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By Ralph Schwartz
** This post was updated with correct information on SB 5052/HB 1159. **
Here’s a rundown of some of the bills introduced over the past few days in the state Legislature:
Sen. Doug Ericksen (R-Ferndale) and Kevin Ranker (D-Orcas Island) introduced on Jan. 16 Senate Bill 5052 that would increase the number of Whatcom County Superior Court judges from three to four — providing the county agrees to pay this fourth judge’s expenses. This is the standard deal for superior court judges; besides expenses, the county pays half his/her salary, and the state pays the other half plus benefits and retirement. An identical companion bill, HB 1159, was introduced in the House by Kristine Lytton (D-Anacortes), Vincent Buys (R-Lynden) and Jeff Morris (D-Mount Vernon). Full details of the bill are here.
Ericksen also introduced on Jan. 16 Senate Bill 5057, which prohibits restrictions on hunting, fishing, trapping or other outdoor recreation, beyond those restrictions already in place, on land acquired by nonprofits (typically conservation groups) using public money. This would apply to properties acquired in this way dating back to 1962. Full details of the bill are here.
In the House, Jason Overstreet (R-Lynden) introduced on Jan. 17 HB 1166, requiring local governments to compensate property owners for any actions on the property deemed necessary for the public good. This would include placing fences along creeks, planting and maintaining riparian areas for salmon habitat, and allowing public access. Full details of the bill are here.
Or for those who want a more radical solution to the problem the Growth Management Act poses for property owners, there is HB 1167, put forward on Jan. 17 by Rep. David Taylor (R-Moxee). It would repeal the Growth Management Act in its entirety.
Morris introduced on Jan. 16 House Bill 1129, which would require auditors to charge the same $5 fee for processing vehicle registrations and renewals now charged by private businesses that provide the service. The new money would go toward building a new ferry.
The bill has two purposes, which seem at odds. According to a press release, the bill would level the playing field for the small businesses, which are currently charging $5 more than county offices for the same service. But while encouraging use of those private businesses, it also seeks to make $15.6 million per biennium from the fee charged at auditor’s offices. The full details of the bill are here.
If this last bill passes, you can expect to see a parent and children loaded up in the family van or sedan, on top of a flatbed tow truck. Seat-belt and child-restraint laws would still be in force. Senate Bill 5050 was introduced by Tim Sheldon (“D”-Mason County) and Ericksen.
David Stalheim, former Whatcom County Planning Director and sometime Politics Blog commenter, has filed his candidacy for Whatcom County Executive, setting up a four-way scramble that also includes State Sen. Doug Ericksen, former Lynden mayor Jack Louws, and Tom Anderson, former general manager of Whatcom PUD.
Incumbent County Executive Pete Kremen is stepping down and seeking a seat on the County Council.
Stalheim left the county job about a year ago to accept a job as block grant program manager for the City of Bellingham.
UPDATE: Stalheim, 52, told me he won’t be taking leave from his city job, and will have to confine his campaigning to evenings, weekends and lunch hours.
He also says he thinks he has a good shot at being elected, based on his experience running the planning department here and elsewhere.
“I’m not doing this to be a politician,” Stalheim said. “I’m doing this to run the government efficiently and effectively.”
He said he has been considering entering this race for some time. It was not a last-minute decision.