Politics & Government

Under the Dome for Feb. 26

Good morning. Today is Friday, Feb. 26, the 47th day of the 60-day legislative session.

HOUSE TAX PLAN

It’s still not clear when House Democrats will unveil their tax package, but word is that the plan could be introduced as early as today. Earlier this week, Senate Democrats proposed $918 million in new revenue.

TODAY

BIRTHDAY PARTY: Lawmakers will celebrate the 98th birthday of outdoorsman and conservationist Wolf Bauer by presenting a resolution that acknowledges his achievements on the Senate floor at 10 a.m. A birthday celebration will be held for Bauer afterward in the state reception room.

GOLF CART ZONES: The House Transportation Committee will vote today on whether to ease forward a bill to let local jurisdictions create golf cart zones on streets where the speed limit is 25 miles per hour or less. A similar bill by Rep. Tami Green, D-Lakewood, died at the first legislative cutoff this session. It would have allowed golf cart drivers to go anywhere pedestrians and bicycles can go.

ADDING TOWING FEE TO DUI

A person arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs would have his or her car impounded for 12 hours under a bill by Ferndale Republican Rep. Doug Ericksen.

Law enforcement officers currently aren’t required to have vehicles impounded if drivers are arrested on suspicion of drunken driving, provided that a reasonable alternative – dropping the car off at a parking lot, for example – is found.

Under the bill, after the 12-hour window is up, the vehicle would be released to its registered owner.

The statewide rate is $160 per hour for costs associated with the tows and $41 per day for storage, said Dan Johnson, vice president of the Towing and Recovery Association of Washington.

“It drastically reduces the opportunity to re-offend in the same night,” he said.

The bill is dubbed “Hailey’s Law” for Hailey French, who suffered life-threatening injuries in January 2007 after a drunken driver crossed the center line on Mount Baker Highway and collided with her car, according to a report by The Bellingham Herald.

The driver had been arrested hours before and driven home by a State Patrol deputy, according to the Herald story. She was given back her keys and told not to drive until she had sobered up.

French successfully sued the driver, Whatcom County and the State Patrol for $5.5 million.

TUITION BILL DIES

A controversial bill that would have temporarily transferred some tuition-setting authority from the Legislature to the governing boards of the state’s three largest universities was laid to rest earlier this week when a House panel decided not to vote on it.

Tuesday was the deadline for bills to clear House policy committees.

Senate Bill 6562 would have allowed the University of Washington, Washington State University and Western Washington University to raise resident undergraduate and graduate tuition by up to 14 percent per year.

A long-term cap included in the bill’s language would have prevented universities from raising tuition by the maximum amount every year.

The bill was passed out of the Senate last week by a bipartisan 29-19 vote.

PENALIZING BURGLARS

Members of the Senate Judiciary Committee will hear testimony this morning on a bill that would stiffen penalties for people who use police communication to commit crimes.

The concern stems from multiple incidents last year in Kitsap County, where burglars used a police scanner to help chose which homes to rob depending on which end of the county sheriff’s deputies were working in. The duo burglarized 90 homes.

Compiled by Maks Goldenshteyn, staff writer

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