By Evan Smith
A bill sponsored by Democratic State Sen. Maralyn Chase would have ensured that voters in a water or sewer district have control over whether a city or town can assume jurisdiction of the district.
It was aimed at protecting citizens of the Ronald Wastewater District, which includes an unincorporated area of southwest Snohomish County and the City of Shoreline it King County.
It passed the Senate in late February but died in the House of Representatives, which sent it back to the Senate rules committee on the final day of the legislative session, March 13.
“We have seen takeovers in the past that have been controversial, divisive and costly,” Chase said. “It’s time to update the laws to make sure that any changes in jurisdictional authority properly recognize the will of the people.”
Chase said that the bill would have updated state laws to ensure that current-day assumptions reflect the values of Article II of the State Constitution, which says, “The people reserve to themselves the power to propose bills, laws and to enact or reject the same at the pools, independent of the legislature, and also reserve power, at their own option, to approve or reject at the polls any act, item, section, or part of any bill, act, or law passed by the legislature.”
The bill passed the Senate on a 37-10 vote before the Senate sent it back to the House.
Chase said that the bill’s referendum clause would force the Ronald Board of Commissioners, should they agree to the assumption of the sewer district by the City of Shoreline, to put the assumption to a vote of the people if they secure the signatures of 10 percent of those voters.
“This bill will ensure that the democratic process can work the way it was meant to work,” Chase said. “Let the people vote. If it’s truly in the public’s best interest for the City of Shoreline to assume the Ronald Sewer District, then the Ronald Board of Commissioners should have nothing to fear from a vote by the ratepayers.”
Utility taxes are among the most regressive taxes levied on citizens. For example, low-income working families pay 17 percent of their income in taxes compared to wealthy families who pay only 2.8 percent.
“Our state, sadly, has the most regressive system of taxation in the United States,” Chase said. “We are Number 1 in taxing poor people and Number 50 in taxing wealthy people. This backwards policy must be reversed, and this bill is a good first start.”
Chase represents the 32nd Legislative District, including Woodway, south Edmonds and nearby unincorporated areas of southwest Snohomish County, Shoreline and part of northwest Seattle in King County, along with Lynnwood and part of Mountlake Terrace in Snohomish County.