The Washington State Legislature’s 5 p.m. cutoff on March 8 for bills to pass their chamber of origin put an end to many potential pieces of legislation, but lawmakers representing North Clark County saw success on some of the measures they put forth for consideration this year.
‘Zack’s Law’ passes House
State Rep. Peter Abbarno’s bill named in honor of a Centralia teen who drowned in the Chehalis River in March 2021 unanimously passed in the state House of Representatives on March 7.
House Bill 1004, also known as “Zack’s Law,” is nicknamed after 18-year-old Zachary Lee Rager, who was an experienced swimmer. Rager drowned in the Chehalis River after he jumped from a Willapa Hills Trail railroad trestle bridge and experienced cold water shock, a physical response to sudden immersion in cold water that includes increased heart rate, faster breathing and potentially uncontrolled gasping and movement.
Zack’s Law aims to prevent cold water shock drownings by requiring state government agencies and local governments to erect signs warning of drowning hazards when replacing signs or erecting signs near dangerous water hazards.
Signs would be erected at the same time upgrades are made to bridges and other water-adjacent infrastructure, so there would be no significant costs to taxpayers, according to a Washington State House Republicans news release.
The bill would also create a mechanism for the public to donate funds to the state for the specific purpose of erecting signs in locations known to attract people to what could be hazardous waterways.
Abbarno, R-Centralia, was “thrilled” to have the bill make its way to the Senate.
“Few people are aware of the very real dangers posed by diving or jumping into cold water, even on a warm, sunny day in the spring or fall in the Pacific Northwest,” Abbarno stated in the release. “By educating, informing, and warning people about the risk of diving or jumping into cold water, I believe we can save lives.”
HB 1004 was Abbarno’s second attempt to get Zack’s Law through the Legislature. An identical measure proposed in 2022 unanimously passed the House Committee on Transportation and was referred to the House Rules Committee, but the bill didn’t make it to the floor for a second reading before the cutoff.
Legislative District 17 bills
The delegation representing the east side of Clark County saw more success with bills passing the House the week of the bill cutoff.
Another of freshman state Rep. Kevin Waters’ bills passed on March 8. HB 1730 would allow workers as young as 18 years old to take on jobs as a dishwasher, cook, chef, sanitation specialist or other kitchen staff, lowering the age from 21.
The bill is intended to help businesses hire more staff, a release from the Washington State Republicans stated.
“We all know there’s a workforce shortage in Washington,” Waters, R-Stevenson, said in the release. “Many small businesses throughout the state, especially restaurants and bars, are having trouble filling positions. When they can’t fill these jobs, their hours of operation are limited, which makes it difficult to stay in business.”
The bill prohibits workers between the ages of 18 and 21 from working in the bar, lounge or dining area of a business, the release stated. Those workers can’t serve food, drinks, or otherwise interact with patrons, and must have a supervisor over 21 at all times, among other restrictions.
Waters said the bill resolves two problems.
“In addition to helping businesses, it would also provide more opportunities for people 18-20 looking for employment,” Waters said. “The bill would truly help address our workforce needs in Washington.”
Waters’ seatmate, state Rep. Paul Harris, also saw legislation move on just shy of the cutoff.
House Bill 1112 would allow judges to impose criminal penalties for negligent driving cases where a vulnerable victim dies. The bill also creates the offense of negligent driving with a vulnerable victim in the first degree as a gross misdemeanor.
Harris, R-Vancouver, said he introduced the bill after hearing a story from a constituent, according to a Washington State House Republicans release.
“He lost his daughter in a freak accident. The driver claimed to be swatting at a bug when he ran over this young woman,” Harris stated in the release. “He simply paid a fine and walked away. It didn’t matter that he took a life.”
Harris said it took an extra year for the bill to make it to where it is, “but it needs to become law.”
“This legislation would correct a problem within our justice system by allowing judges to evaluate these situations on a case-by-case basis,” Harris said. “If the judge finds that a driver acted negligently, then he could impose a harsher punishment.”
Under current law, a negligent driving charge carries a $250 fine.
“The problem is the same rules apply even if they end up killing another human being. That’s not right,” Harris said. “Judges should be able to reconsider the facts of these kinds of cases and impose penalties that closer fit the crime.”
The offense would be punishable by up to nearly a year in jail, a minimum $1,000 fine and a 90-day suspension of driving privileges, the release stated.
HB 1112 was the third bill by Harris that passed the House. Last month, his House Bill 1073 passed unanimously, and received a hearing in the Senate Committee on Health and Long Term Care on March 9.
The bill does several things like extend the expiration of a medical assistant-certified interim permit to the issuance of a medical assistant-certified certification, a Washington State House Republicans release stated.
The bill also would allow someone who has applied for a medical assistant-phlebotomist credential and has completed a training program to work under the level of supervision required for the training up to 180 days after filing their application.
Harris said the bill would help reduce discrepancies in supervision and licensing requirements between Washington and Oregon.
“Medicine today involves so many different professionals and practitioners, and they all need to be able to operate at the highest level,” Harris stated in the release.
Another part of HB 1073 would allow a medical assistant-certified person to establish intravenous lines under the supervision of a health care practitioner if certain minimum standards are met, the release stated. It would also authorize a medical assistant-registered to prepare patients for and assist with examinations, procedures, treatments, and minor office surgeries that use minimal sedation.
Harris said the bill addresses Washington’s workforce shortage, making more people available to draw blood, administer intravenous injections and give medications.
“It would allow physician assistants to complete certain tasks without direct visual supervision, which is a more efficient way to operate,” Harris said.
Other lawmakers representing North Clark County had more than a dozen bills make it past the March 8 cutoff date. Bills will have until April 12 to pass out of the opposite chamber on their way to the governor’s desk to be signed into law.
Reporter Emily Fitzgerald contributed to this story.
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