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Eye On Olympia

Of clam chowder, explosives, and towel fees…

All of which you’ll get to if you click on the jump link below.

From this morning’s print edition:

Maybe it’s not a coincidence that House Bill 3381 mentions the word “explosives” 16 times.

State lawmakers Monday night found themselves faced with an unpalatable prospect in a big election year: voting on a bill authorizing dozens of fee increases totaling tens of millions of dollars.

They can thank Tim Eyman – and themselves.

State agencies charge hundreds of fees. Among their subjects: boiler permits, wastewater discharge, dam inspections, pesticide registration and driver tests.

For years, state lawmakers have allowed state agencies to decide how much to charge, within certain limits.

Then came Eyman’s Initiative 960. Approved by voters last year, it bans state agencies from boosting fees – at all – without approval from state lawmakers. And that approval requires public notices and a 10-year projection of costs.

Unlike the state Senate, lawmakers in the House of Representatives have avoided including fee increases in their budget proposal or other bills this year. Instead, they considered approving many of the fees in a single bill in the final days of the legislative session, which ends Thursday.

“Basically, it’s an election year, and if you have to do it independently, there’s potentially a hit piece on every one: ‘He voted for this, he voted for that,’ ” said Rep. Alex Wood, D-Spokane.

Still, there was some sticker shock Friday, when House lawmakers were asked to approve about 400 fee increases with a 10-year price tag of more than $700 million. Lawmakers balked, only to face a hearing room full of agency officials and lobbyists telling them how critical the fees were.

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Richard Roesler covers Washington state news from The Spokesman-Review's bureau in Olympia.

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