Farming rights bill advances
Olympia, WA - 3/28/05 - People who move to farm country for the views but then find they don't like the dust, barking dogs or earthy smells that come with it would be discouraged from suing farmers under Senate Bill 5962.
Sponsored by Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen, D-Camano Island, the "right to farming bill" would protect farms against frivolous complaints that can drive up costs or run some farms out of business.
The bipartisan bill was passed unanimously out of the Senate Agriculture Committee and, after a compromise was reached with Department of Ecology, passed the Senate 47-2. It was heard but not voted on in the House Agricultural Committee last week.
Under the bill, if a farmer prevails in a nuisance lawsuit, the plaintiff would not only have to pay the farmer's legal expenses but also make up for any revenue lost because of lengthy litigation.
If a court finds the lawsuit was malicious and lacked probable cause, the farmer could also recover punitive damages.
The governor and the budget
"I didn't want to tax wine. I'm trying to grow the wine industry," Gregoire told the Yakima Herald-Republic editorial board last week. She was explaining why she rejected former governor Gary Locke's "sin" tax idea to hike rates on booze, wine, beer and soda pop.
But estate and cigarette taxes would go up to pay for reduced class sizes under voter-approved Initiative 728. Locke suspended the funding in 2003 because of a budget pressures.
Gregoire said it's time to fund I-728, originally passed by voters in 2000. "It has been a political football. I don't want it to be a political football every year."
Gov. Christine Gregoire will sign three bills today.
* Senate Bill 5606 allows the governor to direct the National Guard to begin training and other preparations for fighting wildfires this summer.
* Senate Bill 5993 appropriates $3.6 million for crime victims compensation.
* House Bill 1049 authorizes 64 project loans for sewer, water, road and solid waste projects around the state. The projects, which have not been selected yet, are funded from the Public Works Assistance Account.
Today is already day 78 of the 105-day session, which adjourns sine die April 24. Sine die, Latin for "without day," are the last two words spoken by presiding officers in the House and Senate during the regular session.
Gregoire is counting on the late introduction of her budget to give her a leg up with lawmakers. She conceded they will put their stamp on the final document, but said she didn't see too many big bumps in the road.
Since her party controls both chambers and Democrats want to see this governor — elected by a mere 129 votes — succeed, the budget could very likely get hammered out by day 105, removing the need for a much-dreaded special session.
n Leah Beth Ward can be reached at 577-7626 or email@example.com.
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