As the Legislature approaches the final four days of session, Democratic lawmakers told reporters Monday they’re concerned about parts of their platform, namely disclosure of oil transportation information and the continuation of a real estate fee that raises money to house the homeless.
Lawmakers disagree over two stalled bills that address the issue of oil transportation reporting.
House Bill 2437 would require refineries to provide information to the Department of Energy about how many tank vessels and rail cars transfer or deliver oil to a refinery each week, the volume and type of oil that arrived at the facility, and the route taken by oil arriving at the facility by rail car. The bill passed out of the Democratically-controlled House, but was not heard in committee in the Senate.
A competing bill was introduced in the Senate by Sen. Doug Ericksen, R-Ferndale. Senate Bill 6524 would set up a study on transporting oil through over rail through the state. It passed out of committee but has not yet come up for a floor vote in the Senate.
On Monday, Sen. John McCoy, D-Tulalip, criticized Ericksen’s bill as being “just studies.” The oil freight trains “run right through Spokane, where there are schools right next to the rail,” McCoy said. He said that freight also runs through all the communities between Seattle and Vancouver B.C. ”So we need to make sure that they’re safe.”
Democrats also were concerned over the battle over Homeless Housing and Assistance Surcharge. The fee is a $40 surcharge on certain real estate transactions in county auditor’s offices. The fee, which is scheduled to sunset over time, is applied to building shelters and other housing.
Republican Sen. Andy Hill, R-Redmond, introduced a bill that would extend the $40 fee for another year, which was being heard in the Ways and Means committee on Monday morning. But Sen. Sharon Nelson, D-Maury Island, told reporters the fee should be permanent.
“Homelessness has dropped 29 percent in the state since we’ve enacted that fee,” she said. Nelson said that making the fee permanent would mean that homelessness would not be a wedge issue.
“Where they’re in the middle every year, as we have to make a decision if we’re going to have that fee,” she said. “I believe it shouldn’t have a sunset clause.”
Nelson said a proposed tax on e-cigarettes and ending four tax breaks to help raise money for education are still in play. However, a proposal to ban certain flame retardants from children’s products, such as furniture, has stalled this year, she said.