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House Republicans tap Kristiansen as new leader

By | April 29, 2013 | 0 Comments

Rep. Dan Kristiansen (R-Snohomish) has been elected leader of the minority House Republicans.

Kristiansen replaces Rep. Richard DeBolt (R-Chehalis), who stepped down due to health concerns on April 17. The announcement was made over the weekend as lawmakers finished up the 105-day regular session. A special session is slated to begin May 13.

The vote was unanimous for the 50-year-old real estate businessman who has been serving in the Legislature since 2003.

“I appreciate the confidence my colleagues have shown in me, but this isn’t about me. This is about a group of 43 Republican lawmakers who are dedicated to creating jobs, improving our education system and protecting hard-working taxpayers,” Kristiansen said in a news release. “It’s a unique time to come in as leader, but we are all united and will continue to advocate for solutions to get Washington working.”

Rep. Joel Kretz (R-Wauconda) was retained deputy leader. Here’s the rest of the leadership team:

  • Caucus chair: Rep. Judy Warnick, R-Moses Lake (replaces Rep. Dan Kristiansen)
  • Vice-caucus chair: Rep. Shelly Short, R-Addy
  • Floor leader: Rep. J.T. Wilcox, R-Yelm
  • Assistant floor leader: Rep. Matt Shea, R-Spokane Valley
  • Assistant floor leader: Rep. Steve O’Ban, R-Pierce County(replaces Rep. Liz Pike, R-Camas, who chose not to run for the position again)
  • Whip: Rep. Paul Harris, R-Vancouver
  • Assistant whip: Rep. Jeff Holy, R-Cheney
  • Assistant whip: Rep. Drew MacEwen, R-Union
  • Assistant whip: Rep. Elizabeth Scott, R-Monroe


Categories: Republicans, WA House

Will beer tax find new life under proposed DUI legislation?

By | April 26, 2013 | 0 Comments

A proposal to extend the state’s beer tax that died earlier this week may find new life under legislation aimed at cracking down on drunken drivers.

House Democrats dropped the plan to extend a tax on brewers that was set to expire later this year, but on Friday the Senate Law and Justice Committee was briefed on an amendment to Senate Bill 5912 that would use revenue from a beer tax to pay for costs associated with the stricter DUI laws.

The author of the amendment, Sen. Adam Kline (D-Seattle), has proposed a separate amendment that would tap a liquor excise tax to pay for new DUI legislation. Kline said he does not intend to use both taxes, but is hoping for support of one or the other.

“I don’t want to tax both beer and liquor. They don’t go together,” Kline said

The revenue would help solve one of the many concerns stakeholders have with proposals to go after repeat DUI offenders. Regardless of the final product, most lawmakers agree tougher penalties will result in higher court, prison, treatment and monitoring costs.

The beer tax extension earlier proposed in the House Democrats package would have raised a projected $60 million over two years. It was dropped over fears that large beer companies would challenge the tax with a ballot initiative.

Two recent high-profile DUI cases in the Seattle area that left three people dead have prompted lawmakers to make a push for tougher laws in the final days of the 105-day legislative session.

The committee took no action on bill Friday.

Categories: Alcohol, Criminal Justice

Senate GOP says their business is finished, call on House to finish on time

By | April 25, 2013 | 0 Comments

Members from the Senate’s 23-Republican-two-Democrat Majority Coalition Caucus met with reporters on Thursday afternoon to announce they are officially finished with their business in the upper chamber.

“We are now waiting for the House to complete theirs. Unfortunately, the House has passed a budget that doesn’t balance,” Sen. Don Benton (R-Vancouver) said. “But we are committed to stay here to the end of session to finish.”

Majority Coalition Caucus speaks at press conference

With three days remaining in the 105-day legislative session, there is a $900 million divide between the budget passed by House Democrats and the Senate’s no-tax spending plan.

The House proposal would close a number of tax breaks and extend a business and occupation tax due to expire this year. Senate Republicans insist no new revenue is needed to balance the budget a meet a court mandate to fully fund basic education.

A special session would be required for lawmakers to work beyond Sunday.

At one point during the press conference, Sen. Tim Sheldon (D-Potlatch) suggested that some Democrats in the Legislature who are running for other offices would favor taking time off before convening a special session.

“So now there are rumors that a special session might be called in two or three weeks and frankly I got to say, I smell a rat. I think it’s politics that now gets involved. There are individuals that are running for other offices – mayor of Seattle, for Senate as well – and they need to raise money. And the idea that we would adjourn and of course you can’t raise money while we are in session,” Sheldon said.

Sheldon seemed to be alluding to Senate Minority Leader Ed Murray (D-Seattle), who declared his candidacy for Seattle mayor in December.

Earlier this week, Gov. Jay Inslee indicated that a special session may be needed for lawmakers to reach an agreement on the budget and a number of other key issues — gun control, DUI legislation, the abortion insurance bill, and the Washington Dream Act. The governor did not elaborate on a timetable if a special session is indeed called.

Benton said lawmakers should take the matter in their own hands if a deal can’t be reached by Sunday and a special session doesn’t start immediately.

“If the governor is not willing to call a special session on Monday because he is interested in politics rather than finishing our work, then the Legislature should call itself into special session,” he said.

Categories: Budget, WA House, WA Senate

House panel approves technical change to marijuana law

By | April 25, 2013 | 0 Comments

A House Committee on Thursday approved a technical change to the state’s new law legalizing marijuana that supporters say is necessary to prosecute illegal growers and sellers.

King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg told the House Committee on Government Accountability and Oversight that the change is needed to prosecute cases.

“We still need to hold accountable those who sell marijuana to minors and those who act outside of the law. There is nobody in the state crime lab today who can come and testify in a court of law that material meets the definition of marijuana under state law,” Satterberg said.

At issue is the legal definition of “THC concentration” in Initiative 502, which is meant to distinguish marijuana from industrial hemp. The new law defines marijuana as having more than 0.3 percent of delta-9 THC, the content that creates the psychoactive effects of pot. But scientists with the state crime lab said that definition is too narrow and they don’t have the tools to isolate delta-9 THC from the total THC content.

The measure would change the law to define marijuana by the total THC content. When marijuana is burned or cooked into food, THC acid turns into delta-9 THC and the pot becomes fully potent. The worry is when someone is in violation of the new marijuana laws, prosecutors won’t be able to prove in court that the plants seized meet the new definition.

Officials with the Washington State Patrol Crime Lab testified that the state would need to buy new expensive machinery and tests would take longer to complete if the definition remains unchanged.

“That is possible, but it is of considerable expense,” said Vancouver crime lab manager Ingrid Deermore.

The committee passed the measure by a 6-3 vote. Rep. Cary Condotta (R- East Wenatchee) said he needed more information before he could support a change to the initiative, which will require a two-thirds vote in both houses of the Legislature.

“I am getting conflicting reports here. The rest of the world operates in a certain manner. We are moving to that. We are moving to an industrial hemp nation, a legalized marijuana nation and the rest of the world is way ahead of us on that. What there definition of the standards are should work for us. I worried we are becoming an outlier possibly,” Condotta said.

Categories: initiatives, Marijuana

Lawmakers ponder special session in final days

By | April 24, 2013 | 0 Comments

State lawmakers acknowledged on Wednesday that a special session may be needed to find a compromise on the state’s budget and other key issues.

“There’s much work to be done, we’d have to draw into an inside straight to be done by Sunday,” Gov. Jay Inslee said during a press conference.

Inslee said that many issues remain unresolved, including an agreement on the operating budget, capital budget and transportation package. He also said it would be a disappointment if lawmakers left Olympia without taking action on a number of key issues — gun control, DUI legislation, the abortion insurance bill, and the Washington Dream Act.

Meanwhile, Republican leaders reserved some hope that the Legislature can finish its business by Sunday, when the 105-day session is scheduled to end.

“This place is amazing in the miracles that can transpire if everybody gets together,” Senate Majority Leader Sen. Rodney Tom (D-Medina) said.

Lawmakers will have to find a compromise between the Senate’s no-tax budget and a House proposal calling for $900 million in new revenue. If a special session is called, it could last up to 30 days.

“It is still very much in the mechanics of the institution to finish on Sunday,” said Senate Republican Leader Mark Schoesler (R-Ritsville). “I am a farmer, so I have to be an optimist.”

Categories: Budget

House panel delays vote on DUI bill

By | April 24, 2013 | 0 Comments

The House Public Safety Committee delayed a vote Wednesday on a proposed legislation that takes aim at repeat drunken driving offenders.

The bill was scaled back from the original House proposal, but committee chair Roger Goodman (D-Kirkland) said a vote would have to wait due to lack of support.

“I am not willing to wait too much longer. We are not going to let up but we are not going to be voting on this morning,” he said.

The revised bill calls for the mandatory arrest of drivers suspected of a repeat offense, rather than all drivers suspected of driving under the influence. It also requires an ignition interlock device to be installed as a pretrial condition and a condition of release. The original proposal, the required that the device be installed before it was released from the impound lot.

Read the revised bill here.

Other parts of the original bill have been removed, including a provision that would ban repeat offender from purchasing alcohol for 10 year.

Member from both parties on the committee questioned the timing of legislation, saying lawmakers were rushing the bill to the House floor.

“We are not going to stop the carnage,” said Rep. Jeff Holy (R-Cheney). “To pass this out of committee today appears to be reacting to tragedy. We can do better.”

A bi-partisan group of lawmakers and Gov. Jay Inslee have proposed changes to the state’s impaired driving laws after two recent cases in the Seattle area left three people dead.

Watch the hearing below:

Categories: Alcohol, Criminal Justice

House committee approves revised tax package

By | April 23, 2013 | 0 Comments

A proposal calling for $900 million in tax increases was approved by Democrats in the House Finance Committee on Tuesday.

Supporters say the tax package is necessary to funnel more money into the state’s public schools, but Republicans who voted against the measure say the plan will hurt businesses and the state’s economy.

House Bill 2038 passed on an 8-5 vote along party lines. The measure ends certain business tax exemptions and extends some taxes set to expire this year. Parts of the original proposal were dropped, including tax extensions on the beer industry, janitors, insurance agents and stevedores.

“Asking everyone to contribute to our quality of life, our quality of education for 1 million students in every community in our state is hard work. It’s tough to do. Closing just a few is hard, but investing in education is essential,” said committee chair Reuven Carlyle (D-Seattle).

Republicans in the committee said the Legislature does not need new taxes to meet a court mandate to fully fund the state’s education system.

“We don’t need new taxes to balance our budget,” said Rep. Ed Orcutt (R-Kalama). “We’ve got plenty of money for education. If there is any courage needed, it’s the courage to fund education first and to say no to some other people.”

The tax measure will now head to the House floor for a vote.

Categories: tax, WA House

Senate vote could mean end of paid family leave law

By | April 22, 2013 | 0 Comments

If lawmakers can’t find a way to pay for it, a program giving parents five weeks paid time off to be with a new child will be eliminated under a measure passed Monday in the Senate.

Washington’s Family and Medical Leave Insurance Act was adopted in 2007 and gives new parents paid leave of up to $250 a week for five weeks. The program was slated to start in 2009, but a lack of funding has delayed the implementation date twice.

The bill’s sponsor, Sen. John Braun (R-Centralia), said the program was a good idea, but without funding it’s an “empty promise.”

The measure was amended to include the creation of a task force to find a funding solution for the program. If a source isn’t found, parents would still be eligible for five weeks of unpaid leave. The author of the amendment, Sen. Steve Hobbs (D-Lake Stevens), said he plans to introduce a bill that will provide funding.

Under federal law, businesses with 50 or more employees are required to give workers up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for medical leave or to take care of a new child.

The measure passed on a 27 to 21 vote. It now head to the Democratic-controlled House.

Categories: Healthcare

House panel approves transportation tax package

By | April 22, 2013 | 0 Comments

A transportation spending package calling for a 10-cent gas tax increase cleared its first hurdle on Monday, clearing the way for a debate and vote on the House floor with less than a week remaining in the 105-day legislative session.

The House Transportation Committee approved the $8.4 billion package by a 16-13 vote along party lines. In addition to raising the gas tax, the proposal would increase various weight fees and call for higher vehicle registration and title transfer fees.

“We are going to be moving forward and making sure the economy is creating jobs,” said committee chair Judy Clibborn (D-Mercer Island). “I think it’s a perfect time. Even though it does raise taxes and does raise fees, there are going to be places where people can point and say this made a difference in our lives.”


Categories: transportation

Senate passes ‘bare bones’ transportation budget after CRC agreement is reached

By | April 19, 2013 | 0 Comments

The Senate on Friday unanimously passed what budget writers call a “bare bones” transportation spending package that includes $8.7 billion to fund existing projects around the state.

The vote comes a day after a compromise was reached on the Interstate 5 bridge bridge project over the Columbia River between Portland and Vancouver. Senate Republicans have voiced concerns over the project – specifically the proposed height of the bridge and a built-in light rail component.

The agreement calls for withholding about $82 million for the project in the budget until the U.S. Coast Guard decides whether to issue an important project permit. The Coast Guard, which has expressed concern over the bridge’s height, is expected to make a decision on the permit in September. The deal also calls for an audit of the Columbia River Crossing project by the state’s Joint Legislative Audit and Review Committee.


Categories: transportation