Legislature has 5 days to correct these 3 measures

The OlympianMarch 9, 2014 

With a 2014 general election looming that could shift the balance of power in both the state House and Senate, lawmakers spent much of this session grandstanding for campaign brochure material. Such electioneering may be expected, but it often gets in the way of good policy.

In the final five days of this legislative session, lawmakers should correct their course on these three important bills.

HOMELESS FUNDING

Sen. Jan Angel, R-Gig Harbor, caved to the real estate industry and refused to let her Financial Institutions, Housing and Insurance Committee vote on ESHB 2368. It’s a mistake that will have devastating effects on Thurston County shelters, low-income housing providers and rapid rehousing programs.

More than $2.5 million is at stake for Thurston County if lawmakers don’t renew the $40 fee on the recording of documents related to home sales. If the Legislature doesn’t act, the fee will drop to $30 next year and $10 the following year.

Counties such as Thurston use the recording fees to provide shelter for families and youth trying to stay off the streets. For example, the fees help Community Youth Services operate Rosie’s Place, Haven House and its new 10-bed young adult shelter and other housing services that support 500 youths and 35 babies annually.

Although the fees don’t drop until mid-2015, the renewal needs to happen now so counties can budget and housing programs can plan. Both need the certainty of funding to sign contracts and commit to staffing well before next year’s legislative session.

Angel was playing insider politics at its worst, with no concern about punishing homeless children and families. Smarter and more compassionate legislators should pass this bill.

FUNDING TVW

Neither the House or Senate capital budgets include money to replace 20-year-old analog equipment at TVW, which is Washington’s version of C-SPAN. Thousands of citizens rely on TVW to watch and listen to their representatives and those who testify for and against legislation.

The public would lose significant access to government information if TVW cannot upgrade the equipment it uses to broadcast live debates in the House and Senate hearing rooms. Much of that gear has stopped working, including more than 10 percent of its cameras.

Legislators should add TVW’s $2.8 million capital request to the budget. Private sources are nearly matching that amount for a total of $5.2 million in improvements.

INSURANCE RATES

Purchasers of health care insurance need to have price information from competing plans in order to make informed decisions. But Sen. Randi Becker, R-Eatonville, bent to the wishes of Premera Blue Cross and stripped transparent pricing out of House Bill 2572.

That’s not surprising. Becker takes campaign donations from Premera. One of her primary opponents dubbed her the “senator from Premera.” In the 2011 session, Becker pushed an amendment to block insurer’s price-hike requests from public scrutiny before the state insurance commissioner approved them.

This bill has several good components, and critical price information should be one of them.

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