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.
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.
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 . . .
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.
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.
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.
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!