How our lawmakers voted — April 19, 2017

  • Wednesday, April 19, 2017 1:30am
  • Opinion

State lawmakers last week passed more than 300 bills aheadof the April 12 deadline for considering bills sent to them from the opposite chamber. Budget and budget-related measures are exempt from this cut-off.

Most measures passed by large majorities, but a number of bills cleared their respective house by more narrow votes after lengthy debate and attempts to amend them.

Bills amended in the opposite chamber will have to go back to the originating house for concurrence and final passage.

Following are notable measures that passed as we enter the last week of this regular session.

Senate Bill 5289, Modifying the infraction of and penalties for distracted driving

Passed the House on April 12 by a vote of 63-35

As amended by the House, this bill would replace current laws that prohibit the use of a hand-held cellular phone and texting while driving with a prohibition on a driver using any personal electronic device with his or her hands while driving. It would permit minimal use of a finger to activate, deactivate or initiate a function of a personal electronic device while driving. The bill also provides exceptions for contacting emergency services; uses by transit system employees; uses by commercial motor vehicle drivers; and the the operation of two-way or citizens band radio services. Distracted driving would be secondary traffic infraction under the bill, limiting enforcement to when a driver of a motor vehicle has been detained for a suspected violation of a separate traffic infraction. The bill is headed back to the Senate for concurrence on the House amendments and final passage.

Rep. Mike Chapman (D-Port Angeles) Yes

Rep. Steve Tharinger (D-Sequim) Yes

Senate Bill 5096, Making transportation appropriations for the 2017-2019 biennium

Passed the House on April 12 by a vote of 77-19 (two members excused)

This is the amended version of the transportation budget that was passed two weeks ago by the Senate on a 49-0 unanimous vote. House members offered more than three dozen amendments to the bill, a number of which were ruled out of order, because they dealt with Sound Transit-related issues.

According to the presiding Speaker Pro Temp’s ruling, these issues are beyond the scope of the bill as Sound Transit is not a state agency.

The House version of the transportation budget provides $8.7 billion for the 2017-2019 biennium, about $48 million more than the Senate version.

Both versions include some $40 million in pay raises for Washington State Patrol troopers and officers, as negotiated in their collective bargaining agreements.

A list of projects funded by this budget is available at www.fiscal.wa.gov.

The bill now goes back to the Senate for concurrence on the House amendments and final passage.

Rep. Chapman Yes

Rep. Tharinger Yes

House Bill 2201, Concerning the collection of a motor vehicle excise tax approved by voters of a regional transit authority in 2016

Passed the House on April 12 by a vote of 64-33 (one member excused)

Drastic increases in car-tab fees after Puget Sound voters approved Sound Transit’s $54 billion ST3 passage last November has sparked widely reported public outrage, because Sound Transit is using a valuation formula for collection of the Motor Vehicle Excise Tax that overvalues newer used cars.

This bill would provide limited relief to vehicle owners by requiring Sound Transit to use the car valuation schedule established by law in 2006, instead of the 1996 schedule it uses currently. The newer schedule is more favorable to drivers.

Under the bill, a car’s value still would be based on its original MSRP, not its current market value, but owners would get a tax credit on the difference between valuations under the old and newer formulas. Several amendments to the bill were proposed to base the formula on Kelley Blue Blook values, but failed to gain approval in the House.

Two weeks ago, the Senate narrowly passed SB 5893, which would require Sound Transit to use Kelley Blue Book or National Automobile Dealers Association values as a basis for its tax calculation.

Both bills now go before the opposite chamber for approval.

Rep. Chapman Yes

Rep. Tharinger Yes

Senate Bill 5008, Facilitating compliance with the federal REAL ID act by modifying driver’s license and identicard design and fees

Passed the House on April 11 by a vote of 69-28 (one member excused)

This bill would bring Washington into compliance with the 2005 federal REAL ID Act, which requires state driver’s licenses and identification cards to have special security features and to be issued only to people who can prove they’re in the U.S. legally.

Residents without the REAL ID enhancements on their driver’s licenses would need additional identification, such as a passport, to board commercial domestic flights, beginning on Jan. 22, 2018. States that have been granted an extension would have to meet REAL ID requirements by Oct. 21, 2020. Washington already offers, but does not mandate, an enhanced driver’s license at extra cost that would meet federal requirements.

Under the bill, the state would create a two-tier system, keeping the enhanced license and marking standard licenses as not valid for federal purposes.

The Senate, when it passed the bill two weeks ago, had lowered the price of an enhanced license to $54, the cost of a standard license, but the House raised it back to its current price of $108.

The House also also added language prohibiting the standard licenses from being used to determine or infer the holder’s immigration or citizenship status.

The bill was sent to the Senate for concurrence, but the Senate refused to agree to the House amendments and has asked the House to recede from its changes.

Rep. Chapman Yes

Rep. Tharinger Yes

House Bill 2182, Providing a tiered tax on the possession of hazardous substances

Passed the House on April 12 by a vote of 50-47 (one member excused)

This bill would revise the Hazardous Substance Tax (HST), establishing an annual tiered tax rate from 2018 through 2025. The tiered rates are as follows: 0.9 percent until HST revenues collected in the fiscal year reach $110 million; 0.7 percent until HST revenues collected in the fiscal year reach $170 million; and 0.21 percent until the first day of the next fiscal year.

According to proponents of the bill, the goal of the policy is to create stability and have a defined band of revenues for Model Toxic Control Act (MTCA) accounts, as oil prices and fuel prices fluctuate.

Opponents say this proposal would increase MTCA taxes over the next four years and that the tiered tax structure only lasts until the revenues begin decreasing. They say large reason for shortfalls is that the MTCA accounts are used to backfill the State General fund. Opponents testifying during committee hearings include the Washington Petroleum Institute and the Washington Farm Bureau, which represent businesses that pay the tax.

The bill was sent to the Senate Ways and Means Committee for consideration.

Rep. Chapman Yes

Rep. Tharinger Yes

Senate Bill 5046, Providing public notices of public health, safety and welfare in a language other than English

Passed the House on April 11 by a vote of 52-45 (one member excused)

This bill would require state agencies and political subdivision to provide life safety information during an emergency or disaster in a language that can be understood by significant population segments with limited English proficiency, unless this is technologically unfeasible.

It also would require local organizations and joint local organizations for emergency management to include communication plans in their emergency management plans, that provide emergency notification in languages other than English.

The bill is headed back to the Senate for concurrence of House amendments and final passage.

Rep. Chapman Yes

Rep. Tharinger Yes

WashingtonVotes.org is a project of the Washington Policy Center. See www.WashingtonVotes.org.

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