The Good, the Bad, and the Ridiculous
A Look at Pending Legislation in Olympia
House Bill 1177: Decriminalize It!
This bill, sponsored by Representative Dave Upthegrove (D-33), would make marijuana possession punishable by a $100 fine, instead of up to 90 nights in the slammer. Legislators would have to be high not to pass this no-brainer, which would save the state $7.5 million a year.
HB 1289: Thwarting Big Gravel
This smart proposal by Representative Sharon Nelson—whose district, the 34th, encompasses Maury Island, site of Glacier Northwest's controversial gravel mine—would prohibit contributions to candidates for state lands commissioner from individuals or companies that do business with the lands commissioner's office. Former lands commissioner Doug Sutherland took big campaign contributions from companies, including Glacier, with an interest in influencing state lands policy.
HB 1469 and Senate Bill 5543: Recycle Those Bulbs!
President Obama told us to make sacrifices. So we're itching to replace our energy-sucking incandescent bulbs with those energy-saving fluorescent bulbs that make our homes look like public restrooms. But when you throw those bulbs away, they spill toxins (including mercury) into the groundwater. This bill, sponsored by Senator Craig Pridemore (D-49), would require light-bulb manufacturers to create a recycling system for the whole state—something they've refused to do voluntarily. "They don't want to pay for the recycling service, and we think it should be the cost of doing business," says Margaret Shield, a program manager for the Local Hazardous Waste Management Program in King County, which is pushing for the bill.
HB 1490: Transit-Oriented Development
This bill, also sponsored by Nelson, would create incentives for dense, affordable, walkable development around mass-transit hubs. The proposal is a big priority for environmental groups this year, and its a prime target for affordable-housing activists like the Seattle Displacement Coalition who claim that increasing density in places like Southeast Seattle will accelerate displacement of very-low-income residents.
HB 1491: Three Feet, Please
Four Seattle representatives, including Jamie Pedersen (D-43), are among 18 cosponsors of legislation that would require cars overtaking cyclists to stay three feet away from them. Current law only requires drivers to pass "at a safe distance." Thirteen states currently have laws requiring drivers to give cyclists at least three feet of room when passing.
HB 1500: Keep Your Laws off My (Black) Box!
Having OnStar or another digital-tracking device in your vehicle is great when you're lost in a cornfield. But under current rules, the data such devices track—such as where you went, when you went there, and how long you stayed at that teenager's house—could be used by police or private companies without your consent. This bill, sponsored by Representative Deborah Eddy (D-48), would declare that the black-box data is all yours—unless you choose to share it, a court orders it, or officials demand it.
HB 1517 and SB 5534: You Don't Need the Bullet When You've Got the Ballot
This bill would restore a felon's right to vote even if he or she still has some debt to the state. Current rules require felons to hire an attorney and pay fines, which can be prohibitively expensive. "That is a modern-day poll tax on poor people," says Representative Jeannie Darneille (D-27), the prime sponsor of the bill. Although the bill has been introduced in years past with support from the ACLU, this time she thinks it has a better shot: Secretary of State Sam Reed, who oversees elections, gave it his blessing in January, as did the NAACP.
HB 1615 and SB 5516: Save Your Overdosing Buddy's Life
Drug overdoses have been on the rise since the 1990s. Nonetheless, a bill to provide amnesty from prosecution for people who call medics for an overdosing person has floundered for the last four years when sponsored by state senator and lefty caricature Adam Kline (D-37). This year, however, Senator Rosa Franklin (D-29) thinks her credibility as a retired nurse gives the bill a better shot.
SB 5150: No Blood for Loans
This is a smart, and probably doomed, proposal to restrict annual interest rates on payday loans to 36 percent—the maximum rate on U.S. military bases. Kline is the bill's prime sponsor.
HB 1154: Bagging the Bag Fee
This bill, sponsored by Representative Dean Takko of Longview (D-19), would prohibit cities from charging a fee or tax on disposable shopping bags. Takko, whose district includes Weyerhaeuser's largest plant as well as several other timber and paper-products companies, has received contributions from Weyerhaeuser, Port Blakely Tree Farms, Hampton Lumber Mills, and Rayonier Inc., an international timber corporation.
HB 1376 and SB 5163: Screw Public Art!
Times are tough, and legislators are looking for expendable budget items to throw under the bus. One of this year's potential victims is a program that dedicates a half-percent of construction costs on state-funded buildings to public art. Although the cut—sponsored by Representative Mike Hope (R-44) and Senator Steve Hobbs (D-44)—wouldn't affect similar programs in King County and the city of Seattle, it could set a precedent for slashing other government-funded art programs in the future.
HB 1645: Speak American!
Jim "Minuteman" McCune (R-2) is taking another shot at making 'Merican the official language of Washington State. McCune—a wingnut's wingnut who previously sponsored a bill to make reciting the Pledge of Allegiance a high-school graduation requirement—sponsored a similar bill last year. It went nowhere.
If McCune's bill fails again, highly placed sources tell us he plans to declare his double-wide a sovereign state and build his own border fence. Maybe we should let him.
HB 1606: The Nanny State Doesn't Want You to Shit on the Bus
Believe it or not, taking a dump on the bus is not explicitly prohibited by state law. But if Representative Geoff Simpson (D-47) has his way, the halcyon days when you could poop on public transit to your heart's content may be coming to an end. What's worse: Simpson's bill also makes the not-yet-open light-rail line a poo-free zone.
If Simpson and the body police succeed in their puritanical quest, it's only a matter of time before they take away your God-given right to piss in public trash cans, vomit on sidewalks, and pass out in public buildings. And then where would city-hall reporters be?
HB 1638: Pipe Dreams
Representative Tami Green (D-28) was all ready to crack down on the dark, seedy world of unregulated colon hydrotherapy, but our ailing state economy may have given back-alley enemists a stay of execution.
Green's bill—currently shelved—would've re- quired the currently unregulated practice of colon hydrotherapy to be licensed by the Department of Health. "This has sort of been coming down the pipe for a few years," Green says with no apparent sense of irony. Although "this whole bowel-cleansing [thing] really seems to work for people," she says, unregulated enemas may pose a risk. However, Green says, "It's really not the year to be licensing people when [the state's] got $6 billion worth of issues to resolve."
SB 5063, SB 5192, and SB 5336: Pets Are People, Too!
When Senator Ken Jacobsen's beloved cat Sam died two years ago, Jacobsen (D-46) was crushed to discover that, when his time came, he'd be unable to share a burial plot with his feline companion.
State law currently prohibits interspecies burials, but Jacobsen—also the prime sponsor of proposals to make the marmot the official state mammal and to exempt trees from property taxes—is pushing a bill that would finally allow crazy old cat ladies to be buried, by written request, alongside the ashes of their 14 furry children.
Jacobsen's office has apparently been flooded with calls from angry parakeet owners who feel his bill ignores their feathered friends.
Jacobsen is also the primary sponsor of two bills that would allow dogs into bars and the outdoor areas of bars and coffee shops.