EYE ON OLYMPIA: Lawmakers prepare for final bill deadline

By Jeremy Schwartz
Peninsula Daily News

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OLYMPIA — The North Olympic Peninsula’s legislators are in the home stretch of the 2013 regular legislative session as all three continue to keep track of bills they have introduced and others they have followed closely.

Two of the 11 bills that state Rep. Kevin Van De Wege, D-Sequim, has introduced this session either have passed into law or are just about to, the latter being a piece of legislation that would require state high schools to include cardiopulmonary resuscitation, or CPR, training in at least one health class necessary for graduation.

“It’s not a graduation requirement, it’s simply a requirement to be part of the health class,” Van De Wege said.

Van De Wege, who works as a firefighter/paramedic with Clallam County Fire District No. 3 in Sequim, said the bill passed the Senate with only minor changes and is on its way to the governor’s office for a signature.

Another bill Van De Wege said he had been championing all session, however, has a less certain future.

Van De Wege’s toxics bill, which would ban a certain class of carcinogen flame retardant — collectively called “Tris” — from use in most products for young children, passed the Senate last week minus a provision that would have allowed the Department of Ecology to review flame retardants before they could be sold in Washington.

“The Senate stripped out that review process,” Van De Wege said.

The fight for this bill has been a fierce one all session, Van De Wege said, with numerous hearings on the bill seeing testimony against it from representatives of large chemical companies.

“We’re going up against the chemical industry,” Van De Wege said. “They spend a tremendous amount of money on their ability to get chemicals out there.”

A possible way to at least partially restore the bill to its original form would be to negotiate for an expiration date on the legislation, Van De Wege said, a suggestion put forward by state Sen. Jim Hargrove, D-Hoquiam, Van De Wege’s fellow 24th District legislator.

This change would have to be done in a bill conference likely set for today, Van De Wege said.

Most bills passed in both chambers but changed in the opposite chamber go through this conference process once they get back to their chamber of origin, Van De Wege explained, since both versions of a given bill have to be identical.

Van De Wege and Hargrove, along with state Rep. Steve Tharinger, D-Sequim, represent the 24th Legislative District, which comprises Clallam and Jefferson counties and a portion of Grays Harbor County.

At least four of the 15 bills Tharinger has introduced this year are likely to pass into law, including a bill extending tax breaks for companies that buy hog fuel, which is logging waste burned to produce energy.

Other bills of Tharinger’s likely will survive as budget provisos in the 2013-2015 biennium budget, he said, including a bill that would establish a joint House and Senate committee to study the needs of the growing 65-and-older population in Washington.

A budget proviso would last only for one budget biennium, although Tharinger said that would be enough time for the elderly needs committee to do its work and submit its recommendations to the state Legislature.

“That’s about how much time the committee has to study [the needs of the elderly],” Tharinger said.

Hargrove said at least eight of the 22 bills he’s introduced either have been signed into law, delivered to the governor’s office or passed out of the House last week, including a handful of corrections and human services related bills and a piece of legislation that would improving the safety of loggers working in the state.

“[That’s] pretty important for our district,” Hargrove said.

This bill, which passed the House last week, would create a state fund subsidy program that would pay a portion of the industrial insurance premium for certain high-risk logging industry employers who participate in a logger safety program, according to the bill analysis.

The bill also would create a logger safety initiative to reducing the frequency and severity of injuries to manual loggers and would require the state Department of Labor to invite industry employers with one or more on the job fatalities in the last five years to participate in the program.

Last modified: April 21. 2013 6:17PM
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