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Washington Voices

Bill protects people living in their RVs

Thu., March 12, 2009

OLYMPIA – In a sign of the times, Washington’s House of Representatives recently passed a bill that would ban cities and counties from barring recreational vehicles from mobile home parks.

“Mobile home parks are often a last refuge for these people to live,” said Rep. Larry Springer, D-Kirkland.

His House Bill 1227 would also prevent cities and counties from requiring the RVs to be moved out of the parks when the vehicles are used as a primary residence. As things stand now, he says, people living in RVs are often forced into more-expensive RV parks, or trying to find spots beside the road.

“This bill provides them with an alternative to homelessness,” said Springer. “They have endured enough throughout this recession.”

Moses Lake senator echoes ex-lawmaker

Former state Rep. John Ahern was famous for floor speeches trotting out the specter of unhappy Washington businesses decamping en masse for Idaho.

“That great sucking sound you hear,” he’d warn, as Democrats rolled their eyes, “is business heading for Idaho.”

Ahern’s now gone, ousted by a Democratic challenger in November. Yet the issue clearly isn’t.

“Democrat bills send clear message to employers: Go to Idaho!” said a recent press release from Sen. Janea Holmquist, R-Moses Lake. She blasted several bills that she said would “rip the welcome mat away from our employers.”

Hogwash, say Democrats.

“I think Washington state is clearly very competitive when it comes to biz climate,” said Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown, D-Spokane, citing studies that gave the state high marks. And part of being competitive, she said, is having a well-trained, well-educated work force.

Brown also said that lawmakers are trying to help, such as by cutting unemployment insurance taxes by hundreds of millions of dollars over the next few years.

“I think it’s kind of ironic that in a down economy, when we actually have a lot to be proud of in this state, that some legislators are kind of going around sounding a lot of negativity,” said Brown.

Susan Fagan raising money for House run

Susan Fagan, whose public affairs job with Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories means she’s not a stranger in Olympia, has raised more than $20,000 in her run for the state House seat now held by Rep. Don Cox, R-Colfax. The district covers a large swath of southeastern Washington, including the Palouse and part of southern Spokane County.

“I am thankful that, given the difficult economy, people realize having an advocate in Olympia who understands agriculture and job creation is worth investing in,” Fagan said recently.

Fagan is trying to tap into the district’s heavy farm vote by forming “Farmers for Fagan,” chaired by Farmington’s Bruce Nelson, a former president of the state wheat growers association.

She’s not the only one in the race. Mesa’s Pat Hailey, the wife of late state Rep. Steve Hailey, has said she’ll run if Cox doesn’t in November. Cox was appointed recently to the seat after Steve Hailey died suddenly from cancer.

Ecology checking amateur dams

The state Department of Ecology is trying to take stock of nearly 150 small dams and similar structures “built without pre-approved plans” across the state. The dams, spotted in aerial photos, apparently hold at least 3 million gallons of water each and are upstream from one to two homes. Last year, the agency inspected nearly 100 “possible high hazard” dams, 11 of which needed immediate repairs.

What kind of dams? They hold back water for frost control at farms, for small ponds for swimming and fishing or lagoons for manure and dairy wastewater.

Yakima County has 20, Grant County 15, and Franklin and Skagit counties eight each. The rest are sprinkled throughout the state.

‘Misleading’ advertising to lonely hearts

Attorney General Rob McKenna’s tech arm is going after a Seattle company that McKenna said has been continuing to run “misleading come-ons” to lonely people.

“Tatto Media will pay for its broken hearts and broken promises,” McKenna said in a press release. He said that the company violated an agreement last year not to pretend that a local person has a romantic interest in a computer user. McKenna said the company – which admitted no wrongdoing – will pay $487,272 in civil penalties under a new settlement filed last week in King County Superior Court.

House votes to make lone holdout vote by mail

With 38 of Washington’s 39 counties voting almost entirely by mail, Washington’s House of Representatives voted to make it 39.

House Bill 1572 would make Pierce County vote by mail as well.

It’s an emotional issue. Proponents said it’s expensive and complicated to run poll and mail voting at the same time. But several local lawmakers balked at tinkering with the hallowed tradition of casting a ballot at the local fire station, school or city office.

“This is absolutely wrong,” Rep. Tom Campbell, R-Roy, said of the bill. “When the people want the right to decide for themselves, let them decide for themselves.”

“I’ve heard all the arguments about how this is a family affair and people like to go to the polls,” said Rep. Sherry Appleton. But mail voting gives people time to look at the voters’ guides, candidate Web sites and other information to make an informed, deliberative decision, she said.

Longtime poll voter Rep. Dennis Flannigan, D-Tacoma, decided to support the bill in the name of saving money. Until now, “I’ve been a fierce defender of standing in line for 2 1/2 hours” at the polls, he said.

Rep. Jim McCune, R-Graham, said the state telling local people how to vote “is just wrong. It’s not American. It’s just wrong.”

And Rep. Joel Kretz, R-Wauconda, got a laugh by saying that House Republicans were adamantly opposed to all-mail voting.

“Our side of the aisle believes very strongly that females should be allowed to vote also,” he said. The bill passed 54-43.

Lawmakers target drug-resistant ‘superbug’

As in bacteria, that is. Both the House and Senate have approved SB 5500, which takes aim at a multiple-drug-resistant bacterial strain that has public health officials nervous.

“Probably about a third of us on this floor probably have a colony of MRSA on us right at this moment,” said Rep. Tom Campbell, R-Roy.

Methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus, according to legislative researchers, is a drug-resistant form of a common germ. As Campbell says, it’s commonly found on the skin. But once it’s entered the body through a cut, it can cause life-threatening blood-, heart- or bone infections. “The majority of individuals with MRSA acquire it in a hospital setting,” according to the bill report. And the infection rate is getting worse.

The bill requires hospitals to screen intensive care unit patients for three months a year, in order to monitor the disease. If the infection rate at the hospital exceeds two cases or 5 percent of ICU admissions, the monitoring continues. The infection would be listed on death certificates if it kills someone or contributes to a death.

Campbell has pushed for pre-surgery testing of all patients, but that’s not in the bill.

“You know how bills are, sometimes we don’t get all that we would like on the first go,” he said.

Rep. Ross Hunter, D-Medina, called it a critical disease to stop. He was hospitalized for a month in 2007 with a compromised immune system as part of cancer treatment.

“It’s not like getting a little infection at the end of your finger. This is what kills people,” Hunter said. While hospitalized, he said, “this was something I feared every day.”

Richard Roesler can be reached at (360) 664-2598 or by e-mail at richr@spokesman.com.


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