Local legislators’ proposals face last major cutoff before session ends

Wednesday marked the last big deadline for non-budgetary bills in the Legislature, and some proposals by Clark County’s legislators fared better than others. Here’s a quick roundup of where some of those proposals stand:

Missing the deadline:

Death penalty changes: This bill would allow prosecutors to seek the death penalty for criminals charged with the murder of a child younger than 15. The proposal was introduced by state Sen. Don Benton, R-Vancouver. It’s the third time Benton has tried to pass the proposal. The idea didn’t so much as receive a public hearing during previous legislative sessions, but it managed to make it to the House this year.

C-Tran taxing districts: Benton’s bill to repeal C-Tran’s ability to create a high-capacity taxing subdistrict also stalled in the House. Benton has argued that such areas could be gerrymandered to include places where people from all over the county go to shop, including the Westfield Vancouver mall, and then those taxes could go pay for light rail in Vancouver. C-Tran officials have said the law allows transportation districts to better align who benefits from a particular transportation project, such as light rail, and who pays for it.

Online teacher training: This bill would create a state-funded online warehouse of information for teachers and students. The proposed website would feature blog posts, recorded lessons, instructional videos, video teleconferencing between instructors and students, and suggested classroom activities. It was introduced by Vancouver educator and Democratic state Rep. Monica Stonier.

Making the cut:

Theater alcohol licenses: A bill to allow wine and beer licenses for movie theaters with fewer than four screens, including Kiggins Theatre in downtown Vancouver, made the latest bill deadline. It passed through both legislative chambers and is waiting for the House to decide whether to accept slight changes made in the Senate.

Library square development: A proposal to keep Vancouver’s Library Square project on track is considered “necessary to implement the budget” and therefore exempt from Wednesday’s cutoff, said state Sen. Ann Rivers, R-La Center. That bill would give Library Square developers more time to secure a state tax break for the project. The project would develop the block around the downtown Vancouver Library and increase parking for library patrons. If the developers can’t get that tax break, they’ll likely move forward with a scaled-back version of project that excludes a new parking garage. The developer, Killian Pacific, couldn’t meet the original construction deadline because of financial difficulties caused by the recession.

Isolation rooms in schools: This bill would require schools to notify parents when their students are restrained or put into isolation rooms. Isolation rooms are used in school districts throughout Clark County, and they are defined in the bill as “excluding a student from his or her regular learning environment” and confining them in an enclosure they cannot leave. Stonier proposed this legislation, which was co-sponsored by state Rep. Liz Pike, R-Camas.

Delaying eco-friendly government vehicles: This proposal would ease the burden on local governments faced with acquiring environmentally friendly vehicles. In 2007, the Legislature mandated that by 2015, local governments, including fire and school districts, must replace their gas and diesel vehicles with those that run on electricity or biofuel. The bill, introduced by Rivers, would require the state’s Department of Commerce to create an advisory committee to take a closer look at those requirements. The bill also states that a gas or diesel vehicle should not be replaced with eco-friendly one until “the end of its useful life.”

Teaching sexual-consent laws: A bill by Rep. Ed Orcutt, R-Kalama, would require public schools that already teach sex ed to also teach students about sexual criminal law in Washington and the legal consequences for committing a sex crime with a minor. The proposal passed the Senate on Tuesday with a vote of 41-6.

The 2013 legislative session is scheduled to conclude in 10 days. Wednesday’s bill deadline leaves legislators with the task of figuring out the state budgets, and finding consensus on any bills that were altered in one chamber but not the other.

Still in play is a proposal that would raise gas taxes and some vehicle fees to pay for several of the state’s transportation megaprojects, including the Columbia River Crossing.

And, of course, here’s the disclaimer that must go with every story about bill cutoffs: Legislation impacting the budgetary process are exempt from the deadline, and bills that seem dead now can be resurrected later or be amended onto another bill.

Stevie Mathieu

Stevie Mathieu

Stevie Mathieu is a political writer at The Columbian. Contact her at 360-735-4523 or stevie.mathieu@columbian.com or www.facebook.com/reportermathieu or www.twitter.com/col_politics.

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