News

Legislative halftime leaves bills out in cold

By Dennis Box

The Courier-Herald

It's halftime in Olympia and the 31st District legislators have taken some hits in committee, but they're still up and fighting.

Last week was the cut off for most committees to have bills read in the house of origin, either the Senate or the House of Representatives.

Rep. Dan Roach of Bonney Lake, Rep. Jan Shabro of Lake Tapps and Sen. Pam Roach of Auburn are all Republicans, which means they're in the minority party for this session in Olympia.

"They (Democrats) are not hearing very many Republican bills," Sen. Roach said. "They have their own way of doing things, but you never end the battle. You have principles and you continue to fight."

Roach is the ranking minority member of the Government Operations and Elections Committee, which has been focused on election reform after the controversial governor's race between Democrat Christine Gregoire and Republican Dino Rossi.

Roach was the prime sponsor of Senate Bill 5078, which would require a statewide re-registration of voters.

The bill has been stopped in the Elections Committee.

"The Democrats have no intention of cleaning up the voter registration roles," Roach said. "I can only offer the Republican plan and it is what the people want. Then we can see what they (Democrats) want to do."

Roach's parental eavesdropping bill, SB 5081, allowing parents to listen to their children's phone conversations, continues to find life.

"It's still in the rules committee," Roach said. "I think in the may come out the way we want."

Rep. Shabro has gained traction with House Bill 1179, a HOT lane pilot project. The bill has passed through the house and is in the senate.

HOT (high occupancy toll) lanes will allow single-occupied vehicles to use HOV or high occupancy vehicle lanes for a fee, depending on congestion.

The fee will be collected electronically by transponders along the highway reading a card attached to a vehicle's windshield.

State Route 167 between Auburn and Renton will be the test area if the bill passes the Senate and is signed by the governor.

Shabro's bill, HB 1709, which would retain norm-based testing, has passed the House, but is stripped down from its original form. According to Shabro, norm-based testing like the Iowa Test of Basic Skills compares students to others across the county.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Terry Bergeson supports HB 1068, which would eliminate norm-based testing.

"They want the money from norm-based testing," Shabro said. "They're looking for money any way they can get it. It's disturbing, but it happens."

Rep. Roach has seen all his critical areas bills shot down in the Local Government Committee.

"They weren't even given a hearing," Roach said. "I didn't feel like they got a fair shake."

Four insurance industry bills sponsored by Roach did pass through the house and HB 2152, which seeks to increase financial literacy in education, passed unanimously out of the Education Committee and is in Appropriations.

As the legislators head into the second half of the session the tough stuff is ahead.

"Tax proposals will start flying out now," Roach said. "Once the first half ends we have to figure out how to fund it all. My feeling is there will be a special session."

Dennis Box can be reached at dbox@courierherald.com.

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