Public Hearing on Interim Marijuana Zoning April 22

The action this week is at the Council and not the Planning Commission. The Council’s interim ordinance on Marijuana Zoning will be up for public hearing. Check out the council agenda highlights, below.

The PC is holding three public hearings to repeal old Subarea Plans that are out of date and inconsistent with the Comprehensive Plan. These plans cover Lake Whatcom, South Fork Valley, and Eliza Island. They were adopted before the Growth Management Act became law, and served a purpose then. In the event of an inconsistency between a Subarea Plan and the Comp Plan, the Comp Plan prevails, so it seems to make sense to just remove them from the planning documents. If you’ve got another view of this, come to the hearing Thursday, April 24, starting at 6:30 pm at the County Annex, NW and Smith Roads. Here’s the staff reports on the three plans for repeal.

The non-controversial amendments to corner and through lot setbacks, and the Comp Plan Public Participation Plan will be considered by the Council at its April 22 meeting.

 Water Planning

The Rome Grange held a forum last Saturday on water issues, following in the footsteps of the League of Women Voters. There is so much to learn and so many people who need to get educated on water issues, that as long as these events are well represented by the various stakeholders, they can only be good for future decision-making.   Here are two summaries of the forum, which was generally well received: Bellingham Herald  and Terry Wechsler.

Here’s a tentative list of future forums:

  • May 17: Diverse Perspectives on Water and Land Use, with reps of dairy ag, land developers, Business Alliance, Rural Water Systems, fishing, PDS, and Futurewise
  • June 7: Water Resource Planning: Past, Present, and Future, with Small Cities Caucus, Water Districts Coalition, County Public Works, Private Well Owners, Citizen’s Alliance for Prop. Rights, and Nooksack Salmon Enhancement Ass’n & RE Sources
  • June 21 or 28: Wrap Up, with Mayor Linville, Water Districts, Non-gov’t water systems, tribes, business, environmental community, and ECOL, with Exec. Louws closing the series.

There’s Carl Weimer’s new Facebook page to share information on the Action Plan process and progress. And in case you didn’t get around to completing his survey, here’s the link to share your ideas regarding what the priorities should be on water quality and quantity issues, and ideas you might have to help address the priorities.

Items on the April 22 County Council Agenda

County Council Natural Resources Committee, April 22, 9:30 am, Council Chambers:
Presentation by Dan McShane regarding potential geological hazards within Whatcom County.

Council Council Finance Cmte, April 22, 11 am, Council Chambers:
WRIA 1 funding  (AB2014-149). This item is about continued funding of a facilitator for the Watershed Management Project for the Nooksack River that takes in most of the inhabited Whatcom County. Carl Weimer says some are now questioning the expense and need for that facilitation since the group seems to accomplish little, and other groups such as the Planning Commission have always operated without such expensive facilitation.

County Council Planning and Development Cmte, April 22, 3 pm, Council Chambers

  1. Presentation of the 2014 County-wide Population Growth Monitoring Report (AB2014-097A). This is the one the Planning Commission looked at earlier in the month.
  2. Discussion of a proposed ordinance amending the Whatcom County Code to allow packinghouses and slaughterhouses in the Agriculture Zoning District as administrative approval uses (AB2014-060B) (ordinance scheduled for introduction this evening, with public hearing tentatively scheduled for May 6)

Public Hearing, 7 pm (following Ex. Louws’ State of the County Address), Council chambers:
Interim ordinance on Marijuana zoning (AB2014-074C). This interim ordinance will only last six months or less. A third version, the final, permanent ordinance, will go before the Planning Commission after the interim version is adopted by the Council.

FULL County Council AGENDA
Planning Commission AGENDA
Planning Commission Meeting Schedule

–Natalie

Odds and Ends: I-5, Population, Water Plan, Oso

No hearing or actionable agenda items on the Planning Commission agenda this week. But if you drive the interstate between Bakerview and Grandview Roads you might be interested in the  WSDOT I-5 Corridor Study for that area. We will be getting a briefing on it on Thursday, April 10th, starting at 6:30 pm, County Annex, NW and Smith Roads.

The build out of the Bakerview area, including the possibility of Costco moving there, will have huge impacts on the Bakerview and Slater Road access points. Now that I live just west of the Slater I-5 exit, I am well aware of problems that already exist. Of course, planning is only useful if we intend on implementing those plans, and the Washington Legislature can’t seem to pass a Transportation Package that is sorely needed.

The Public Participation Plan for the Comprehensive Plan Update was approved by the Planning Commission at our last meeting without amendments.  Here’s the draft plan. Next stop is the Council.

Population Projections for 20-year Growth Planning

PDS staff briefed us on County-wide Population Growth Monitoring Report for urban and non-urban areas of the county.  What jumped out at me was the very last table that compared the proposed population projects to the Land Capacity Analysis for each city/UGA. what is being proposed and what we have the land to accommodate is pretty much the same for all the cities, except Bellingham. There we have 35,918 proposed population growth (2013-2036) and a preliminary Land Capacity Analysis of only 28,600.

It is expected that we will not only use available undeveloped lands inside the city limits, but also annex all UGAs outside the city limits, build out urban services, and up-zone to urban densities, within that 20-year planning period. But even if we do that, we still don’t have enough land capacity to accommodate all the expected new people. Either densities will have to be increased significantly, or UGA boundaries expanded, or both.

Clayton Petree presented an analysis he has done on the growth projections, and his basic message is that the 2007 projections were only fairly accurate to what happened because we had an unforseen recession. He suggests the estimates of recent growth are too low, and projections are too low for a future recovering economy.

 Water Action Plan

County Councilman Carl Weimer is collecting ideas from the public regarding what the priorities should be on water quality and quantity issues, and ideas you might have to help address the priorities. You can complete his survey or send him ideas directly.

Oso Landslide

The causes of  the devastating landslide that wiped out the small community of Oso, Washington, and killed over 33 people will likely be debated  for years to come. What we know for sure is that we have the tools to keep people from building homes in geologically unstable areas, if we choose to use them. As we proceed with the Comprehensive Plan update here in Whatcom County, we will review the Critical Areas Ordinance for needed changes, including the rules governing zoning and development of geologically hazardous areas.  If you want to get really deep into the geology of the slide, check out former County Councilman Dan McShane’s blog, Reading the Washington Landscape.

Items on the April 8 County Council Agenda

County Council Finance Committee, April 8, 11 am, Council Chambers:
Request approval for the County Executive to enter into a contract amendment between Whatcom County and Van Ness Feldman, LLP, to provide legal assistance in Growth Management Hearings Board cases, in the amount of $30,000, for a total amended contract in the amount of $130,000 (AB2014-136)

Council Committee of the Whole, April 8, 1:30 pm, Council Chambers:
Discussion of proposed interim marijuana zoning rules. Check out the summary of changes being considered after the public hearing last month (page 2). Assuming the committee likes what they see, it will be introduced at the evening meeting of the Council, with a public hearing proposed for April 22. This interim ordinance will only last six months or less. A third version, the final, permanent ordinance, will go before the Planning Commission after the interim version is adopted by the Council.

County Council Planning And Development Cmte, immediately following the Cmte of Whole, Council Chambers:
1. Introductory briefing on the 2016 Critical Areas Ordinance update process and schedule (AB2014-150)
2. MORE Discussion of an interim ordinance related to packinghouse applications in Agriculture Zones (AB2014-060A)

FULL County Council AGENDA
Planning Commission AGENDA
Planning Commission Meeting Schedule

–Natalie

Hearing on Public Participation on Comp Plan Development March 27

The Whatcom County Planning Commission will hold one public hearing this week, March 27th starting at 6:30 pm at the County Annex, Smith and NW. The topic is Draft Public Participation Plan for Whatcom County Comprehensive Plan and Development Regulation Amendments.

The Public Participation Plan lays out all the projects and issues to be dealt with this year (already adopted by the Council) and says to what level of notice and involvement they want the public to be involved in the decision-making. Here’s the draft plan. There are three levels of participation, and each issue is put into one of these levels. Check these out beginning at page 17 (4-2). Level one has uncomplicated or non-controversial issues. Level two provides more opportunity to weigh alternatives before making decisions. And Level three adds additional layers of consultation, including a town hall meeting. What we should consider: are the projects and issues in the right level?

The one substantive change in past practice in this year’s plan is when a proposal gets modified by the Planning Commission or the Council, after full 30 day notice and hearing, it only needs 10 day notice on this second go-round in the modified form. Otherwise, it would need a second 30-day notice period before being at hearing again.

County-wide Population Growth Monitoring Report

PDS staff has published a County-wide Population Growth Monitoring Report for urban and non-urban areas of the county. While the Non-Urban Growth Monitoring Report published in January focuses on the portion of the County outside the urban growth areas, this report includes both urban and non-urban areas, and compares recent growth with the population growth allocations that are currently adopted in the Comprehensive Plan.

Planning Commission Briefing on Population Growth Monitoring Report: Thursday, March 27th, 6:30 pm, County Annex, NW & Smith. Staff Report

Comprehensive Plan EIS scoping

Those following the Gateway Pacific Terminal process will know exactly what “scoping” is all about.

Whatcom County is undertaking a Comprehensive Plan Update, Development Regulations Update and UGA Review in accordance with the Growth Management Act. Whatcom County is required to complete this review and update by June 30, 2016. As part of this review and update, the County and cities of Bellingham, Blaine, Everson, Ferndale, Lynden, Nooksack, and Sumas are undertaking a process to allocate population and employment growth to UGAs and the area of the County outside of UGAs. The County may consider amendments to County Comprehensive Plan goals and policies, UGA boundaries, land use map, and other plan elements, as well as development regulations (zoning, critical areas ordinance, etc.).

Whatcom County will prepare an environmental impact statement (EIS) for the Comprehensive Plan Update, Development Regulations Update and UGA Review.  Agencies, affected tribes, and members of the public are invited to comment on the scope of the EIS. You may comment on alternatives, mitigation measures, probable significant adverse impacts, and licenses or other approvals that may be required.

A Scoping public hearing was held on March 18th. Comment deadline has been extended to April 7th, 5 pm. Send comments to Matt Aamot at pds@co.whatcom.wa.us . You can review the 2009 Final EIS HERE to get an idea of what’s involved.

Population Projections for 20-year Growth Planning

These were adopted with Ken Mann’s language requesting staff to work with cities to develop an effective and robust Transfer of Development Rights Program as part of the 2016 Comprehensive Plan update, and that it’s the County’s intention that any request to expand an Urban Growth Area include an agreement to purchase development rights from rural or resource lands when annexation occurs. It was mentioned more than once that the population numbers are non-binding. This is because nothing is binding until the final Comprehensive Plan is adopted. But because many other plans must be in place when the Comprehensive Plan is adopted, planners need to know what population numbers the County is working toward. HERE are the Numbers and resolution

 Water Action Plan

The Water Action Plan was approved, 7-0, by the Council March 11th.  See the adopted version here.

View parts one and two of the The League of Women Voters series , titled “Whatcom Water Issues – What to Do and Navigating Towards Solutions” HERE.

Items on the March 25 County Council Agenda

County Council Natural Resources Comte, March 25, 9:30 am, council Chambers:
Update of Purchase and Development Rights Program by the Purchase of Development Rights Oversight Committee and County staff (AB2013-363A)

County Council Public Works Cmte, March 25, 1:30 pm Council Chambers:
Discussion of on-site sewage system replacement within Bellingham City limits (AB2014-134)

County Council Planning And Development Cmte, 3 pm Council Chambers:
Discussion of an interim ordinance related to packinghouse applications in Agriculture Zones (AB2014-060A)

County Council HEARING, March 25, 7 pm Council Chambers:
Ordinance allowing, on an interim basis, marijuana production, processing, and retailing as authorized by Washington State Initiative 502, and medical marijuana facilities as authorized under Chapter 69.51A RCW (AB2014-074B)

County Council Committee of the Whole, March 25, 6 pm, May be in executive session:
Discussion with Senior Deputy Prosecutor Karen Frakes regarding pending litigation before the Growth Management Hearings Board (GMHB) and pending judicial appeals from GMHB decisions (AB2014-018) I’m told this will include a request for more money to continue this litigation.

FULL County Council AGENDA
Planning Commission AGENDA
Planning Commission Meeting Schedule

–Natalie

Slaughterhouse amendments move to council without recommendation

The Whatcom County Planning Commission will hold one public hearing this week, March 13th starting at 6:30 pm at the County Annex, Smith and NW. The topic is Setback Provisions for Lots on More Than One Road. Not your most provocative topic,  just the meat and potatoes of planning. Here’s the staff report.

Packinghouses, AKA Slaughterhouses

The Planning Commission held a public hearing last month on the proposed changes to the Ag Zone packing house rules. A motion was made and seconded to make “No Recommendation.” One might think that meant the Commission had no opinion on the proposal, but we proceeded to discuss the rules for over an hour. Much of the discussion surrounded the economic feasibility of slaughter houses, or I should say, speculation about the feasibility, rather than the difference between an accessory use versus a conditional use in zoning. You can listen to the blow by blow starting at minute 41.The final vote on No Recommendation was 6-3 in favor (Hunter, Haugen, McClendon opposed)

I realize now that the passion about this issue is mostly about needing the slaughter/packinghouse services in the county, but neither the Planning Commission nor the County Council is charged with facilitating that business. Zoning one way or another is probably not going to make a difference in getting the slaughter services local producers need. A quick call to a local economic development professional led me to the Washington State University Small Farms Team and their Mobile Slaughtering Unit Manual. Mobile slaughtering has been mentioned in public testimony before the council. We even have one that says they service Whatcom County: Island Grown Farmers Coop.  Jean Melious discussed the economics of slaughterhouses  on her blog last year, that puts it in perspective. (Hint: search the page for “mobile” and read from there.)

So there’s one more stop on this journey, to the County Council for final approval. I hope that once that’s done, the people on both sides of this issue can get together and find a solution to the real problem.

 Rural Zone Lot Clustering

The other public hearing on Feb. 27th was dispatched with quickly. the Commission recommended deleting the offending sentence fragment, and also recommended that the entire topic of rural lot cluster zoning be put on the agenda for review next year.

Population Projections for 20-year Growth Planning

As I discussed last time, the cities in Whatcom County want to pack more people inside their boundaries than history would suggest likely to happen. Councilman Ken Mann has proposed as a safeguard against the cities just giving up on that and asking to expand their boundaries, they would need to buy development rights from land in the rural area before they can expand. Transfer of Development Rights, TDR, have been used a little in Whatcom County and has been used to create a “wall against sprawl” in east King County.  The Bellingham Herald did an overview of the issues for this public hearing.

Public Hearing – County Council: Tuesday, March 11, 7 pm, Council Chambers

 Water Action Plan

The Water Action Plan is on the Council agenda for the March 11th meeting, for adoption. Since it is a resolution, and not an ordinance, no public hearing is required. If you want to speak on it, plan to do so in the public comment period immediately following the public hearings at the beginning of the meeting. See the amended version here.

The League of Women Voters will hold it’s second of a two-part series , titled “Strategies to Address Whatcom Water Issues” this coming Saturday, March 15th, 9:30 – 12 at the downtown Bellingham Library, ground floor meeting room. Catch up with part one on-line:  League of Women Voters’ forum on Whatcom Water Issues.

The Planning Commission 2014 Agenda

The County Council adopted a list of issues to work on in 2014. This docket includes Boundary Line Adjustments, Capital Facility Planning-Special Purpose Districts, Broadcast Towers in Point Roberts, Six-Year CIP and LOS Amendments, Slater/Elder Rd. Rezone, WCC/Title 20 Amendments, Wireless Communication Facilities, Road Setback Amendments, Weddings & Special Events, Marijuana Regulations, and Packinghouses. Other issues may come up during the year, but unless they are urgent, they will go in the bucket for 2015. See the entire list and a description here.

FULL County Council AGENDA
Planning Commission AGENDA
Planning Commission Meeting Schedule

–Natalie

Hearing on Packinghouse amendments February 27

The Whatcom County Planning Commission will hold two public hearings this week, February 27th starting at 6:30 pm at the County Annex, Smith and NW. I’ve spent way more time doing my homework on this than I should, but I’ve got a steep learning curve. So here goes:

Packinghouses, AKA Slaughterhouses

The interim zoning ordinance to block property owners from vesting a right to build a packinghouse under the current challenged rules was adopted by the County Council on February 11th, following a public hearing. A proposed permanent ordinance will be considered by the Planning Commission on February 27th.

Like the interim ordinance, the proposed ordinance  would make all packinghouse uses in the agricultural zone a conditional use, meaning each application will be considered individually, and the public and neighbors can weigh in. Packinghouses are a permitted use in the Rural Industrial Manufacturing zone (RIM), meaning no special permission is needed there.

Planning Commission HEARING on packinghouses: Thursday, February 27, 6:30 pm, County Annex, NW & Smith.

On a related note, the Lynden Tribune ran a story last week about a new Freeze Dry berry processing plant going into the vacant Ferndale Meats LCC facility, on Portal Way inside the City of Ferndale. Not sure how long this facility has been idle, but Ferndale Meats LLC closed their Dept of Revenue account in 2004. A quick check of the Ferndale and Lynden city zoning codes, both adjacent to the Agricultural Zone, shows that food processing in their industrial/manufacturing zones is a conditional use. See Page 6, Freeze Dry Plant

 Rural Zone Lot Clustering

Last year, in the process of addressing some issues on rural zone lot clustering that the Growth Management Hearings Board required us to fix, the Planning Commission (PC) added a new phrase in the code (adopted by the Council) that the GMHB recently said had to go.

The purpose of lot clustering is to provide an alternative method of creating economical building lots with spatially efficient sizes. Clustering is intended to reduce development cost and increase energy efficiency and reserve areas of land which are suitable for agriculture, forestry, or open space.

One of the design criteria is that no more than 16 residential lots shall be permitted in one cluster and there shall be at least 500 feet of separation between any new clusters, because otherwise you’d end up with a suburban subdivision out in the rural area, which we are trying to avoid.  The language added by the PC was to exempt parcels greater than 20 acres from this rule. I have not yet determined why this seemed like a good idea at the time. The main reason to eliminate this exception is that the GMHB says it doesn’t comply with state law, but I’d like to understand what the arguments for it were. Maybe someone at the hearing will tell me.

Planning Commission Hearing on Rural Zone Lot Clustering: Thursday, February 27, 6:30 pm, County Annex, NW & Smith.

Population Projections for 20-year Growth Planning

The County Council will continue to discuss these recommended projections, upon which the next 20-year Comprehensive Plan will be based (2016-2036). I’m unclear if there is really anything that can be done at this point to influence the final projections, since they were developed with each city and the county and changing one number would require adjusting others in response.

Here’s how they were developed: the state Office of Financial Management does demographic projections for the county and gives us a medium population target for 2036, and a range above and below that. We are required to pick a total population projection within that range. Each city looks at the consultant’s demographic projections for their own city and decides if they want to grow slower, about the medium, or faster. All these numbers are then put together, and subtracted from the County target population, and the difference is the population projection for the Non-UGA (rural) Whatcom County.

What actually happened was that the PC started with the medium projection for the total County. All the cities requested to grow faster than the medium, essentially offering to take more people than is likely to happen. As a result, the Non-UGA number ended up being unrealistically small. So the PC increased the total County number and added those additional people to the Non-UGA projection. This makes the Non-UGA number more realistic, but is still notably less than these rural areas have historically grown.

Now, this is what I think we all want to see happen — the growth is in the cities and we avoid sprawl. But in order for it to happen this way, the cities are going to have to aggressively accommodate new housing within their city limits and their Urban Growth Areas (UGAs). And there are really no disincentives to building new housing in the rural areas — no impact fees, plenty of  lots ready to be built on. In the 2004-05 plan, we allocated just 6% growth to rural areas, but captured 31% of the growth since 2000. Hope is not a plan for birth control or growth management.

Speaking of birth control, one chart offered for background, showed the growth projections for the 20-year period separated between natural increase (births minus deaths) and in-migration (people from California, Seattle, etc). Net in-migration will vary depending on the economy, but be relatively steady. Natural increase will slowly dwindle to a negative number by 2036. I received this comment on my last post from a life-long county resident: “I have to say that I find many of the newcomers disappointing in their views of what suits Whatcom County. We are not rubes waiting to be told how to do things.” Those who hope to sell their rural lot to fund their retirement or want more customers for their local business will have to put up with these clueless newcomers because they are the ones fueling our growth.

Planning and Development Cmte – County Council: Tuesday, February 25, 3 pm, Council Chambers
Discussion of Population Projections

Everything you ever wanted to know about what County Planners do, but were afraid to ask

The County Council, at its meeting Tuesday, February 25, will “docket” a list of proposed comprehensive plan and zoning amendments, that will be worked on in 2014. Here’s the list of proposed amendments and the Planning and Development Services’ draft work plan for 2014.

 Water Action Plan

No action on Councilman Weimer’s Water Action Plan is scheduled this week, but ReSources is asking folks to come to the Feb. 25th meeting to speak in favor of it and urge the council to move quickly on it.

This week’s homework assignment is to watch the League of Women Voters’ forum on Whatcom Water Issues. A second meeting on water, titled “Strategies to Address Whatcom Water Issues” will be Saturday, March 15th, 9:30 – 12 at the downtown Bellingham Library, ground floor meeting room.

Moratorium on Marijuana Facilities

The Whatcom County Council adopted an emergency moratorium on marijuana growing, processing and retail at its last meeting on Feb. 11. This applies only to unincorporated areas of the county. The moratorium is for sixty days to give the Council time to consider specific zoning regulations for marijuana businesses. Enacting this emergency ordinance keeps individuals from vesting rights to building and occupancy permits under the current rules.

One of the  concerns is that the large amounts of cash will make them an easy target and attract crime. The federal government is taking notice of this issue, since the main problem is that federally-chartered banks are afraid to do business with the legal marijuana industry because it is still against federal law.

Coal Terminal EIS Contract

Many people showed up at the Feb 11 Council meeting to comment on this discussion item, as it was not on the agenda anywhere. People predictably lined up on either side of the issue based on their support or opposition to the coal terminal, and from the comments I heard, most had no clue what they were talking about. Sorry, but it’s true. And the Council was uncomfortable with the whole thing because they are barred from taking information on the project before they view the official EIS. Commenters were reduced to referring to the “project whose name we can not speak,” sort of like Voldemort. In the end, County Executive Jack Louws got up and gave his own public comments (still part of the public comment period at 9 pm) and explained what was happening and correcting a fair amount of misinformation coming from the public.

This article by Tyler Schroeder, the lead state Environmental Policy Act, or SEPA, official for the Gateway Pacific project, might fill in some gaps: Whatcom County preparing for 13-month study of coal terminal plan

FULL County Council AGENDA
Planning Commission AGENDA
Planning Commission Meeting Schedule

–Natalie

New Chapter: Whatcom County Planning Commission

On January 28, 2014, I was appointed to the Whatcom County Planning Commission, representing District 3. Along with two other new appointees, David Hunter and Walter Haugen, our appointments are seen as the start of a re-balancing of the Planning Commission after a number of years leaning very conservative.

Just a month ago, my husband and I moved to a 5-acre property just outside the Bellingham Urban Growth Area (UGA) and a stone’s throw from the Ferndale City limits. So I’m now a “county” resident getting water from an exempt well and using a septic system. This may seem like an odd detail to mention, but exempt wells and septic systems are some of the more controversial issues that the County Council, and therefore the Planning Commission, have and will deal with. We also will be applying soon for a building permit to remodel a 70 year old feed store into a photography studio, so we’ll get to experience first-hand the County’s permitting and inspection process.

The Planning Commission meets twice a month on the second and fourth Thursdays, usually starting at 6:30, at the County Annex, on the corner of Smith and Northwest Roads. Meetings are open to the public, but the meeting room is quite small, either because they usually don’t have an audience, or they don’t want an audience.  When they hold an official Public Hearing, those are usually held at the County Courthouse downtown.

I know from my own experience that official agendas can quickly cause my eyes to glaze over. Now that I have a responsibility to pay attention to them and make sense of them, I will share my understanding here for anyone else interested.  I particularly want to keep the big picture of the planning process in my head, and I’ll share that as well. If it’s easy to see where we’ve been and where we are going, I believe the public will be more relaxed, and empowered, to participate in the process.

So let’s get to business. The new County Council is hitting the ground running with some major initiatives. These will find their way through the Planning Commission at some point.

See Below:
Packinghouses
Population Projections for 20-year Growth Planning
Water Action Plan
Marijuana Facility Zoning
Coal Terminal EIS Contract
Parks Plan update Continue reading

Comparison of the House and Senate Budget proposals

The Washington State Legislature is currently in special session to negotiate and pass a budget for the 2014-2015 biennium. Here’s a side-by-side comparison of the House and Senate versions of the expense side of the budget. The House is essentially a Democratic budget, as they have a majority there. The Senate budget is essentially a Republican document, as the majority is a coalition of the Republican senators and two renegade Democratic senators.

For a Democratic commentary on the choices that need to be made, read Reps. Mike Sells and Hans Dunshee’s op-ed HERE.

Continue reading

Bills passed in 2013 Legislature

Below are some of the more significant bills that have passed the legislature this session. The special session that began on May 13th will attempt to reconcile the House and Senate budget bills, but other pending bills may be considered.

Rep. Jason Overstreet managed to eek out a single “yes” vote on the Whatcom County 4th Judge bill, but his compatriot in the “Liberty Caucus”, Rep. Matt Shea, voted “No.” Chances are that if this bill had not been about Whatcom County, Overstreet would have voted “no” also.

To see the bills Continue reading

Some bills still alive in the Washington Legislature, and how our Reps voted

March 13th was the last day to consider bills in the house of origin, and many, many bills died on that date, some good, some bad. Those that had been passed in one house of the Legislature now go on to the other house for consideration. They now have until April 17th to hold hearings and take action in committee and get them to the floor for a vote.

The big exception to these deadlines is any bill that impacts the budget. Any so-called “policy” bill can be resurrected later if it impacts the budget. And the budget is one giant policy bill made up of numbers. They have all been waiting for the economic forecast on state tax revenue, that came out March 20th, and now will be getting budget bills together. Here’s an overview.

But let’s not get distracted with the budget now — that’s a rabbit hole from which we may never escape. I’ll try to make some sense of it in a future post.

Meanwhile, below are some significant bills that have survived cut-off and will be moving through (or not) the other chamber. Continue reading