2009 Legislative session – Wins and losses
The 2009 legislative session adjourned April 26. Although the governor may call the Legislature into special session, it's time to look back at the regular session with my annual thumbs-up/thumbs down list.
Thumbs up: Eryk's Law – HB 2279
Named after a Lake Stevens boy who was nearly beaten to death by a family friend who was babysitting him, this measure prohibits convicted child abusers from working with children under the age of 13 in a paid or volunteer capacity.
Thumbs down: Felon voting rights – HB 1517
Gives felons voting rights once they have been released from jail, but before they have paid restitution and court fees.
Thumbs up: College textbooks – HB 1025
Requires college-affiliated bookstores to provide a four-week advance notice of course material requirements, giving students additional time to find the best price of the books and instructional materials they need.
Thumbs down: Tuition increases – SB 5734
Removes the 7 percent annual limit in tuition increases. It's expected the four-year universities will now hike tuition by 30 percent over the next two years. That's an additional $601 at Western Washington University.
Thumbs up: Farm structures permitting – SB 5120
Reduces permitting fees on agriculture structures
Thumbs down: Fee increases (numerous bills)
New fees totaling $371 million were added, including a vehicle license tab “opt-out” box if you don't want to pay an additional $5 for parks, an increase in the costs of document recording fees from $10 to $30, and new recreational hunting and fishing license surcharges.
Thumbs up: Farm tax exemptions – HB 1733
Adds horse boarding to open space property tax exemptions.
Thumbs down: Operating budget – HB 1244
Punts hard decisions to the future. The budget uses $4.8 billion in one-time money for on-going programs, and spends more than the last one. It transfers $777 million from the capital budget and adds $8 million in new programs. Consequently, this sets up Washington for another huge deficit when the next budget is written in 2011.
Thumbs up: Right to grow and harvest – SB 5562
Provides protection under the state's “Right to Farm” laws for the passive growing of timber.
Biggest thumbs down – Levy equalization cuts – HB 1776
The Legislature had sufficient time in 105 days to complete its business. Now the governor is considering an $18,000 a day special session to slash levy equalization funds for non-affluent school districts. House Bill 1776 is a reverse Robin Hood measure that would rob from land-poor school districts to give to rich districts. The bill would allow schools to lift their property tax levy lids by 4 percent, helping mostly property-rich districts. It cuts $60 million from levy equalization, money sent from the state to local districts with too little valuable property to tax. If this bill passes, Sedro-Woolley schools could lose $338,922. I will be fighting hard against this bill, to protect teaching positions and ensure the same quality education in Sedro-Woolley as in wealthier school districts.
These are a sampling of the bills that have passed. For a full thumbs up/thumbs down list, go to my Web site at: houserepublicans.wa.gov/Kristiansen and click on 2009 Best and Worst Bills.
EDITOR'S NOTE: State Rep. Dan Kristiansen, R-Snohomish, represents the 39th Legislative District, and also serves as chairman of the Washington House Republican Caucus. He can be contacted at (360) 786-7967 or from his Web site at: houserepublicans.wa.gov/Kristiansen.