OLYMPIA — A Sultan state lawmaker didn’t think federal agencies did a very good job letting the public in on their plans for relocating grizzly bears into the North Cascades.
Now, Republican Rep. Carolyn Eslick wants to ensure the state does a better job getting the word out on any efforts to relocate wildlife into the rural and mountainous 39th Legislative District she represents — or anywhere else in Washington.
Eslick has drawn up a bill requiring the state Department of Fish and Wildlife to hold a public hearing and alert a community’s elected leaders before trying to transfer, relocate or introduce any wildlife into a different location in the state.
She has already filed it for consideration in the 2018 session which begins Jan. 8 and is slated to last 60 days.
The National Park and U.S. Fish and Wildlife services “did a very poor job of public notification” of its efforts to restore the population of grizzly bears in Washington, she said Friday.
“A simple fix is to make sure it doesn’t happen in the same way again,” she said, adding she opposes relocating the bears into the North Cascades ecosystem which bumps up against Darrington and other communities in the district.
Under her House Bill 2276, Fish and Wildlife officials must provide at least 30-day notice of any public hearing on any potential relocation effort. It would not apply to existing hatcheries or relocation of beavers.
The announcement of the hearing must include information on the species and number of animals involved, where they will be released, and an estimate of the potential range the wildlife is likely to roam. Written notices of the hearing should be sent to “the mayor or county executive of any location that is likely to be impacted by the presence of the wildlife.”
At the hearing, department officials would be required to explain the proposed action and management plans “in sufficient detail to provide a reasonable understanding of the reasons for and potential impacts of the action” to those in attendance.
As of Friday, hers was one of 75 bills — 35 in the House and 40 in the Senate — that had been pre-filed.
They deal with a variety of matters, from lowering property taxes to banning fish farms, limiting opiate prescriptions to outlawing the sale of gun-modification equipment known as bump stocks.
Sen. Mark Mullet, D-Issaquah, and Sen. John Braun, R-Centralia, want to soften the blow of the property tax increase that lawmakers approved in June to enable the state to meet its school funding obligations.
The Legislature established a new statewide rate of $2.70 for every $1,000 of a property’s assessed value, a whopping increase of 85 cents per $1,000. It is the largest single increase in the property tax rate in state history.
It takes effect in 2018. Because it will come a year ahead of when most school districts are expected to lower their local levies, property owners can expect a surge in the taxes they pay next year.
With Senate Bill 6004, the rate would be lowered to $2.40 for 2018 then climb to $2.70 in 2019. It would mean the state loses out on $356 million, Mullet said, but taxpayers won’t be hit as hard.
“I don’t think anybody on either side of the aisle was comfortable with the state (property tax) increase going in completely until the local levy goes down,” he said.
Another subject on lawmakers’ minds is gun control.
Senate Bill 5992 would bar the manufacture or sale of any trigger modification device defined as “any part, or combination of parts, designed or intended to accelerate the rate of fire of a firearm, but does not convert the firearm into a machine gun.”
There’s been greater public awareness of such devices since the mass killing in Las Vegas. It’s been widely reported that 12 of the rifles used by the gunman who opened fire on a crowd from a hotel suite were outfitted with so-called bump stocks, which enable a semiautomatic rifle to fire hundreds of rounds per minute.
Other pre-filed legislation includes:
• House Bill 2272 to restrict the amount of opiates some patients can obtain on their initial prescription.
Under this bill, a practitioner could prescribe no more than a seven-day supply for a patient 21 years or older and no more than a three-day supply for those under the age of 21.
• House Bill 2260 to ban commercial farming of Atlantic salmon in state-regulated marine waters. The bill would prohibit any operations involving spawning, incubation, and cultivation of the non-native salmon.
These farms have been the object of attention since the collapse of a commercial net pen in the San Juan Islands earlier this year led to the release of thousands of fish into coastal waters. The state has halted permitting of new Atlantic salmon net-pen operations and a number of lawmakers want to curtail the presence of existing operations.
• House Bill 2255 to make records of state lawmakers subject to disclosure under Washington’s Public Records Act. Under current law, officials in cities and counties, state agencies and statewide office-holders such as the governor must release emails, schedules and other documents if requested. However, state lawmakers have exempted themselves from those rules. This bill aims to change that.
• Senate Bill 6010 to give small cities a means of raising money to fund critical services.
It would allow cities with a population of 10,000 or fewer to impose a new lodging fee and spend the revenue on public safety and public works. The fee could be no more than $3 per night.
• House Bill 2267 to rewrite state law to recognize Oct. 12 as Indigenous Peoples Day rather than Columbus Day.
The idea of Indigenous Peoples Day originated in 1977. In Washington, Snohomish County and several cities including Lynnwood, Edmonds, Seattle and Spokane have approved resolutions declaring the second Monday in October to be Indigenous Peoples Day.
A complete list of the pre-filed bills can be found online at app.leg.wa.gov/billinfo.