WEAR THE DOG
What: There's a new bill (HB 2280) in the House that will make it illegal to kill domestic dogs and cats for their hides.
Who: Reps. Tom Campbell, R-Puyallup, and Al O'Brien, DMountlake Terrace
Chances: Pretty bad this late in the session.
I say: If I had known that was legal, I would have been skinning dalmatians all along! But that kind of barbaric cruelty really should, I suppose, be outlawed.
What: It all begins with Rep. Kelli Linville's disgust with the Department of Natural Resources, which has let its proprietary interest in state lands get in the way of keeping water pristine in her Bellingham district. So she introduced HB 1448 many votes and committee studies ago to make the Department of Ecology, which already plays an advisory role in aquatic cleanups, the primary agency overseeing them. This means DOE would have authority over all of Washington's bodies of water, including how to clean them up, and regulate their use by corporations, developers, and port authorities.
Who: Rep. Kelli Linville, D-Bellingham, protecting her home bay. The Washington Public Ports Association is also enthusiastic about it. (No, they aren't elected officials. They just like to lobby, but, hey, who doesn't?)
Chances: The particulars may change, but the gist of the bill has a good chance of becoming law.
I say: DNR is responsible for deciding what to do with state waters, state forests, and other topographical features owned by the state. Granted they mess up big time, but this bill would allow another agency, one not charged with stewardship of state-managed property, to make short-term decisions, benefiting ports and other business interests, that could have lasting effects on our waters. Rep. Linville has confidence that DOE can do the job responsibly but some environmentalists worry the department is overburdened as it is. Since DNR is and always will be the folks responsible for preserving our trees and our fish, why don't we just make them do their job?
THE LITTLE LEGISLATURE THAT COULDN'T
What: In the throes of salmon-saving time an ambitious bill has been dropped that's making environmentalists nervous. In the bill's current form it may impose timelines for issuing building permits, which could choke out public input or environmental review. It may transfer the authority to issue hydraulic permits from the Department of Fish and Wildlife to King County, which doesn't have a great record when it comes to mitigating wetland damage. And it may, say environmentalists, make it difficult for the National Marine Fisheries Service to adequately enforce the Endangered Species Act in areas where development could further threaten salmon.
Who: Rep. Mark Doumit, D-Cathlamet
Chances: We say "may" about all the provisions of this bill because any of them could disappear, but at this point it looks like some form of it will pass to satisfy developers' insatiable appetites for speedy permit approval.
I say: Now is not the time to speed up the permit issuing process. It is the time to put developer-friendly laws like this on hold for a session. Let's spend our precious legislative weeks passing, not just discussing, effective measures to restore endangered fish. Instead, good provisions of those bills get struck out or compromised, and it's the proposals favoring development that see action. Did you hear that this Legislature was going to reverse the trend of pampering development and support salmon instead? Yeah, right.
What: On a nightly basis TV screens are bringing us sad pictures of gore in Eastern Europe. Don't think your elected officials are unconcerned about the problem. At least one of them is responding: Sen. Pam Roach has a bill, SB 6094, which would appropriate $200,000 from the general fund for refugee assistance, to be administered through the Department of Social and Health Services. The money would only be distributed to refugees placed in this state.
Who: Sen. Pam Roach, R-Auburn
Chances: Sen. Roach is optimistic. But like any money bill that doesn't build roads, it will probably face a tough course.
I say: It's laudable that Sen. Roach is concerned about the plight of Kosovo's ethnic Albanians, but so far it looks like our budget will not adequately meet the needs of our schools, our parks, our kids' health, and our poor citizens. In my opinion those priorities come first. If we fund services for the victims of atrocities committed abroad we must first support the victims of our own brutal economy.