A look at some transportation bills still working through the WA legislature

So Washington Democrats have both legislative chambers and the Governor’s Office for the first time in a while, so what does that mean for transportation?

Well, some great things are moving forward, but so are some pretty not-so-great things. As the session nears its vital halfway point, Heidi Groover at the Seattle Times put together a handy transportation bill tracker to see what’s still alive. Check out the Times story for the full rundown. I’ll highlight a few below.

Non-budgetary bills typically need to pass at least one chamber by 5 p.m. Wednesday in order to stay alive. After this deadline, the chambers shift to working on amending and passing bills that have already passed in the other chamber. So if you see something in the list you care about (either in favor or against) that has not yet been approved by the Senate or House, now’s the time to contact your legislators. The bill must say “Approved by House” or “Approved by Senate,” approval by a committee is not enough.

Here are a few highlights:

  • HB 1793 – Bill to allow automated enforcement of illegal bus lane driving and “blocking the box.” Disability rights group Rooted in Rights has done a great job leading on this bill, including this fantastic video explaining the need. Transportation Choices Coalition has a handy online form you can use to support the bill, which needs to get a vote on the House floor by Wednesday to stay alive. While it is disappointing that bike lane blocking was not included, the bill still definitely deserves support.
  • SB 5723 – Revising the Vulnerable Road User Law. We wrote about this bill in depth yesterday. It is way ahead of schedule, already passing the Senate and waiting for consideration by the House Transportation Committee. It’s never a sure thing until it’s passed, but this bill is not in immediate danger. UPDATE: The House companion bill HB 1966 passed 61–36, signifying that the votes seem to be there to make this law. But one of these two bills still needs approval by the other chamber.
  • SB 5104 – Prohibit local jurisdictions from imposing tolls. This is essentially the state trying to make sure no community can experiment with congestion pricing. This is ridiculous. We haven’t even studied the idea yet, let alone started to discuss the pros and cons.  The state should allow cities room to experiment. This ban is very premature. It passed the Senate Transportation Committee on a divided vote, but has not yet faced the full Senate.
  • SB 5299 – A DUI could become a felony if the offender has had three or more DUIs within 15 years, five years longer than the current ten years.
  • HB 1772 – Update definitions and add regulation details for electric foot scooters. This bill would not exactly make scooter share legal in Seattle, since the city still has municipal rules on the books that need to be changed at the city level. But it clarifies some details. It is way ahead, having already passed the House 85–13. It still needs Senate approval, but it is not in immediate danger.
  • SB 5971, SB 5972, SB 5970 – These bills make up the $16 billion transportation package Senator Hobbs has proposed. As the Urbanist has reported, this package is filled with highways, even leveling a carbon fee to pay for them. This is all backwards, since transportation and highways are a top cause of greenhouse gas emissions in our state. So we’re going to tax carbon to build carbon-emitting infrastructure? I guess that’s a small step better than taxing property for highways, but it’s still all wrong. Only a very small percentage of funding would go to transit, walking and biking. Is this really the Democrats’ transportation vision for our state? Because it doesn’t look all that much different than the 2015 Republican one. This package should die and come back in a future session in a form that invests in building a better future rather than the gas-powered highway vision of the last century.

Are there any legislative issues you are following that I didn’t cover? Any additional arguments for or against any of these bills? Sound off in the comments below.

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2 Responses to A look at some transportation bills still working through the WA legislature

  1. WA liberals are fake says:

    Why we should be outraged…with Democrats.

    “SB 5971, SB 5972, SB 5970 – These bills make up the $16 billion transportation package Senator Hobbs has proposed.”

    WA is trying to take the national lead in under-funding transit with some of the lowest state contributions to transit in the nation which will go even lower with the new bill. We even make Trump look good (Trump’s USDOT budget, which includes cuts to transit, still allocates almost 28x more of the budget to transit on a percentage basis compared to WSDOT).

    But that’s not enough. For communities that want more transit and active transportation investments, and voted in favor of funding mechanisms to support those investments, the state legislature is going to make that even harder.

    “SB 5104 – Prohibit local jurisdictions from imposing tolls. ”

    Keeping us locked into current funding mechanisms – gas tax, property tax, and vehicle tabs.

    Which is even more challenging because..

    “some representatives are working to cut transit funding. Last Friday, Rep. Mike Pellicciotti filed House Bill 2123, which was a rehash of his car tab bill from last session, and included 29 Democratic co-sponsors.”

    The bill would cut $1.4 billion that we voted for from ST funding for light rail.

    Democrats are not only joining, but leading, Republicans in WA for an all out attack on transit funding.

    Unfricken believable.

  2. DOUG. says:

    SB 5971 puts a 1% tax on retail bicycle sales. While I’m sure this is done entirely out of spite, at least this will silence the cyclists-should-be-taxed crowd (yeah, right).

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