Politics Blog

Rep. Morris recognized as one of 'tech-savviest' legislators

Rep. Jeff Morris, D-Mount Vernon, doesn't get a lot of media attention, even though he is chairman of the House Technology, Energy and Economic Development Committee -- the house version of the Senate committee chaired by Doug Ericksen, R-Ferndale, who gets his name in the paper much more often.

Morris is getting noticed, however. He made Government and Technology's list of the 13 tech-savviest state legislators in the U.S.

From the online story at govtech.com:

Technology has become a major factor in many of the proposals introduced by lawmakers during state legislative sessions. But it can be difficult to zero-in on the elected leaders who have their fingers on the pulse of and are truly engaged in the latest tech issues....

Government and Technology seeks to rectify this problem with its list.

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A search on BellinghamHerald.com for "Doug Ericksen Ferndale" and "Jeff Morris Mount Vernon" (towns of residence, commonly used with names when referencing a state legislator, were used in the searches to reduce the instances of people who coincidentally had the same name) yielded 38 results for Ericksen and just 14 for Morris. So there's a quick side-by-side comparison of the ink that has been given to each.

Media attention isn't always a good thing for a legislator, of course. Ericksen got negative attention for rising to the top of a list of recipients of free lobbyist meals and for inviting the controversial AGW* denier, Dr. Don Easterbrook, to testify in his committee in 2013.

Ericksen, more in 2013 than this year, found himself in pitched fights with his political frenemy and fellow Whatcom state senator, Kevin Ranker, D-Orcas Island.

Morris, meanwhile, seems to avoid political controversy and, year after year, churns out bills related to technology, communications and energy.

Morris' bills tend to be technical and hard to translate into everyday language -- another impediment to media attention.

He spent a lot of the past session trying to extend an incentive to homeowners for installing solar panels -- a tricky negotiation that didn't bear any fruit this year.

The closest he came to controversy in 2014 was his support as secondary sponsor for HB 2789, which would have required that law enforcement agencies obtain a search warrant before using drones to gather information on citizens. (See all Morris' bills from 2013-14 here.)

The bill also would have required legislative approval, or city/county approval for local agencies, before drones are used.

The drone bill passed both houses easily but was vetoed by Gov. Jay Inslee, who agreed with open-government advocates (including newspapers) that the bill was too restrictive on public access to the information gathered by the drones.

Morris issued a statement on April 4, right after the governor's veto. It read, in part,

"I am very disappointed that Governor Inslee vetoed this well-worked, forward-looking legislation that was intended to protect citizens from being spied on by their government without legal approval."

For his part, Inslee said at the time, "This (bill) would bar the public from essentially any information that in any way could be considered identifiable to any individual. That’s a major, major carve-out in our public disclosure rules."

* AGW=anthropogenic, of human-caused, global warming. Even more radically, Easterbrook repudiates the scientific consensus that the earth's atmosphere is warming due to increasing concentrations of carbon dioxide, whether human-induced or not.