Department of Natural Resources LiDAR hazard mapping receives unanimous approval from House

A catalog of detailed LiDAR maps of Washington’s geologic hazards is one step closer to reality after the state House voted unanimously Wednesday in favor of a bill requested by Commissioner of Public Lands Peter Goldmark.

Senate Bill 5088 requires the Washington State Department of Natural Resources to expand LiDAR mapping of geologic hazards like landslides and fault lines and work with counties, cities and the public to disseminate that information. The measure is the first of three “critical first steps” identified by the Joint SR 530 Landslide Commission convened by Gov. Jay Inslee and Snohomish County Executive John Lovick to study emergency response to the disaster.

“The tragedy of last year’s unprecedented natural disasters should have guided all of our focus on the vital government role of ensuring public safety,” said Commissioner Goldmark. “By creating and maintaining a centralized database of precise locations of hazards like deep-seated landslides and fault lines, we can give planners, developers and the public information they need to be protected against the next disaster.”

The bill was introduced by Sen. Kirk Pearson, R-Monroe and was unanimously passed by the Senate in February. House members voted 97-0 to approve the bill Wednesday. It now goes to Gov. Inslee’s desk for final approval.

“I’m very pleased that the House took action on this important bill. It has the potential to help save lives by mapping possible disaster areas,” said Pearson.

Home of the Washington Geological Survey, DNR is responsible for surveying and mapping Washington’s geologic hazards. The department is currently staffed with three hazards geologists and two mapping geologists. LiDAR mapping is one of the agency’s top priorities for this legislative session.

A budget appropriation must be made in order for DNR to implement the program in a meaningful way, according to Commissioner Goldmark. The program is estimated to cost $6.6 million. The operating budget proposed by the House dedicated $4,645,000. The Senate’s proposed operating budget left the program unfunded.

DNR hopes to hire additional geologists and technical experts in order to interpret new LiDAR surveys and prepare maps of hazards that will be accessible to land use planners, emergency managers and the public.

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“Unanimous passage of this legislation indicates public safety is a top priority; one I know legislators take seriously. I’m optimistic they will come through and dedicate funding for this important initiative,” Commissioner Goldmark said.

Lidar 2LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) uses lasers mounted on aircraft to scope topography by measuring reflected light. Those beams of light penetrate forest canopy, ground cover and human development to allow mappers and scientists to see the landforms below with pinpoint accuracy.

A little more than one-fourth of Washington has already been mapped with LiDAR, though much of that was done with lower-quality imaging. DNR will initially target LiDAR mapping efforts at population centers and infrastructure most at risk from landslides and other hazards.

DNR’s Natural Resource Mission on Behalf of Washingtonians

Under the elected leadership of Commissioner Goldmark, DNR manages more than 5.6 million acres of state-owned forest, range, commercial, agricultural, conservation, and aquatic lands. More than half of these lands are held in trust and produce income to support public schools and other state institutions. Lands managed by DNR also provide outdoor recreation, native fish and wildlife habitat, and clean and abundant water.

Senate votes to give Washington residents more affordable health-care choices

OLYMPIA… Calling it a relief to citizens who have found themselves without affordable catastrophic health insurance, Sen. Steve O’Ban today led a majority of the Senate in approving Senate Bill 6464. O’Ban, the west Pierce County Republican who sponsored the measure, said it represents hope for people who have lost their medical insurance due to Obamacare.

“I have received hundreds of e-mails, letters and online messages from those who’ve had their insurance policies canceled. In other cases, people in my district have had their deductibles and premiums double. These are real people who are now having a very difficult time finding insurance to cover their families,” said O’Ban, who represents the 28th Legislative District. “230,000 Washingtonians have had their health-care insurance plans canceled after implementation of the Affordable Care Act, and they’ve been unable to replace them.”

SB 6464 would allow Washington residents to buy catastrophic health-care plans in other states. Additionally, it would require the state insurance commissioner – for a period of one year – to approve plans that do not meet the requirements of Obamacare. Also, health carriers could continue offering certain individual or small-group health plans in the market outside of the health-care exchange, regardless of whether the plans meet the requirements of Obamacare.

O’Ban’s measure would bar the insurance commissioner from prohibiting the continuation of these plans – reversing an action taken to prevent residents from purchasing affordable care from other states (even though President Obama allowed states to obtain exemption waivers) – and allow out-of-state carriers to offer insurance products in Washington.

“People are being forced to choose between health care and paying their mortgage,” O’Ban added. “In our state, if you try to find a replacement catastrophic health-care insurance plan there is only one carrier in each county who offers one. That’s not choice, that’s the elimination of choice. With this bill, if you liked your health insurance, we’ll get it back for you.”

SB 6464 could be considered in the House of Representatives in the coming weeks.

Financial relief soon to come for small rural hospitals

Olympia — An important step was taken in Olympia on Monday to ensure small rural hospitals are able to serve their communities for generations to come, thanks to legislation co-sponsored by Sen. Jim Hargrove, D-Hoquiam and Sen. Brian Hatfield, D-Raymond.

Senate Bill 5859 creates a classification for certain rural hospitals in order to align state Medicaid reimbursement rates with Federal Medicare compensation rates, providing these hospitals much-needed financial relief from the hardship caused by the Great Recession.

Rural hospitals have been especially hit hard by the recession, and more and more patients who visit them rely on Medicaid and Medicare to cover their costs. The reimbursements received by these hospitals are often less than the cost for services provided.

“The primary role of the Legislature is to provide protection for our community, elderly and our most needy citizens,” said Hatfield. “Without these community hospitals, our most vulnerable citizens would have nowhere to go.”

Hargrove and Hatfield are intensely familiar with this issue; both Grays Harbor Community Hospital and Olympia Medical Center in Port Angeles are located near or within the borders of their districts. Grays Harbor Community Hospital receives 72 percent of its general revenue from Medicaid or other government programs. In order for Grays Harbor Community Hospital to qualify for matching Medicaid funds it would need to become a public hospital.

Hargrove noted that in response to the growing costs, many small rural hospitals have been forced to make difficult cuts, adding that doctors and nurses are already stretched thin, many of them performing duties outside of the scope of their job duties.

“By moving this legislation forward, we not only ensure our citizens will have access to a quality hospital, we also retain jobs,” Hargrove said. “There are nearly 650 people working at Grays Harbor Hospital. These are good, middle-class wage jobs; we need to protect these people and keep them working.”

Hatfield’s bill designating official oyster passes Senate

The Ostrea lurida is one step closer to becoming the official oyster of Washington state.
The small oyster would earn the designation under Senate Bill 6145, sponsored by Sen. Brian Hatfield, D-Raymond. The bill cleared the full Senate on Thursday and now goes to the state House for consideration.
Ostrea lurida, sometimes called the Native or Olympia oyster, is a species native to Pacific Northwest waters and a popular component of Washington’s $270 million shellfish industry. The inspiration for the bill came from Claire Thompson, a student at Olympia’s Nova Middle School. Thompson asked Hatfield to propose the bill as part of a school project and to bring attention to ongoing threats to the state’s waters.
“I’m excited to see this bill move through the process. It’s an opportunity to shed light on an industry vital to our state’s economy and culture,” Hatfield said. “It’s also an excellent opportunity to share a lesson in civics with a young student in our state.”
Ostrea lurida

Senate Democrats sign Cost of Living bill for teachers

OLYMPIA – Sen. Steve Hobbs, D-Lake Stevens and Sen. Brian Hatfield, D-Raymond, today released the following statement on their co-sponsorship of a Senate bill signed by all 22 members of the Democratic caucus allowing cost of living allowance (COLA) raises for Washington state teachers:

 

“For the past two years, we have been talking about the importance of our education system and the need to meet our obligation to fully fund K-12 education.  With the recent Supreme Court decision, it’s time we meet our obligation to our citizens and fulfill their desire to see our teachers paid like the hardworking professionals that they are.

 

“With the economy turning around and the positive news of the 777X contract it’s time now to give the teachers a COLA increase.

 

“Teachers are some of the hardest workers in our state.  Yet increasingly, they are being asked to do more with less or, in this case, do more for less.  It’s time we reverse this trend, listen to the people of Washington, and pay the men and women charged with broadening and enlightening our children’s minds the salaries they deserve.

 

“We are grateful that this bill has received the support of all 22 members of the Democratic Caucus and invite all members of the Senate to join us in showing Washington’s teachers that we appreciate their hard work and dedication.”

Montesano, other cities, looking to recoup lost levy dollars

MONTESANO, Wash. – The Montesano city council tonight will discuss a new levy, this one already has your approval. Signed into law this summer, Substitute Senate Bill 5705 allows a taxing district the authority to recover portions of their levy that were reduced over the previous 12 months.
Monty Cobb, Policy Director with the Washington Association of County Officials explained earlier this year “What it boiled down to be is if Monty pays his taxes, and on April second I win my appeal and my taxes get reduced. The treasurer will refund a portion of my taxes, and what a local taxing district would have got from me they can add back on to their levy and be made whole the next year.” Cobb said that due to the wording of the law, if you hadn’t paid those taxes before they were modified, the taxing districts would lose out on the difference.
In Cosmopolis, Finance Director Kathy Welch said three separate levies are worth about $40-thousand more, thanks to a change in the value of Cosmo Specialty Fibers “It used to be that you were just ‘out’ and you couldn’t go back for those taxes.
Welch said countywide there is about $500-thousand that could be recovered, however the decision will be up to each taxing authority.

More jobs expected in Washington after Legislature passes aerospace bills

 
Bailey, who represents the 10th District, says Senate Bill 5952, which passed the Senate 42-2, and Senate Bill 5953, which passed the Senate unanimously, will extend tax exemptions for aerospace companies through 2040. In addition, the measures would set aside funds for 1,000 new enrollments in high-demand aerospace programs.
 
“Boeing already employs about 85,000 Washington workers full-time, and that number grows exponentially when you start including the jobs provided by third-party subcontractors and other supplemental employers around the state,” Bailey added.  “With the number of veterans returning to Washington looking for work, it’s a great opportunity to help them and their families – and particularly appropriate that we’re doing it on Veterans Day weekend.
 
“When we come back to Olympia in January, we’ll need to start looking at ways to expand these kinds of tax incentives to other industries outside of aerospace,” Bailey continued. “Today’s votes are an endorsement of the underlying policy, and now we need to provide other kinds of tax certainty to other businesses so they can grow and create jobs as well.”
 
If approved by the House, SB 5952 and SB 5953 could be signed by the governor as early as today.

Wash. Governor Inslee accepting applications for Washington Coastal Marine Advisory Council

Engrossed Senate Bill 5603 signed by Governor Inslee establishes the Washington Coastal Marine Advisory Council at the Governor’s office and assigns Department of Ecology as primary staff support to the council. For questions about the council, contact Jennifer Hennessey at jennifer.hennessey@ecy.wa.gov or 360-407-6595.

Coastal senators issue joint statement on partial veto of SB 6263

OLYMPIA, Wash. – Sens. Jim Hargrove and Brian Hatfield released the following statement today on the governor’s decision to veto two sections of Senate Bill 6263, which would have created a statute for the existence of a Coastal Advisory Council:

I was disappointed at the governor’s decision to veto a section of Senate Bill 6263 which required the formation of the Washington State Coastal Solutions Council. The continued existence of a council made up of local government, tribal officials and marine business representatives is critical to the continued conversations between the Department of Ecology, the governor’s office and those who live and work in marine communities. Without the certainty of the statute, the advisory council can be ignored by the departments, leaving those communities without a place at the table. This is a bill created and designed to facilitate marine management planning. In order to end up with the best plan, it is important that all voices are heard and I intend on continuing to work toward that end.

Hoquiam Stymies Medical Marijuana Dispensory

HOQUIAM, Wash. – The Hoquiam City Council has voted to adopt an emergency ordinance establishing a moratorium on Medical Marijuana Dispensaries. Mayor Jack Durney tells us if proposed actions at the State-level were to allow the Dispensaries, cities can impose a 6 month moratorium in order to address zoning issues.
City Attorney Steve Johnson told the council that someone who currently operates several of the Dispensaries had contacted a property owner about renting space to open one on Hoquiam.
Senate Bill 5073 would establish among other things, a framework for Dispensaries to operate under license by the departments of Agriculture and Health.