EYE ON OLYMPIA: Bills heading to Senate, House votes

By Jeremy Schwartz
Peninsula Daily News

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By Jeremy Schwartz

Peninsula Daily News

OLYMPIA — The North Olympic Peninsula’s three legislators have had successes and setbacks so far this legislative as both the State Senate and House of Representatives start their first major round of full chamber votes this week.

Starting today, the State Senate and House will begin full floor votes on the estimated hundreds of bills that made it past their respective house budgetary committees, said State Rep. Steve Tharinger, D-Sequim, in an interview last week.

Tharinger, along with fellow State Rep. and Sequim Democrat Kevin Van De Wege and State Sen. Jim Hargrove, D-Hoquiam, represents the 24th Legislative District, which comprises Clallam and Jefferson counties and a portion of Grays Harbor County.

At least a half-dozen of the 14 bills Tharinger has introduced this session already have had a full House vote or are scheduled for one this week, including a bill Tharinger is sponsoring that would extend sales and use tax breaks for businesses that purchase a type of wood waste called hog fuel and burn it for energy.

Both Nippon Paper Industries USA in Port Angeles and the Port Townsend Paper Corp. have come out in support of the bill as companies that buy and burn hog fuel to run their paper plants.

These mills are really in a challenging global market, Tharinger said, “and being able to get a tax break to burn [hog fuel] for power is a big deal.”

Tharinger said the only major change in the bill as it went through the House policy committee process last month was a provision added last month requiring any Washington mill that closes to pay two years’ worth of the hog fuel taxes they would have paid had the breaks not been in place.

“I think it’s going to do well,” Tharinger said of the hog fuel bill’s chances before the full House in the coming week. “It’s a good jobs bill [for the 24th District].”

However, another bill Tharinger has supported this session that he says is of importance to the North Olympic Peninsula does not seem to have enough support in the House to move on.

HB 1366 would allow out-of-state businesses that own private vessels, such as yachts, to keep those vessels moored in-state for up to six months without having to obtain a vessel permit from the state and pay a vessel use tax equal to about 10 percent of the vessel’s value.

Current law says out-of-state businesses that own vessels between 30 and 50 feet long can keep such boats in Washington for no longer than four months before having to either move the vessel or register it with the state.

HB 1366, referred to as the marine trade bill, is supported by both the ports of Port Angeles and Port Townsend, Tharinger said, though the state Department of Revenue has come out against it because of the vessel use tax revenue the department says it will lose if the bill is made law.

Proponents, such as the Northwest Marine Trade Association, have said, however, that the bill would make up any lost tax revenue through increased sales generated from yacht owners who would be able to stay longer in Washington waters.

The bill did not get voted out of the House Finance Committee earlier in February, though Tharinger said he’ll still work to move it forward this week.

“It’s on life support,” Tharinger said. “We would have to do some maneuvering to get some life back in it.”

Van De Wege also supported the bill, saying that it would allow yachts to stay in Port Angeles and Port Townsend shipyards longer for repairs.

Six of the 11 bills Van De Wege has introduced this session are still alive, according to the State Legislature’s website, including proposed legislation that would require school districts with high schools to include CPR instruction in at least one health class required for graduation.

Van De Wege said the CPR bill and proposed legislation he’s sponsoring that would ban the manufacture, use and sale of children’s toys and upholstered furniture containing certain flame retardants shown to be hazardous to human health are set for votes on the floor of the State House this week.

In a Friday interview, Van De Wege said the flame retardant bill might encounter some resistance because of a provision that allows the State Department of Ecology to require by their rule, rather than the Legislature’s, that chemical manufacturers regularly report on the use of certain chemicals due to their effects on human health.

In the State Senate, Sen. Hargrove said about 14 of the 20 bills he has sponsored this session have or will receive a full Senate vote, including a piece of education legislation Hargrove is championing as a way to address the state’s State Supreme Court mandate to fully fund basic education.

Hargrove has said his education bill would allow the additional money the State Supreme Court the state must spend on education to go toward targeted, evidence-based changes in the current education system rather than simply continue to fund existing programs.

Reporter Jeremy Schwartz can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5074, or at jschwartz@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: March 03. 2013 6:12PM
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