How our lawmakers voted — March 8, 2017

  • Wednesday, March 8, 2017 1:30am
  • Opinion

Lawmakers last week rushed to pass hundreds of bills ahead of the March 8 deadline for bills to clear the chamber in which they were introduced. Of more than 2,000 bills introduced this session so far, only 927 have survived recent cut-offs and the number of bills eligible for consideration will be further reduced after this week.

How our local lawmakers voted:

Senate Bill 5068, Establishing a voting rights act to promote equal voting opportunity in certain political subdivisions by authorizing district-based elections

Passed the Senate on March 2 by a vote of 25-24

This bill is another plan to address situations where local elections exhibit voting disparities between voters in a protected class and other voters. It would allow non-charter counties, code cities, second-class cities and towns to authorize district-based or hybrid systems for electing their legislative authorities by ordinance or, if authorized, by voter initiative. Currently, most cities and towns in Washington do not use district-based voting systems. Instead, all legislative authority positions are at large,and primary and general election voters may vote for candidates for all positions.

Sen. Kevin Van De Wege (D-Sequim) No

House Bill 1800, Enacting the Washington voting rights act

Passed the House on Feb. 27 by a vote of 51-46 (one member excused)

This bill would create a state voting rights act to protect the equal opportunity for minority groups to participate in local elections. It would provide for a cause of legal action and authorizes courts to order appropriate remedies for a violation of the act, including redistricting, within a political subdivision. This is to address claims of minority voter “dilution,” based on how voting districts are drawn.

The discriminatory effect under a voter dilution claim is that minority votes are dispersed throughout the districts, which weakens their ability to influence the election. Voter dilution claims also occur in at-large general elections for multi-member boards or commissions. The act would apply to elections held within certain political subdivisions, including counties, cities, towns, school districts, fire protection districts, port districts and public utility districts. It would not apply to state elections, elections in a city or town under 1,000 people or school districts under 250 students.

Rep. Mike Chapman (D-Port Angeles) Yes

Rep. Steve Tharinger (D-Sequim) Yes

Senate Bill 5239, Ensuring that water is available to support development

Passed the Senate on Feb. 28 by a vote of 28-21

This bill would reverse a 2016 state Supreme Court decision known as the “Hirst” decision involving water rights and the use of domestic wells.

In its ruling, the court said counties must ensure that water is available before issuing development permits and cannot rely on state Department of Ecology regulation to satisfy that responsibility.

The bill provides that evidence of potable water for a building permit may include a water well report for a permit-exempt groundwater withdrawal that is not prohibited by an applicable water resources management rule adopted by Ecology.

In approving a subdivision, dedication or short subdivision, a city, town or county may rely on, or refer to, applicable water resources management rules adopted by the Department Ecology to determine if appropriate provisions have been made for potable water supplies. When approving a subdivision, dedication or short subdivision, impairment review would not be required by the applicant, city, town, or county.

Sen. Van De Wege No

Senate Bill 5001, Modifying the election and authority of regional transit authority board members

Passed the Senate on March 1 by a vote of 29-20

This bill would change the board of a Regional Transit Authority (RTA) from an appointed to an elected board.

Currently, RTA board members are local elected officials appointed by the county executive and confirmed by the county legislative body. Under the bill, 11 non-partisan RTA board members must be directly elected in 2018 from 11 districts containing approximately equal shares of the population. Board members may not hold other elected offices.

Additionally, the Secretary of Transportation, or designee, would be a non-voting member of the board. A five-member districting commission would be appointed by the governor as soon as possible to define the 11 districts, ensuring that population is evenly divided between districts and that no more than five districts are solely within one county. A new commission would repeat the districting process every 10 years after the release of census data. Elected members would serve four-year staggered terms.

Sen. Van De Wege No

House Bill 1440, Establishing a student loan bill of rights

Passed the House on March 1 by a vote of 71-27

This bill would create the Student Education Loan Ombuds to receive, review and provide assistance to student education loan borrowers who file complaints. It would require student education loan servicers to obtain a license from the Department of Financial Institutions (DFI) to operate in the state and permits the DFI to establish fees.

Loan servicers would be required to comply with various provisions regarding assessing and crediting fees; account information and dispute requests; acquiring, transferring, and selling servicing rights; and reporting information.

It also would prohibit third-party student education loan modification servicers from various practices that may misrepresent the student loan situation or encourage borrowers to do something counterproductive to their situation.

Rep. Chapman Yes

Rep. Tharinger Yes

Senate Bill 5223, Concerning safe injection sites in Washington

Passed the Senate on March 2 by a vote of 26-23

Under this bill, the State of Washington would exercise preemption over the field of safe injection sites within the state. Local governments would only be allowed to enact laws and ordinances relating to safe injection sites that are specifically authorized by state law.

Each local health board would have to provide annual certification to the Legislature and the State Board of Health that no private or public safe injections sites are operating within its local health department jurisdiction.

Any local government expenditures relating to safe injection sites would void any claim made by it against the state General Fund. All funding claims by the local government would be denied until the state, health district or county is able to certify that there are no safe injection sites operating within its jurisdiction.

Sen. Van De Wege No

Senate Bill 5066, Concerning state budgeting through zero-based budget reviews

Passed the Senate on Feb. 28 by a vote of 28-21

This bill would establish a zero-based budget review process in the state of Washington. It would authorize the Legislature to specify in the two-year state operating budget, or other legislation, certain programs for which agencies must perform a zero-based budget review.

Zero-based budgeting is a process that is designed to control expenditures by identifying the purposes of, and measuring the effectiveness and efficiency of all activities. Traditional budgeting provides a

line-item process where only incremental spending is usually considered. Unlike traditional budgeting, which is based on budget history, no item would be automatically included in the next budget in zero-based budgeting. This process also would increase visibility and transparency of the process by which programs are funded in the state budget.

Sen. Van De Wege No is a project of the Washington Policy Center.

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