Priorities: Yakima Valley School, state lands, invasive species, radio towers

Because the 2014 session is only two months this year, there are a number of issues I’ll be addressing right from the start.

YAKIMA VALLEY SCHOOL. One bill that is very important to me would help keep the Yakima Valley School open. In 2011, the Legislature passed a measure that kept the residential facility for the developmentally disabled in Selah from closing immediately. However, as part of a last-minute deal to save the Yakima Valley School, the final measure required the facility to no longer accept new patients but allowed the then-81 residents to stay for the rest of their lives.

I believe there is support in Olympia this year to open the school again. My colleagues, Sen. Curtis King and Rep. Norm Johnson, both support the bill and will be helping to get it through both the House and Senate.

zebramusselINVASIVE SPECIES. Another issue I’m focused on this session is dealing with invasive species. I’m working with the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife to find ways to prevent these invasive species (such as the quagga mussel and zebra mussel) from getting into the Pacific Northwest. Washington is working cooperatively with the other northwest states and provinces to keep these species out.

Invasive quagga and zebra mussels are a major threat to our quality of life. They are small, clam-like creatures that reproduce rapidly and deplete nutrients in the water. They jeopardize power and water infrastructures, damage ecosystems and destroy recreation. My bill would help provide community block grants that can be used for educational campaigns to help keep the public informed about the issue.

I’m working with the chair of the Senate Ways and Means Committee to secure funding for that and an expansion in the number of inspection stations we have throughout the Pacific Northwest.

Radio TowerRADIO TOWERS. For several years, I’ve been working with a number of stakeholders on the issue of guyed towers (radio towers with guy lines to stabilize them) and their impact on local aviation. In past years there have been incidents in other states where crop-dusting planes (which fly low to the ground) have collided with guyed radio towers because they simply didn’t see them.

I’ve proposed ways to clearly mark these towers with what are called aviation balls and designated paint colors. My bill this year would require all guyed towers 25 feet or taller to be clearly marked with balls, paint and a light. I’ll be working with radio station owners and others who would be affected by this legislation to make sure it’s acceptable to all sides before it’s passed into law.

OTHER BILLS: Among other bills I’ll be proposing this year is a bill dealing with the state purchasing habitat and recreation lands that it can’t maintain. I’ve had similar bills in the past but this one is more focused. I’m also considering a bill that has to do with restoring Second Amendment rights to certain individuals as well as a bill to correct a recent court decision that allowed the state Department of Ecology to issues fines if a company simply had the potential to pollute…regardless of if it was actually polluting.