House OKs Linville business bill - Chamber also clears two other bills friendly to business.

Sharon Michael, The Bellingham Herald


OLYMPIA, WA- Three bills on House Democrats' to-do list for business passed the House unanimously Wednesday.

A bill sponsored by Rep. Kelli Linville, D-Bellingham, would change the name of the state Office of Permit Assistance to the Office of Regulatory Assistance and broaden its mission to include assisting citizens and businesses to navigate the state's regulatory waters beyond the permitting process.

"It's been a major priority of the business community, and we got it done today," said Speaker of the House Frank Chopp.

The bill also requires the state to hire a director for the office by June 1, 2003.

"Without a director, the kind of coordination we need with the agencies isn't happening," Linville said.

Linville's bill comes with a price tag - more than $173,000 for staff and expenses for the 2003-2005 budget period, according to the state Office of Financial Management.

"That's if we have to add new staff," Linville said, adding that there is a statewide hiring freeze in effect. "We're not expecting this to be a new person."

A second bill - one of a slate of bills based on recommendations of the Governor's Competitiveness Council - would provide ongoing funding for the Community Economic Revitalization Board to help pay for critical infrastructure improvements to support economic development. Rep. Velma Veloria, D-Seattle is the prime sponsor.

The third business-friendly bill passed Wednesday came out of the House Democrats' competitiveness task force on which Linville and Rep. Jeff Morris, D-Anacortes, serve. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Kathryn Haigh, D-Shelton, requires state agencies to do cost/benefit analyses early in the rule-making process and make that information available to the public.


In other legislative action ...
The House sponsor of legislation to move Washington's primary to June threw in the towel Wednesday, but offered an unusual alternative: the Wednesday after Labor Day.

"There were too many political pressures and June wasn't going to work," said Rep. Joe McDermott, D-Seattle. "But I'm still committed to moving the date early enough to put us into federal compliance." The current primary date, the third Tuesday in September, allows only six or seven weeks between primary and general elections.

The state road between Cheney and Interstate 90 will bear the name of fallen Columbia astronaut Michael Anderson, who grew up nearby.

The Washington State Transportation Commission unanimously passed a resolution Wednesday to rename Washington 904 in Anderson's honor.

Anderson graduated from high school in Cheney in 1977. His parents still live in Spokane.

The House budget panel on Wednesday unanimously approved a supplemental state budget that speeds up some of Gov. Gary Locke's budget-cutting ideas.

The state faces a budget hole of $2.4 billion in the upcoming two-year budget. The House Appropriations Committee voted 27-0 for a plan that starts cutting some costs right away, rather than waiting until the new budget year begins in July.

The House plan includes cutting more than 200 state jobs, partially freezing access to health coverage for the working poor and cutting travel and equipment purchases.


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