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Eye On Olympia

House approves bill giving church-based tent cities broader protection from “unreasonable” city regulations…

Washington’s House of Representatives today approved House Bill 1956, which would give churches and other religious organizations broad authority to shelter homeless people.

Local governments couldn’t “unreasonably interfere” with tent cities or other homeless housing at churches.

Prime Sponsor Rep. Brendan Williams, D-Olympia, said a few cities are imposing too many conditions in an effort to prevent faith-based groups from helping the homeless.

“I don’t need Big Brother dictating to the members of my congregation how we respond to urgent societal needs,” he said. And churches shouldn’t have to tap the collection plate “in order to challenge the tyranny of those local governments” in court, he said.

Cities and counties oppose the bill, saying it’s heavy handed and ignores health and safety concerns with homeless camps set up in neighborhoods.

“From the big brothers here in Olympia, this is an interesting piece of legislation,” said Rep. Doug Ericksen, R-Bellingham. “This is an issue for city councils. The people who are closest to this particular issue are the ones who should be making the decision.”

The bill passed, 56-41.


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

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