Legislators upbeat as doors close in Olympia

By Dennis Box, The Courier-Herald

It's a wrap. The legislative session finished Thursday with the primary election system still up in the air, but a general sense of accomplishment from the 31st District legislators.

Rep. Jan Shabro

"In general I got what I wanted and then some," Shabro (R-Lake Tapps) said. "I'm feeling good as a freshman. I had a great first term."

Two bills sponsored by Shabro are likely to be signed into law by Gov. Gary Locke.

House Bill 2984 requires the Department of Social and Health Services to conduct a child fatality review for unexpected or accidental deaths of children in the child welfare system.

The second Shabro bill headed to the governor's desk is HB 1677. This bill exempts farmers in urban counties, like King and Pierce, from paying property taxes on farm equipment.

Her most unexpected highlight came during the last days of the session when she discovered Washington State University was about to take ownership of 160 acres of timberland owned by Rainier School in Buckley.

The transfer of ownership was written into the capital budget at the end of the session. WSU has used the land since 1981 for research, but the state retained ownership as a trust fund for the disabled community.

The transfer would have meant a loss of more than a $1 million in revenue for the disabled community.

"I was very disturbed. I get very upset when other representatives try to pull things in my district," Shabro said. "Any funds generated from those lands should go to a trust fund for the disabled community. Once someone gets away with something like that they will just keep piling on. It was unconscionable."

Just before the close of the session Shabro was able to removed the land transfer from the budget.

Shabro stated she intends to introduce legislation next year to move any revenue from land associated with disabled community to into trust fund.

Rep. Dan Roach

A highlight of the second term for Rep. Dan Roach (R-Bonney Lake) was being elected to a House leadership position as an assistant floor leader.

"I'm happy my colleagues had that much faith in me," Roach said. "You learn a lot behind the scenes in leadership. It helps when you work in the larger body."

Roach said in his leadership position he was able to help bring crime legislation to the floor on sexual predators and identity theft.

"We're in the minority party, but we were able to bring some tough on crime legislation to the floor," Roach said.

The passage of the HB 2295, authorizing a pilot program for charter schools was bill he supported and he felt it was an interesting debate.

"It was a tough vote," Roach said. "In the end competition is good. I'm comfortable with it being a pilot project. I'm anxious to see if we can get better results."

Sen. Pam Roach

The debate over replacing Washington's primary election system overshadowed the 2004 session and Sen. Pam Roach (R-Auburn) found being chairwoman of the Government Operations and Elections committee a very good seat.

"This was a key committee this year with all the legislation dealing with voting," Roach said.

Once Washington's blanket primary was ruled unconstitutional in September of 2003 by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, and the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear the case, the job of fixing the primary fell to the Legislature.

The blanket primary has allowed voters to select the candidate of their choice without regard to party affiliation.

"It was our most important issue," Roach said. "And the voters should know the legislators were interested in giving people what they wanted. A system as close to the blanket primary, but constitutional."

The measure that was finally passed, Senate Bill 6453, replaces the blanket primary with the Louisiana primary, where all candidates appear on the ballot and the two who receive the most votes, regardless of party affiliation, move forward to the general election.

The caveat is Gov. Locke has threatened a section veto of the Louisiana primary option because the state's political parties hate it, or the courts may throw the Louisiana out as unconstitutional.

The House wrote a last-minute amendment to the bill, which was passed by the Senate, just in case the governor or courts step into the ring.

If the Louisiana version is shot down, the Montana primary, where a citizen declares a party affiliation for that day and votes on a party ballot, becomes the primary system for the moment.

And it is very likely the whole thing will end up in the courts, anyway.

"The Legislature was not making decisions in a vacuum, but from a broad base," Roach said. "I was very proud of my colleagues in the legislature on this issue. We are in the middle of a melodrama, but I'm satisfied we did a good job."

Other highlights for Roach this session were the $1 million allotment for wastewater treatment plant in Enumclaw, money for a transportation study of highways 164 & 169 and improvements in the process of electronic voting by providing a paper trail.

"It was a very good year," Roach said. "We had a very strong team in the 31st district and we worked very well together."

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