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Locke Vetoes Bill For More Migrant Housing Governor Says The Standards Were Low; Angry Supporters Say Plan Would Have Been An Improvement Over Current Situation

Wed., May 21, 1997

Gov. Gary Locke on Tuesday vetoed a measure intended to provide more housing for migrant workers, a move a fellow Democrat in the Senate called a “major blunder for the governor.”

Locke said he vetoed the bill because migrant-worker leaders and others persuaded him it was the wrong approach. Leaders of the United Farm Workers Union opposed the bill because it would have exempted growers who built the temporary housing from building codes as a way to hold down costs.

Locke engaged in a flurry of vetoes as he hurried to beat a Tuesday midnight deadline to act on legislation passed by the Republican-led Legislature, which adjourned April 27.

Another measure scrapped by the first-term governor was a proposal to shift control of 545,000 acres of state timber lands to counties, saying it was bad policy to fracture management of the lands.

Among other vetoes:

A proposal to allow the Legislature to block the state Department of Natural Resources from entering into habitat conservation plan agreements with the federal government.

A bill to permit heirs to subdivide land received from a deceased person regardless of zoning or other development restrictions.

A proposal to exempt small developments, such as small apartment complexes, from review under the state Environmental Policy Act.

A measure that would require disclosure of an inmate’s health records, a bill provoked by a rumor that former death row inmate Mitchell Rupe was applying for a kidney transplant.

A bill to allow insurance companies to apply for permission to impose customer rate increases every six months rather than annually.

In vetoing the bill to allow growers to build seasonal housing for migrant workers that is exempt from building codes, Locke said the measure “fails to address the basic living conditions of the workers and children who would reside in the structures.”

Among other things, he said, “there is no certainty in the requirements for insulation to protect from the heat and cold.”

Union leaders have said they want housing for workers, but only if it meets codes.

Union leaders said it would permit growers to provide tents to migrant workers, something growers said they would not do.

“I would have to call this veto a major blunder for the governor,” said the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Margarita Prentice, D-Seattle. Prentice, who is Hispanic and who champions many farm worker issues, said Locke and the UFW are “wrong on this one.”

Thousands of migrant workers sleep in their cars, under tarps and in culverts, and would benefit greatly from seasonal housing, she said. Growers are willing to build housing but must get the cost break afforded by exemptions from state building codes, she added.

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