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House revs up, passes several bills

SUNDAY, FEB. 27, 2011

OLYMPIA – Washington state representatives approved a slew of bills ranging from service animal law to workers’ compensation reform as it rushed Saturday to meet a procedural deadline.

Lawmakers in the House of Representatives were trying to meet a cutoff for March 7, the last day for bills to come out of their originating chambers.

Among the measures approved Saturday were:

• A bill that would establish a criminal penalty of up to 12 months in jail for killing another person’s livestock and would allow the owner to sue a perpetrator. Rep. Bill Hinkle, R-Cle Elum, said that the shooting of livestock has been an ongoing problem in Eastern Washington and that authorities had no major tools to deal with it.

• A bill that would make suffocating a person in case of domestic violence an assault instead of a misdemeanor. “Even though with suffocation, you don’t see the marks maybe on your neck, it’s the same level of danger for a person,” said Rep. Kirk Pearson, R-Monroe.

• A measure that would require restaurants, grocery stores and bars to accommodate dogs and miniature horses assisting disabled customers but refuse access to other animals even if their owners say they are service animals.

• A bill that would allow a person to sue anyone who had impersonated them online. Rep. David Frockt, D-Seattle, referred to the case of a fake Craigslist ad that led to a house being ransacked in Tacoma.

The legislative chamber also approved restricting the sale of some electrical products based on their energy usage and moved forward an agreement between the state and an online-only university.

Lawmakers approved a measure that would expand a medical provider network that would be managed by the Department of Labor & Industries for injured workers – part of efforts to reform the state’s workers’ compensation system.

State leaders say that the workers’ compensation system was heading to bankruptcy, with an accident fund in the red for more than $275 million.

Rep. Cary Condotta, R-East Wenatchee, said that the bill approved in the House was just a small piece of the puzzle.

“Hopefully we’ll have a chance to vote on a more comprehensive bill in the near future,” he said.

All bills passed are now headed to the Senate.

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