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House passes Tharinger bill
Rep. Steve Tharinger, D-Sequim, passed his first piece of legislation in the state House of Representatives Feb. 26.
House Bill 1596 passed 63-33 and the companion bill, SB 5493, was given a
first reading in the state Senate on March 1.
The bill removes a state mandate that requires local governments to pay for their ambulance utilities out of their general funds.
“Cities know their budgets better than the state,” Tharinger said in a news release. “Rather than being forced to fund one service at a particular rate, at the expense of other services, they should be able to decide how to allocate funding.”
There are 11 city-funded ambulance utilities across the state, several of which are in the 24th District, said Jennifer Waldref, communications specialist with the Democratic Caucus. The state does not require any other city-operated utilities, such as water or sewer, to be funded from a city’s general fund, she said.
Tharinger’s first proposed bill, HB 1294, which establishes a Puget Sound clean-up consolidation group called Puget Sound Corps, passed its third reading Feb. 28.
Meanwhile, Tharinger’s seat mate Kevin Van De Wege, D-Sequim, introduced HB 2006 on March 4, which would end a tax preference for the pharmaceutical industry in order to fund a drug take-back program and the state’s Basic Health program.
“There’s a lot of support for a statewide program to collect and dispose of unwanted medications,” Van De Wege said. “From law enforcement departments to public health agencies, there is agreement that it’s way past time to do this and taxpayers shouldn’t be stuck with the bill.”
Additionally, the Basic Health Program faces elimination as legislators try to close a $4.5 billion budget gap. The program covers 55,000 of Washington’s working poor, Waldref said. With the money the state brings in from ending the tax preference, the program could be saved, she said.
“This is the right thing to do and the right time to do it,” Van De Wege said. “However, it will take a two-thirds vote to end this tax preference and the pharmaceutical industry will fight hard against it.”