Opinion

What's coming up in Olympia | Cornfield

A preview of coming attractions and distractions for lawmakers next year can be found in the pile of legislation awaiting them when they return to Olympia in January.

There have been 59 bills filed early – 38 in the House and 21 in the Senate – dealing with specialty license plates and protecting hospital employees from violent criminals as well as naming a state waterfall and ensuring natural disasters don’t shut down government.

Here’s a sample of new laws House and Senate members are already pushing:

One overpass, hold the art: There’s a move afoot to end the prettification of bridges, overpasses, sound walls and off-ramps. House Bill 2092 would bar state transportation agencies from spending public funds to “acquire works of art” or make “decorative finishes or designs that are not integral to the function of a transportation structure.”

Washington Pot & Trust: Who better to handle the cash for the pot industry than the state, right? Senate Bill 5955 creates a publicly owned trust to “act as the sole depository for in-state marijuana producers, processers, and retailers and to use taxable earnings from those deposits for the benefit of the people and economy of the state.”

All in the cannabis family: You won’t get high off hemp but you might make money selling oils, clothes and other products made from this variety of cannabis sativa. Senate Bill 5954 sets the rules for a new industrial hemp industry. Growers will need licenses and pay fees and those dollars would be deposited in the proposed publicly-owned trust.

RDHWKFN: The University of Washington has a specialty license plate. So too do Washington State University and Gonzaga. Seattle University may be next. That’s the idea behind House Bill 2100 which would direct proceeds from any sales into a student scholarship fund.

A layer of protection: When a person suspected or convicted of a violent crime is brought to a hospital for care, sometimes they attack nurses or other employees. Under Senate Bill 5968, these potentially violent individuals must be accompanied by a law enforcement officer or guard at all times during the visit.

Scenic standout: Washington’s got its share of official symbols. There’s a state bird, fruit, insect, folk song and even a ship. House Bill 2119 would name Palouse Falls in southeast Washington as the official state waterfall. The sales pitch: The falls drop 198-feet and are considered one of the most amazing waterfalls in the U.S. and the world.

Disclosure duties: A little training might help elected leaders of cities, counties and special districts avoid violations of the public records act that can result in big payouts to seekers of records. House Bill 2121 would require every elected official to complete a training course within 90 days of taking office.

Primary avoidance: When voters fill the unexpired term of a partisan county office, as they will for Snohomish County executive next year, a primary is held even if only one candidate files. Under House Bill 2106, no primary would be held in such instances. The candidate must still go before voters in November in case a write-in candidate surfaces.

In the event of an emergency: Washington’s constitution lays out how government will operate in an “emergency resulting from enemy attack.” It doesn’t mention other emergencies like a natural disaster. Senate Bill 5971 and a proposed constitutional amendment would update the language to make sure an earthquake, tsunami or even invasion from Idaho or Canada are covered.

If these previews whet your appetite, the text for these bills and others can be found online at www.leg.wa.gov.

Political reporter Jerry Cornfield’s blog, The Petri Dish, is at www.heraldnet.com. Contact him at 360-352-8623 or jcornfield@heraldnet.com.

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