and has expressed mild interest in running this year.

Posted by: sweeneyblog | February 20, 2015

Friday Odds and Ends: Crazy Uncle Joe, and Terrified Dispensaries

Hello Loyal Readers,

Time to get rolling with this week’s Odds and Ends. All the news that’s fit to print, but not important enough to justify its own post.

Frequent readers of this blog will remember my theory that Vice President Joe Biden is actually a Leslie Nielsen character in disguise. Yes, you can say, “Leslie Nielsen passed away in 2010,” but I just point to things like this:

Tell me that’s not the guy from Naked Gun

In case you’re curious, that’s the swearing in of the new Secretary of Defense. And that’s the vice-president being overly schmoozy. Just remember, these are the highjinks we know about. I can’t wait for this administration’s tell-all book that will come out sometime in 2017.

Meanwhile, the medical marijuana community is seeing their (*second) worst fears realized. During the campaign for legal, recreational marijuana many in the medical community feared the state would clamp down on their largely unregulated and definitely untaxed business. Now, those fears are being realized. The Stranger has a great breakdown of the legislative efforts proposed to fold the medical community into the current recreational market.

The medical marijuana community is desperately in need of oversight, and now that we have (**somewhat) working legal framework, it makes sense to start auditing the medical community.

Tomorrow, my analysis of Sen. Doug Ericksen’s legislative efforts will go live. It is definitely an all-you-can-eat buffet of corporate goodies and local oddities.

*Their worst fear is either the reinstatement of marijuana prohibition . . . or a giant angry Hershey’s bar chasing them down in a dark alley and demanding revenge.

**The recreational market still is somewhat unavailable by public transit (because of the zoning restrictions) and there are many communities still lacking an accessible store.

Posted by: sweeneyblog | February 17, 2015

The Paul deArmond Citizen Journalism Award Dinner

Several local media people gathered at the Black Cat for the 2nd annual Paul deArmond Citizen Journalism award dinner. Last year, they gave it to Wendy Harris, a dedicated researcher and passionate public advocate. This year, they gave it to a goofy blogger with a fondness for bowties and mustache jokes.

Below all these pictures is my acceptance speech. Strangely, for all the shameless self-promotion I do, praise makes me mildly uncomfortable so I’ve buried this post between two big ones (my Doug Ericksen analysis should be up tomorrow).

Here are a few pictures of the event:

John Servais

Political Junkie-20

Doug Starcher looks on

Political Junkie-16

Political Junkie-38

Political Junkie-17Political Junkie-3Political Junkie-32

Here’s my acceptance speech:

Thank you all – if I look nervous and sweaty its just my disguise, as a blogger, I am contractually required to be uncomfortable in all public settings.

Thank you all for coming and for your kind words. This is such an honor. As the line between traditional journalism, advocacy and public relations disintegrates before our very eyes, it is fantastic to see so many people coming together to fill that gap. Writing my blog has been an incredible journey and as a result, there are a few people who I would like to thank.

I would like to thank John Servais, who took a snarky youngster and gave him an opportunity to flourish – and even better, pushed me out of the nest when the time was right. I know that if I can offend half as many people as John has over the years, I’m doing it right

I would like to thank my three favorite Republicans: Jason Overstreet, Doug Ericksen and Pete Kremen. Without them, I’d have to actually work for some material.

Thank you Bellingham Herald, for continuing to unintentionally encourage people to read my blog. While poking fun at the Herald can be a full-time job, I sincerely hope that that they will be able to sustain a full-time reporter in the next couple of years.

Thank you to Wayne Farber and the rest of the conservatives that comment on my blog endlessly – you make my typing errors look passable.

Thank you to my father, who always told me that if I can write, I can make a living. He also said, for the love of god, don’t go into politics so, we’ll split that one fifty/fifty.

Thank you to my wife Bryna, who puts up with my neurotic obsessions with grace and class. When I’m jumping up and down because a city council person, say, took a bathroom selfie, she is always there to say, “Uh huh, go get ‘em, sweetie.”

Finally, I’d like to thank the committee. Paul was such an inspiration – I remember sitting in John’s backyard listing to his war stories of spineless weasels, jackbooted thugs and crooked politicians. To receive this award, in his name, is such an honor. His tireless and uncompromising voice rings true today.

Paul saw the need for citizen journalists capable of putting news in the proper context. From his report on the WTO, “Future protests will be even more information intensive . . . because the ultimate prize in a conflict is understanding, not opinion, it is the quality of information, not the quantity, which determines the final outcome.”

He was absolutely right. In our digital world, it is so easy to create content. Right now, Bryna is gathering digital content at 4MB’s a click. It is easier than ever to root through public records or find out about misbehaving public officials – now to put them in the proper context and articulate that in an engaging way – that is the next challenge and I’m so glad that I’m not doing it alone.

I’m going to let you in on a secret. There are more Riley’s out there. More people like myself who want to get involved, they just need a chance. The next wave of communicators are out there, willing to work hard for very little, wanting to dig out the stories that matter in their community. They just need you.

Our work is ongoing. There will always be the next election, the next boondoogle, the next Cherry Point and often we will feel completely outmatched – without the time, the money or the energy to go on. I want you to think back on this moment, where we came together as a community and decided to keep fighting for truth, for civil justice and a transparent government. There is no stronger force in this world than the power of people coming together to tackle problems bigger than themselves.

I’m just happy to be part of that community.

Thank you, everyone.

Posted by: sweeneyblog | February 15, 2015

Interviewing Mayor Kelli Linville

Mayor Kelli Linville

Mayor Kelli Linville

Last Tuesday, I sat down with Mayor Kelli Linville to discuss the pressing issues of the city. Linville is just finishing up her first term as mayor – a capstone to a long record of public service.

For several years, she was the state representative from the 42nd District, however the Tea Party wave in 2010 allowed newcomer (and rock-collecting enthusiast) Vincent Buys to oust Linville. Rather than simply return to her antique furniture business, Linville decided to run for Mayor of Bellingham barely edging past incumbent Dan Pike in a campaign that can at best be described as brutal.

Her administration has been marked by some dramatic movement on the Port, but also some sharp criticism over her struggles with the Roosevelt neighborhood, her support for Peacehealth’s $1.2 million tax exemption, and most recently, her proposed ordinances to address the homelessness in our downtown core.

Mayor Linville with her big board

Mayor Linville with her big board

Starting with this “street-sweeper” ordinance, Linville is quick to correct me that this is about “the homeless issue.” She said these two ordinances were developed by a community solutions work group, “that brought together non-likeminded  people to look at solutions that can be enacted quickly to address this problem.” This solutions work group included city staff, downtown business owners, mental health professionals and social service workers with the goal of creating a downtown that was safe and welcoming to all walks of life. The Cascadia Weekly did a great article this week summarizing all the city’s efforts to tackle homelessness in Bellingham.

“The real issue is the failure to respond,” Linville said. “When you or I get a ticket, we usually do something about it, but there is a certain group of people that don’t.” Last year, 376 citations were handed out downtown for drinking in public. Linville says that of those 376, 50-60 are chronic offenders. “There was no teeth in responding to ordinances . . . this would make sure that we can hold them accountable and give them an opportunity to hook them up with services.”

ferndale tank

Meanwhile the Ferndale Police bought a tank . . .

Linville ties it into police discretion. “Cops are able to use this, but they don’t have to. It just gives them another tool they can use.” In the wake of Ferguson, and more recently, Pasco, WA, police enforcement can be a hot button issue, but Linville sees our local police differently and took a rare swipe at City Councilmember Terry Bornemann.

“During the discussion (over the ordinances), Terry said that he doesn’t trust the police to use discretion. I’m a little saddened that he would say something that hurtful in public.”

Linville notes that she has complete confidence in the Bellingham police to do the right thing, noting the recent community and neighborhood policing efforts. “(The ordinance) was written broadly because not responding to law enforcement is not good, but I trust that they will only enforce this when they don’t respond.”

Noble intentions, but Linville readily admits that “the introduction of these (ordinances) was clumsy,” something for which she takes full responsibility. However, she is confident that these are the right solutions and will be supported by the council.

James St. Repairs

James St. Repairs

Moving right along, I asked about my current pet peeve, the closing of James Street. The project, which was started in August of 2014, was projected to be complete by November, yet here we are in mid February and it is still closed. Why is it closed, I ask. “I don’t know,” Linville sighs and I shoot her my best questioning eyebrow.

“Some of it was the weather, part of it is the public works director took his attention from the project to other issues.” Although she briefly reassures me that Public Works Director Ted Carlson is “wonderful” and that the street should be finished by the “end of February.”

I asked Linville point blank if she was running for reelection, she said yes without pause but asked that I sit on it till Friday (which I did) so she can send out an email to her supporters. “I feel really good about what we do. I have a good record and I’m proud of it.” She notes that I’m the first news person to ask her about reelection.

Circling back to the waterfront, Linville stresses that she is very happy with how it is going. “We have made more progress when I was mayor than any other mayor before.” She points to the signing of the plan in 2013 with the port as a big step forward but “everything takes longer than you think it will.” But she is crystal clear about the final goal. “We’ll get the clean up we’re asking for . . . we can’t give people access to contaminated soil. Nothing’s perfect but I can see the progress we are making.”

With that, we wrap up the interview. This will, hopefully, be a recurring feature. So if there are some questions that you want answered, leave them in the comments below. In the meantime, I’ll go back to reading Sen. Doug Ericksen’s legislative proposals . . . blech.

Posted by: sweeneyblog | February 14, 2015

Rep. Kris Lytton’s 2015 Legislative Proposals

Last year was a frustrating year for many Democratic legislators, as the Republican-controlled Senate formed an almost impenetrable blockade against legislation from the House. That did not stop Rep. Kris Lytton (D-Anacortes) from bringing a fresh slew of bills to the table in 2015.

Rep. Kris Lytton

Rep. Kris Lytton

Lytton has recently ascended to Majority Floor Leader in the House, where she works with the Speaker of the House on scheduling votes for important legislation. She makes sure that they make it through the proper committees and out the door before key deadlines.

However these added responsibilities have not diminished her legislative output. As to be expected from the former School Board president, most of Lytton’s proposals involve Education. As always, click on the bill number to see the original text of the bill.

Sidenote: Last year, I made the mistake of referring to some of Lytton’s bills as “boring”. They are not, many of them tackle thorny issues and key fixes to our legislative code. That said, the issues are not always thrilling so I’ve added some exciting titles to help punch them up a bit.


HB1950 - “Death to the Science Test for Graduation!” Obviously, that is not the official title for this bill but what it does is eliminate the science portion of the standardized testing requirement to graduate high school. Currently an End of Course biology test, based on the Common Core guidelines (AAGHH!!), is required for all high school students graduating in 2015 – this bill, requested by the State Board of Education, would remove that requirement.

Riley, I swear, if you call my bills "boring" again . . .

Riley, I swear, if you call my bills “boring” again . . .

When I graduated high school in 2004, schools were aggressively increasing the number of standardized tests required for graduation. By the time my younger brother graduated, he was required to pass a whole battery of test (called WASLs then) that took weeks out of the classroom and did little to enhance our understanding of the material.

Now we are seeing the pendulum swing back as the state struggles to find alternative methods for assessing learning. This bill is another skirmish in that ongoing struggle.

HB1743 – “Can’t I Just Take the GED with Paper and Pencil?” Last year, our community and technical colleges switched over to assessing the GED (now called the High School Equivalency or HSE) via computer. This bill would require an option that is low cost, does not require computer proficiency and still is appropriate for the people seeking a HSE diploma. This bill is listed as a “priority” for the Washington Education Association.

HB1345 - “No, ‘Juggling Goslings’ is not an appropriate training course for teachers.” Educators have to go through a chalkboard-ton of professional development courses. However, they do not always provide a great deal of benefit. This bill sets a statewide standards for what qualifies as training courses for teachers and principals and defines goals for that training. A prudent move.

Local Stuff

HB1868 - “County Road Funds Should Apply to Water Stuff in the San Juans”. This bill is remarkably straightforward. Co-sponsored by Rep. Jeff Morris (D-Mount Vernon), this bill would allow Counties that are made up of Islands (i.e. San Juan and Island Counties) to use their County Road funds for things like bridges, buoys, docks and the like, since most of their residents use those instead of roads to get around.

Rep. Kris Lytton

Reps. Morris and Lytton

HB1793 - “Let’s Get this Skagit River Basin Inflow Issue Worked Out.” Rural property owners in Skagit and the Department of Ecology have been crossing swords over the Inflow rules for the Skagit River Basin which restricts drilling wells. This bill would allow local municipalities to develop their own rules on alternative water sources (think Rain Barrels, Water Tanks, etc) for potable water that would give property owners a few more options.

“I’ve been working with the Skagit Public Utility District, the Swinomish Tribe, state agencies and others to come up with alternatives to wells,” Lytton said. “Some people want to fight the basin’s instream flow restrictions and the courts; I’d rather find solutions.”

HB1631 - “Tribes, Treaties, Taxes and Trust Land.” This is another absurdly specific but very important bill. Currently, the Governor can enter into agreements with some tribes over the proceeds from our Fuel Taxes. This bill would extend that option to tribes that meet the following criteria:

a) currently have land places in a Government trust,
b) located west of the Cascade Mountains
c) have the county has between 118,000 and 225,000 residents

See what I mean about absurdly specific? I’m guessing some preliminary discussions have taken place and this is just making sure that they can go forward without running afoul of current state law. UPDATE: We’ve narrowed it down to the Samish Tribe. Good detective work team!

Other Oddities

HB1742 - “Making Lots of Strawberry Jam in my Kitchen.” This bill is a repeat from the last couple of years. It concerns the “Cottage Food” industry, which is a fancy way of saying people who make agricultural products in their home. Currently, you cannot make more than $15,000 of income this way without having a whole slew of requirements kick in (stricter health inspections, labeling requirements, etc).

Cider versus Wine? Hmmm . . .

Cider versus Wine? Hmmm . . .

This bill boosts that cap to $25,000 but removes the automatic increases it was enjoying and allows the Department of Agriculture to raise that limit without legislative approval through their rulemaking process. Don’t worry, there are only 76 people in Washington that qualify for this, but I’m guessing one of them lives in the 40th district.

HB1179 “Cider is not Wine.” Currently, alcoholic Cider producers are required to pay dues to the Washington Wine Association. This bill would remove that requirement, resulting in the wine commission losing around $25,000 a year. Will Cider producers take this newly-freed up cash and use it to send me free liquor? A blogger can only dream.

HR4606 – “Aren’t County Fairs Great?!” This was a House Resolution (aka “Strongly-Worded Letter”) recognizing the value and importance of our local fairs. It passed earlier in this session with a dunk-tank full of co-sponsors.

That’s all for now. As we move through this legislative session, I’ll let you know which bills survived and which ones died a quiet death in committee. Next up, a closer look at Sen. Doug Ericksen’s legislation and yes, it is just as horrifying as you might think.

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