Editor’s note: Capitol Dispatch appears every Sunday during the legislative session.
Now that we’re halfway through the 105-day Legislative session, it’s time to catch-up with legislation introduced by Southwest Washington lawmakers in response to local concerns and problems.
School bond supermajorities
Local school districts asked legislators to lower the 60 percent supermajority election requirement to pass a capital bond to a simple majority. School officials say a simple majority would make it easier to modernize and replace crumbling buildings.
Longview Democrat Sen. Dean Takko signed on with a state constitutional amendment introduced in the Senate that would allow a simple majority. The legislation passed out of the Committee on Early Learning and K-12 Education on Feb. 12 and was referred to the Ways & Means Committee, which held a public hearing on Thursday.
A similar constitutional amendment in the House was referred to the Committee on Education, which held an executive session on the matter on Feb. 21 but didn’t take any action. No local lawmakers in the House co-sponsored the bill.
Contract low bidders
The City of Kelso asked local legislators to amend state law to allow cities to accept bids from contractors who come within 3 percent of the lowest bidder. Instead of being legally obligated to accept the lowest bid, cities across the state could take companies’ past experiences into account before awarding a contract.
A House bill, sponsored by Republican Rep. Jim Walsh and Democrat Rep. Brian Blake, both of Aberdeen, increased the buffer to within 5 percent of the lowest bidder. The legislation passed out of the House Committee on Local Government on Feb. 6 and was referred to the Rules Committee.
The Senate version of the bill, introduced by Takko, was subject to a public hearing on Jan. 29 in the Senate Committee on Local Government.
Tourism tax dollars
Kelso also asked lawmakers to adjust the way tourism tax dollars are distributed in Cowlitz County so that a lodging tax from hotels and motels would go back to the cities where it was generated instead of going to the county.
On Tuesday, the House Committee on Finance passed a bill sponsored by Blake and Walsh. It was referred to the Rules Committee on Feb. 28.
A substituted version of Takko’s Senate bill passed out of the Committee on Local Government on Jan. 31. It was passed to the Rules Committee on Feb. 1 for a second reading.
Sen. John Braun, a Centralia Republican, introduced a bill to provide professional development opportunities for special education teachers and to create an advisory committee to increase family involvement in special education. The bill includes required reporting from school districts and provides a recognition award for successful districts.
A substituted version of the bill passed the Senate Committee on Early Learning and K-12 Education on Feb. 18 and was referred to the Committee on Ways and Means, which held an executive session on the matter on Feb. 28.
Environmental permitting process
Meanwhile, legislation related to the environmental permitting process doesn’t seem to have gained much traction. Blake’s House bill instructing the state Department of Ecology to clarify when global carbon emissions would need to be considered in the permitting process for an industrial project had a public hearing on Feb. 7 in the Committee on Environment and Energy. And Takko’s Senate version of the legislation had a public hearing in the Committee on Environment, Energy and Technology on Feb. 19.
And Rep. Walsh’s bill to clarify criteria for when Ecology issues water permits hasn’t had any more action since it was referred to the Committee on Environment and Energy on Jan. 14.
Sen. Takko’s constitutional amendment to create a governance continuity plan in the event of a catastrophic disaster, such as the predicted Cascadia earthquake, passed out of the Senate Committee on State Government, Tribal Relations and Elections on Jan. 30. It was passed to the Rules Committee on Feb. 1 for a second reading.
A companion bill in the House passed out of the Committee on Housing, Community Development and Veterans on Jan. 22 and was referred to Appropriations. No local lawmakers signed on.
Medical marijuana for students
A substituted version of the bill allowing students who meet certain requirements to consume medical marijuana on school property, sponsored by Blake and Walsh, passed out of the Health Care and Wellness Committee on Feb. 1. It was referred to the Rules Committee.
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