Politics Blog

Whatcom County legislators take on marijuana, oil safety, gas tax in first weeks of session

Now that the Legislature has been in session for a few weeks, I thought it might be a good time to give our Politics Blog readers a quick roundup of some of the bills Whatcom County’s legislators are working on.

Sen. Kevin Ranker (D-Orcas Island) has sponsored several bills, including one that would allow people convicted of misdemeanor marijuana convictions before November 2012 (when recreational weed was passed by voters) to ask the court to vacate their convictions. Their records could be cleared provided they don’t have current criminal charges pending against them, and don’t have a criminal history that includes a violent or sexual offense, or any of a series of driving-under-the-influence-related offenses.

Ranker has also sponsored a bill that would make it illegal to catch or keep whales, dolphins, or porpoises in the state for performances or entertainment. The bill ( SB 5666), is scheduled for a public hearing at 1:30 p.m. Feb. 5 in the Senate Committee on Natural Resources and Parks.

Aside from working on an oil train safety bill, Sen. Doug Ericksen (R-Ferndale) has sponsored bills dealing with chemical safety, tax exemptions for broadband equipment, and several other topics. One Ericksen bill ( SB 5429) would change license plate fees so they don’t exceed 125 percent of what the Department of Licensing paid for the plates and would also make it so the DOL isn’t required to buy license plates from inmate work programs.

Ericksen and Ranker are co-sponsors of SB 5447, which would enable cities up to 25 miles from the border (like Bellingham) to impose a border-area gas tax. The current law allows towns and cities within 10 miles to do so. The bill is scheduled for a public hearing at 3:30 p.m. Feb. 3 in the Senate Committee on Transportation.

One of the many bills sponsored by Rep. Vincent Buys (R-Lynden) would allow people to pay an extra five bucks for their Discover Pass each year so they could collect up to 50 pounds of rocks per day at certain state parks. That bill’sup for executive session at 8 a.m. Feb. 4 in the House Committee on Agriculture and Natural Resources.

Buys and Rep. Kris Lytton (D-anacortes) are co-sponsors of HB 1268 , which would require the Department of Agriculture to study whether hemp products should be allowed in animal feed. The House Committee on Ag and Natural Resources will hold a public hearing on that bill at 8 a.m. Feb. 4.

Lytton is also a sponsor of HB 1295, which would require high-needs schools to provide breakfast options after school starts, also known as “breakfast after the bell.” (Scheduled for executive session at 8 a.m. Feb. 5 in the House Committee on Education).

Among the many things on the plate of Rep. Jeff Morris (D-Mount Vernon) is a bill that would limit using drones to take pictures or video on private property. Morris is also a co-sponsor with Lytton on the House companion billto the border town fuel tax bill in the Senate.

Last but not least, Rep. Luanne Van Werven (R-Lynden) has sponsored (among other things) a bill that creates an exemptionfrom I-594’s background check requirements for guns that will be transferred to and displayed at a museum or by a historical society.

A few other interesting bills this session:

•  HB1493/SB5289 Would require parental notification 48 hours before an abortion for minors

•  HB 1443 Would allow votes to be sent in electronically (fax/email/etc.)

•  HB 1739 Would abolish the death penalty

•  HB 1159 Would require teen drivers to display a “new driver” decal in their rear windows or face a fine

•  HB 1068/SB 5225 Would require law enforcement agencies to have sexual assault examination kits analyzed within 30 days of receiving them (as long as they have permission from the victim or victim’s parent/guardian); Would also create a work group to find out how many sexual assault exam kits are untested and recommend strategies to minimize the number of untested kits.

Update: Apologies: I misspelled Rep. Jeff Morris’ name in an earlier version of this blog post. It was updated Monday, Feb. 2.