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Tag: Chris Hurst


Worker’s comp continues as holdup; will there be deal?

Denizens of the Legislative Building are waiting to see whether a resolution will be reached on workers’ compensation in the next few days that would provide a way for lawmakers to finish their work and go home.

Whatever has happened so far this week in high-level meetings between legislative leaders and the governor on the topic, word hadn’t filtered down yet as of late Tuesday to lobbyists and rank-and-file legislators.

Union-friendly lawmakers had planned a press conference Tuesday morning, but legislative leaders asked them to call it off. There were rumors that a deal was imminent, but nothing materialized.

The two sides in the House remain divided on the Senate’s demand to allow injured workers to take a lump-sum payment to settle claims against their employers.

The settlements appear to have the votes to pass on the House floor. Rep. Chris Hurst, a conservative Enumclaw Democrat, says he thinks if House members were forced to vote, as many as 18 Democrats would join Republicans, easily passing the bill designed by business-friendly House Democrats. Even if his count is high, nine Democrats including Hurst have officially signed on in support of the bill, enough to squeak it through.

But as it turns out, the vote count inside House Democrats’ private caucus room is what counts. Rep. Tami Green, D-Lakewood, said a majority of House Democrats — 45 of the caucus’s 56 members — oppose the centrist Democrats’ bill. It won’t go to the floor with that kind of opposition, Green said: “It will blow up our caucus if that happens.” Read more »


Legislature approves ‘Discover Pass’ for state lands

Lawmakers wrapped up work today on one piece of their budget puzzle.

They agreed to charge $30 a year to drive into state parks and forests and other state lands, sending SB 5622 to Gov. Chris Gregoire for her signature on a party-line House vote. The governor has supported the concept and included it in her budget plan.

Her legislative director, Jim Justin, said Gregoire needs to take a look at changes made by the Legislature but that she’s pleased the bill has passed.

The annual pass and a $10 day pass for those who don’t buy it would raise $64 million, with $54 million going to state parks and the rest divided between two other agencies that manage state lands, the Department of Natural Resources and the Department of Fish and Wildlife. Read more »


Republicans lose procedural showdown on worker’s comp

Republicans are disappointed, conservative Democrats are steaming and prospects for a deal on worker’s compensation have dimmed further — all because of the failure today of a procedural vote.

A moment’s pause here for the substance of the debate: SB 5566 has passed the Senate and would allow what opponents in labor call “compromise and release” or what supporters in business call “voluntary settlements.” Whatever the name, they would save money for the state’s worker’s-comp system by allowing injured workers and their employers to resolve their claims with lump-sum settlements.

The debate is over whether workers would be pressured into settlements, but that substance didn’t come up for debate on the House floor today. Instead Republicans, frustrated that Labor Committee Chairman Mike Sells refuses to allow a vote on the bill, made a procedural motion that would have allowed them to pull the bill directly to the floor. Some are calling it the “nuclear option.”

The motion failed on a nearly party-line vote, 54-43. Read more »


Medical marijuana bill moves forward

The House on Monday advanced the medical marijuana bill that would legalize and license dispensaries and give patients protection from arrest. Jonathan Martin of The Seattle Times has an excellent rundown here.

A couple of the changes the House made before sending SB 5073 back to the Senate where it originated came from Rep. Chris Hurst of Enumclaw. Notably, Hurst secured an amendment giving arrest protection only to people who sign up for a state registry, not all patients with a medical authorization for marijuana.

The House also added a maximum of one pot dispensary per 20,000 residents

Read more »


Bill by Rep. Jeff Morris would repeal traffic cameras

There are all kinds of proposals in the Legislature for cracking down on cities’ use of automated traffic cameras, and a bill filed today offers the most sweeping solution yet.

Sponsored by Rep. Jeff Morris, D-Anacortes, HB 1823 would completely repeal the authority for cities and counties to have the cameras.

That’s what’s demanded by activists like the ones who helped pack a committee hearing Tuesday on bills related to the cameras. A Puyallup couple, Nick and Tiffany Sherwood, founded BanCams.com.

Other proposals out there:

  • Rep. Jim McCune, R-Graham, would require cities to get approval

Read more »


E-mail voting clears committee, has easier path through Legislature

Elections officials and advocates for the military who want overseas Washingtonians to be able to vote by e-mail were thwarted last year, but now see an easier path to their goal.

Their proposal became the first bill filed this year, HB 1000, and today became one of the first to pass a committee vote when the House State Government Committee approved it unanimously.

But the problem was never the House, which passed it 96-0 last year. It was the Senate, where Sen. Eric Oemig blocked the bill, heeding the complaints of election-security advocates worried e-mail voting would lead to fraud.

Oemig lost on Nov. 2, and the opponents haven’t found a champion to pick up where he left off. Potentially unable to block the bill, they want a compromise that would allow an e-mailed ballot to be used only as a placeholder until a paper ballot is received.

That’s similar to what election officials allow now, but they don’t promote the method because it confuses voters to have to send a ballot twice, according to state elections co-director Katie Blinn, who said it makes the electronic transmission of ballots an “absolutely useless act.”

Whether or not this bill passes, military and other overseas voters can continue to request and obtain ballots via e-mail and then send them back by traditional mail.

Blinn’s boss, Secretary of State Sam Reed, said he knows of no opposition among senators this year, and Rep. Chris Hurst, D-Enumclaw, told the committee he has promises from the Senate that the bill won’t be blocked.

Read more »


Red light fight? Competing bills would standardize cameras

Cameras at intersections have become a controversial tool to keep drivers from running red lights, and the Legislature may put new restrictions on them this year.

There’s a feeling in city halls and in Olympia that if lawmakers don’t, voters will.

Two competing efforts are emerging. A bill being drafted with the support of the Tacoma City Council would try to standardize how cities adopt the cameras, what signs they put up and whom they ticket. Meanwhile, a couple of bills about to be introduced by the conservative Democrat who chairs the House Public Safety Committee, Rep. Chris Hurst, would set up more stringent standards and give voters in each city a veto.

Requiring voter approval would make it harder for more cities to join the list of cities that use red-light cameras — which already includes Lakewood, Puyallup, Federal Way, Fife and Tacoma.

Read more »


State House musical chairs benefit Jeannie Darneille, Larry Seaquist, Steve Kirby

Rep. Jeannie Darneille lost out to Rep. Ross Hunter for the powerful post of budget chairman, but Darneille is still moving up. She will be one of two vice-chairs to Hunter.

In the reconfigured House committee structure approved by Democrats and unveiled today, Darneille, D-Tacoma, will take point on the spending side of the budget while Rep. Bob Hasegawa, D-Seattle fills the same role for taxes. She will be vice chair for appropriations; he will be vice chair for finance.

Previously, the two were split into different committees with Hunter chairing Finance and Rep. Kelli Linville, who was defeated

Read more »