OLYMPIA — Next year’s neighborhood celebrations on July 4th could be fireworks free; the legal age to smoke may rise to 21 and out-of-state businesses may get their public records requests turned down.
These are among the ideas lawmakers are queuing up for the 2016 legislative session that kicks off Jan. 11. About 50 bills have been pre-filed for introduction on the opening day of the election year session, which is scheduled to end March 10.
Among the ideas is a statewide ban on the “sale, purchase, use, and discharge of consumer fireworks” from June 1 to Sept. 30, 2016. The move is intended to prevent wildfires. Outdoor burning also would be prohibited in those months, under the proposal from three House members, including Rep. Hans Dunshee, D-Snohomish.
Under existing state law, fireworks can only be bought and discharged from June 28 through July 5 to celebrate Independence Day. They also can be sold from Dec. 27-31 and used from 6 p.m. New Year’s Eve to 1 a.m. New Year’s Day.
Increasing numbers of communities are moving to ban them year-round. Voters in Brier and Marysville overwhelmingly backed advisory measures to impose such a prohibition.
Attorney General Bob Ferguson is trying again to pass a bill to hike the legal age for smoking and vaping to 21, from 18. Similar legislation failed to pass in the 2015 session.
Sen. Marko Liias, D-Lynnwood, who is a co-sponsor of the bill in the Senate, said changing the law may prevent some teens from getting hooked on nicotine.
“We need to continue to send a message that there is a health hazard associated with smoking,” he said.
A Republican representative from Union is proposing to bar some out-of-state companies from requesting public records.
The bill drawn up by Rep. Drew MacEwen states that public agencies can “limit responses to public records requests to requestors who reside in Washington, represent a Washington business, or represent the news media.”
He said he’s trying to assist small, special districts that are “increasingly bombarded” with demands from firms intending to use the material solely for marketing purposes.
“I am not trying to close the doors of government. I’m all for open government,” he said. “I don’t believe we have a legal obligation to respond to a non-Washington state entity.”
Other pre-filed bills would:
Convert one of two express toll lanes on Interstate 405 between Bellevue and Lynnwood to a general purpose lane and make the lanes toll-free from 7 p.m. to 5 a.m., and on holidays. Rep. Mark Harmsworth, R-Mill Creek, and Sen. Andy Hill, R-Redmond, are pushing this proposal.
Require businesses to create a more accommodating workplace for their pregnant workers. This would mean making allowances for more frequent bathroom breaks and temporary assignment to lighter duty.
Rep. Jessyn Farrell, D-Seattle, a sponsor of the House bill, said she encountered challenges when she was pregnant during a legislative session.
“If a state lawmaker has to use the leverage of her position to get accommodations, what can a less-powerful worker like a grocery clerk expect?” she said in a statement.
Ban the use of state dollars to pay for an abortion unless it is medically necessary to protect the life of the mother. It also would halt the flow of state funds to organizations such as Planned Parenthood that provide “elective abortions.” Twenty House Republicans, including Rep. Elizabeth Scott of Monroe, sponsored this bill.
Allow the job of county prosecutor to be a nonpartisan, rather than partisan, position.
Establish an ombudsman in the Department of Corrections “to work for improved conditions and programs, and support fair treatment of inmates” in Washington prisons.
Jerry Cornfield: 360-352-8623; email@example.com