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WA Governor Inslee Busy Signing Bills

Washington Governor Jay Inslee has been busy this week and last doing an essential function of his job: signing bills into law.

Most of them are targeted and will have a small impact. For example, one new law allows public transit buses to have bike racks that stick out up to four feet from the front of the bus. The law had limited that to three feet.

Another new law that affects Washington State University revolves around one word: branch.

“This bill strikes the word ‘branch’ from all state laws that refer to satellite campuses of the public higher education system. This is in keeping with the current practice and diminishes the impression that somehow these facilities were lesser than the main campuses," Inslee said. 

"Thanks to Representative Haler for making this statement," he said as he signed the bill. "And let’s smile here.”

A photographer snaps a photo of the governor with Rep. Larry Haler (R-Richland) and a WSU representative. The new law applies to WSU’s campuses in Spokane, the Tri-Cities, Vancouver and Everett and to University of Washington campuses in Tacoma and Bothell.

Among the bills sponsored or co-sponsored by eastern Washington legislators include one that requires local and state public entities to fly the POW/MIA flag on two additional days throughout the year, including Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day, December seventh. The bill was co-sponsored by Spokane Valley Republican Reps. Bob McCaslin and Matt Shea.

Rep. Marcus Riccelli (D-Spokane) was the prime sponsor of a bill that requires all school districts to annually review their physical education programs.

Rep. Joel Kretz (R-Okanogan County) had an especially productive session with environmental bills. He was lead sponsor of one that allows problem beavers that are causing damage to a specific area to be trapped and relocated to locales in western Washington. The law had limited relocations to spots east of the Cascades.

Kretz was also lead sponsor of a bill aimed at requiring the state to consider local firefighters when it needs someone to help with wildfires.

"This bill helps the state respond more quickly to wildfires, thus better protecting lives and property," Inslee said before signing. "It adds capacity to the Department of Natural Resources in recruiting qualified wildland fire suppression contractors and requires or allows entering into pre-emptive contracts with contractors with firefighting equipment, as sponsored by Representative Kretz.”

Kretz also awaits the governor’s signature, perhaps later this week, on his wildfire prevention bill. It directs the Department of Natural Resources to identify forested state trust lands most in need of treatment. It requires two-year and six-year project lists and creates a revolving fund to pay for those forest treatment projects.

A similar bill sponsored by Sen. Brad Hawkins (R-Wenatchee) has received the governor’s signature.   

“This bill introduces a more proactive way of reducing the risk of catastrophic forest fires by creating a forest treatment plan," the governor said. "It grew out of a community conversation in Wenatchee. Nearly 2.7 million acres of forest land in eastern Washington are at risk of severe damage from insects and disease, making them susceptible to catastrophic wildfires.

The new law sets a goal of treating a million acres of forests during the next several years. It calls for cutting trees when the density makes them susceptible to fires, prescribed burns to clear out fuel and creating fire breaks that can stop fires from spreading.

Finally, the governor on Wednesday signed into law a bill sponsored by Rep. McCaslin that allows school districts to build facilities in rural areas, outside of a county’s established urban growth area. It further allows those counties to provide services, such as water and sewer, to those schools. Supporters say land within urban boundaries has become prohibitively expensive and that school districts should be allowed to search for cheaper land elsewhere. Opponents say this will promote urban sprawl.

Inslee signed most of the bill, but he vetoed one section.

“Much of the discussion talked about the need just to help schools and not be sort of a erosion of the values of the Growth Management Act.  And I am very confident that we can fashion a way to do that. The simplest way is simply to limit the infrastructure to that which is necessary to serve the school," he said.

He hopes that work can be done during the special session that began on Monday. The governor will continue to sign bills during the next two or three weeks.