This Washington

The C is for Crank Goes to Olympia

By Erica C. Barnett January 25, 2012

Josh has been out of town, so the C is for Crank has been keeping an eye on the state legislature. (Although he got back in town today, just in time to file a riveting post on a general obligation bond earmark package). This is by no means a comprehensive list (no big stuff like gay marriage and the budget), but just what caught my eye today.

The Good:

• A proposal by Senate transportation committee chair Mary Margaret Haugen (D-10) and Sen. Joe Fain (R-47) would officially give the state transportation commission the authority to impose variable tolls---tolls that change based on congestion and time of day---on the Alaskan Way tunnel on the waterfront.

Although the bill is more or less pro forma---the state department of transportation requested the legislation, and tolls have always been part of the tunnel project---the fact that a conservative Democrat and a moderate Republican are backing a variable tolling bill (variable tolls were among the targets of Tim Eyman's failed I-1125) shows a move among legislators toward a more progressive transportation funding system.

• A bill, heard in the house labor committee earlier this afternoon, would duplicate Seattle's paid-sick leave law, requiring all employers with five or more employees to provide paid sick leave, including leave for domestic violence and to take care of an ailing family member. The proposal is sponsored by 11 Democrats, including Seattle-area Ds Mary Lou Dickerson (D-36) and Zack Hudgins (D-11).

• A bill, sponsored by new state Sen. David Frockt (D-46), that would prevent lenders from suing homeowners who are selling their homes at a loss but are not yet in foreclosure. In a statement, Frockt said the bill would "provide some certainty for homeowners in distress and help us work through the inventory of homes on the market.”

• And a proposal, also sponsored by a long list of Democrats, that would ban cities and the state from requiring employers to use the controversial E-Verify program, which gives employers the ability to check prospective employees' eligibility to work in the US.

In Kennewick, the city and its contractors are required to use the program, which acts as a tool to weed out undocumented immigrants.

The Bad:

• A bill that had its first hearing in the state senate this morning would remove numerous requirements the state currently places on the superintendent of public instruction, including: A requirement that the superintendent provide information on HPV immunizations; a requirement that schools teach drivers' ed students about motorcycle, bicycle, and pedestrian awareness; a requirement that schools with farm or gardening programs teach organic gardening methods; and a requirement that the state fund grants to educate students on civil liberties.

An earlier version of the bill failed last year.

And, Huh?:

• A proposal, sponsored by Rep. Andy Billig (D-3)---a big advocate for alternative transportation---and state house transportation chair Judy Clibborn (D-41) that would create a new "road user future funding task force" to come up with new ways of funding transportation in light of declining gas-tax revenues.

Although the bill includes a rare acknowledgement that gas tax revenues are unlikely to rebound (yay!), it fails to acknowledge the real reason (boo!): People are driving less.

In fact, the language of the bill goes out of its way to assert that driving will continue to increase, noting, "Washington transportation forecasters expect slow but positive growth in vehicle miles traveled upon the state and local transportation system to continue."
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