Legislative Updates from WRPA Lobbyist: 01/22/2017

The 2017 session of the Washington State Legislature is off and running!

Legislative Work Sessions

The Senate Natural Resources and Parks Committee met in work session on Thursday, January 19, at 1:30 pm, to hear a presentation by State Parks on the Commission’s progress in securing a long-term lease of the St. Edward Seminary Building. The potential to extend a lease beyond the 50-year statutory limitation was the subject of a bill that passed the legislature last year.  The Commission signed a 62-year lease with Daniel’s Real Estate on January 9 to turn the Seminary into a lodge and conference center.   You can view the Senate committee proceedings on TVW by clicking http://www.tvw.org/watch/?eventID=2017011225 . The presentation begins at minute 34.    You may also be interested in some of the details of the lease agreement and Daniel’s Real Estate intentions. The latter can be found here:  http://www.danielsdevelopmentcompany.com/projects/st-edward-seminary/.  If you are interested in the exact terms of the lease please let me know and I can forward that to you.

We can expect in the weeks ahead to see a few more presentations by Parks.  Members in both the Senate and House have indicated that they would like to hear a progress report from State Parks on a budget proviso that directs the agency to coordinate a study on the state’s recreational fee system, exploring ways for it to be simpler, more consistent and more equitable.  Parks has contracted with the Ruckelshaus Center, an entity with connections to both the University of Washington and Washington State University, to facilitate a collaborative process to make options and recommendations to the legislature. When I get dates and times for these presentations I’ll forward them along to you.

Request Legislation  

The Governor supported State Parks in pursuing three pieces of request legislation this session.  Two involve boating safety and one involves the Discover Pass. 

The Boating safety bills have yet to receive legislative sponsorship. One involves administrative changes to the boating safety card system. The other concerns the authority to impound a boat when its operator is driving the boat in a reckless manner.  In a subsequent report, I will let you know if either of these bills receive legislative sponsorship.  If you would like the “Z-drafts” of either bill, please let me know.

Discover Pass-related companion bills, HB1478/SB5342, would share the proceeds of any citation fine revenue as a result of a Discover Pass violation between the local courts (25%) and the three Discover Pass state agencies (75%) for those counties under 100,000 in population.  Currently the three state agencies receive all fine revenue. Attached you will find the bill language itself, as well as a one-page summary information sheet about the bill.  If anyone has questions about this bill, please contact me.

Other Legislation

As has become the norm over the last 5 years, there is continuing legislative interest in the Discover Pass and expanding exemptions from its fee. In particular there are three different bills dealing with veteran’s exemptions of some kind.

  • HB1271 - Changes the penalty for failure to comply with Discover Pass requirements from $99 to the actual price of the Discover Pass.  It also waives the penalty if the person cited purchases a Discover Pass.  This essentially takes away financial incentives to purchase a pass.  While State Parks appreciates the motivation behind the legislation (people who have purchased the pass sometimes – frustratingly - leave it in their “other car”), there may be other ways to address concerns with less financial and programmatic impact on the Discover Pass agencies.  Parks is taking a position in opposition to the bill, referencing more than $10M per biennium in costs, and pointing out the aforementioned Ruckelshaus-facilitated study which is addressing comprehensively policies for simplicity and equity.  There is a hearing on the bill before the House Environment Committee on January 23 at 1:30 pm.
  • SB5200  – Allows married spouses to present an agency with combined vouchers demonstrating the collective performance of twenty-four hours of service on agency-sanctioned volunteer projects in a year to be redeemed for a single complimentary discover pass. There is a hearing scheduled on this bill in the Senate Natural Resources and Parks Committee for Tuesday, January 24 at 1:30 pm.  State Parks is taking a neutral position on this bill, and pointing out the potential for solutions from the Ruckelshaus-facilitated study.
  • HB1177/SB5305 – Supports access to state recreational lands by disabled veterans, amending  79A.80.080 and 79A.05.065, to provide a free Discover Pass to anyone who qualifies for a lifetime veteran’s disability pass (30% or more disability). These companion bills have been referred to the House Community Development, Housing and Tribal Affairs Committee and the Senate Natural Resources and Parks Committee.  State Parks is taking a neutral position on this bill, and again pointing to the Ruckelshaus-facilitated study.
  • HB1180 - Provides one complimentary Discover Pass to all veterans with a 100% disability benefit. It also waives infraction fines when the veteran provides proof to the court within fifteen days after the issuance of the notice of violation that a complimentary Discover Pass was provided. It also reduces hunting and fishing fees for veterans 65-years and older. State Parks is taking a neutral position on this bill, and again pointing to the Ruckelshaus-facilitated study.
  • HB1247 - Authorizes disabled veterans, with a service-connected disability of at least thirty percent and who are residents of Washington or Oregon, to receive a lifetime veteran's disability pass at no cost. States that Oregon resident eligibility is contingent on reciprocal statutory authority in Oregon providing for similar cost-free access to Oregon's state parks system for disabled veterans. State Parks is taking a neutral position on this bill, and again pointing to the Ruckelshaus-facilitated study.

The agency is also following closely any bills that involve constraints on Parks’ ability to purchase and sell land.  HB1008 requires the sale of an equal amount of land within any county in which state natural resource agencies purchase land in that county. HB1441 prohibits purchases of land in Eastern Washington within urban growth areas by state agencies.  

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