What: It has come to the attention of Sen. Ken Jacobsen, chair of the Natural Resources Committee, that as the state population grows there will be more people looking to bike and hike in Washington's pristine wilderness. His proposal, SB 5173, will turn the western slopes of the Cascades all the way from Canada down through Thurston County into a recreational area. Wildlife habitat will be protected, since for a growing segment of the population animal-spying is recreation in itself.
Who: Sen. Ken Jacobsen, D-Seattle
Chances: It has already made it through two committees and now faces the big test in Ways and Means.
I say: Hats off to any proposal to protect wilderness. Some might find Jacobsen's plans to turn wild paradise into a biker's playground controversial, but he's concerned that if the REI fiends don't get the land, the timber industry will. Look for future Jacobsen-sponsored proposals to end logging for school construction, and turn areas now designated for that purpose into, you guessed it, recreation areas.
RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE
What: The road-rage bill tries for a second year to become law. Violation of SB 5291 would constitute breaking at least two safe-driving ordinances within a 5-mile radius.
Who: Sen. Rosa Franklin, D-Tacoma
Chances: The bill is getting the attention of busy legislative ears and may well make it onto the books.
I say: The bill falls short in that it applies only to drivers who intimidate other drivers, not pedestrians or cyclists.
What: The brouhaha over oil spills is coming to a head in Olympia. Finally there is a bill, SB 5288, on the table to require those oil tanker folks to enter the Strait of Juan de Fuca and Puget Sound accompanied by tug escorts.
Who: Sen. Karen Fraser, D-Olympia
Chances: Iffy in the Senate, and a companion bill died in the House.
I say: When is the oil industry not a passel of villains? Never! They oppose this bill for the obvious reason it could prompt the passage of similar requirements in other coastal states (the industry has acknowledged that its costs for using tugs in Washington waters is negligible). There's no excuse for further coddling of these spoiled, rich babies.
BLOOD ALCOHOL LITE
What: The Legislature, which we doubt is composed of teetotalers, is contemplating the foolish move of lowering the blood alcohol level to .02. If SB 5872 passes, and it may, you might as well forget driving to parties.
Who: Sen. Mike Heavey, D-West Seattle
Chances: Don't even ask! (It appears to be thriving.)
I say: I think not! When did "We the People" become "We the Helpless Babies Who Can't Exercise Judgment to Save Our Lives and Need Pompous Legislators to Tell Us No-No"? The way this law would work is as follows: You have one drink at a bar, you drive home, nobody notices you're driving drunk because of course you're not drunk, but an officer decides to bust you over a broken tail light and while he's at it he imposes the old Breathalyzer and discovers that, surprise, you drink! For that crime you lose your license for 30 days and have to pay $500.
What: A bill that imposes penalties for unauthorized disclosure of a patient's HIV status to insurance companies, employers, or anyone else who might want to know. AIDS activists are watching SB 5793 closely, since the state health board may soon rule that doctors must report HIV patients by name to them (this, of course, would be authorized disclosure).
Who: Sen. Pat Thibaudeau, D-Seattle
Chances: The bill has support from the governor on down. But it's troubling that a companion bill died in the House.
I say: Persons living with HIV, and there are an estimated 8,500 in Washington state, are jittery enough about the prospect of their names being linked to the virus in state papers. They need reassurance that there's an effective deterrent to abuse of that information.
NO BUSINESS LIKE SHOW BUSINESS
What: Here's an item of interest. HB 1191 grants fast-track approval for moviemaking on shorelines.
Who: Rep. Jeff Morris, D-Mount Vernon, who says it wasn't a big priority for him. The buzz is the more you want a bill to pass in Olympia the smaller the chance it actually will, and vice versa.
Chances: It's got pertinent committees starstruck.
I say: The Legislature is not putting on an Oscar-winning performance when it comes to solving problems like lack of access to health care, dearth of affordable housing, and so forth. But if you want to make a film about these problems, count on quick clearance to shoot it on a shoreline.
What: Currently there are no marine bottomfish preserves on Puget Sound ocean floors. That's about to change, provided, of course, that the Legislature makes SB 5076 a priority. This bill will establish 20 preserves where low-lying fish can get some peace, privacy, and protection from hunting.
Who: Sen. Bob Oke, R-Port Orchard
Chances: It's in its second committee, Ways and Means, and could probably use some well-expressed public support.
I say: Do I care about the well-being of ugly little sea creatures that eat the garbage other fish drop? You bet I do!
Want to gripe? Not to me, silly, to the Legislature! Call legislators on their dime (which is actually yours) at 1-800-562-6000.