State Senate passes annual $100 fee for electric cars
The state Senate approved several bills Tuesday, including a measure to impose a $100 annual fee on electric cars to make up for lost gas-tax revenue, and a bill that eases the transition to a new statewide high-school math assessment.
The Associated Press
OLYMPIA — The state Senate approved several bills Tuesday, including a measure to impose a $100 annual fee on electric cars to make up for lost gas-tax revenue, and a bill that eases the transition to a new statewide high-school math assessment.
With less than a month left in the scheduled 105-day session, lawmakers have begun a new wave of floor votes. The session is scheduled to adjourn April 24.
Under the electric-car bill, drivers would pay the fee every year when they renew their vehicle registration.
Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen, D-Camano Island, included the fee on her transportation budget. She says the Senate transportation-budget proposal was dependent on passage of the fee, which is expected to bring in about $400,000 in fiscal year 2013.
Opponents argue that imposing a fee on electric cars discourages environmentally conscious drivers, but Haugen said electric-car owners ought to help pay to maintain the public highways they use.
"We recognize they're an important part of the future, but it needs to help pay its fair share," Haugen said of electric cars.
The Washington State Department of Transportation estimates that drivers with gasoline-powered vehicles pay about $200 a year in gas tax. The state gas tax is 37.5 cents per gallon.
The bill now moves to the House for approval.
Math-test measure passes
The Senate also passed a bill that would ease the transition into new end-of-course testing requirements for high-school math students.
State Superintendent Randy Dorn requested the bill, which would require students in the classes of 2013 and 2014 to take only one end-of-course exam for math, instead of two, to complete state graduation requirements.
Since many high-school students actually take algebra in seventh or eighth grade, the existing state testing requirement would have asked them to be tested on that subject years later.
The new bill would allow students to take either the algebra or geometry end-of-course exam to fulfill the graduation requirement. But beginning in 2015, students must pass both to graduate.
Sen. Steve Litzow, R-Mercer Island, spoke in support of the bill.
"It keeps us moving toward accountability in our schools and is a practical implementation as we make the transition" from a general math test to end-of-course exams, he said.
Now that it's been passed by the Senate, that bill will advance to Gov. Chris Gregoire for final approval.
Secondhand metals bill
Senate lawmakers also approved a measure to tighten regulations for secondhand dealers who handle precious metals.
Supporters say rising prices for gold and silver have led to an increase in home burglaries of these materials, particularly in jewelry, and that this bill would help to crack down on the illicit trade.
The bill would require dealers to keep detailed records of purchases and exchanges for three years, as well as keep the acquired material in the state for 30 days. The bill's sponsors say this will help discourage unethical dealers from accepting stolen material and taking it out of state.
"This gives law enforcement the tools it needs to apprehend burglars," said Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles, D-Seattle. She noted that burglaries also impact public safety, as home break-ins can create dangerous situations for residents.
The bill makes an exemption for precious metal coins, bullion, gold dust and gold nuggets. It was approved by the House earlier this month and now goes back for a concurrence vote.
A measure to help determine the fate of people's remains when they die and have no one to make final arrangements also made it through the Senate on Tuesday.
The bill, originally sponsored by Rep. Gary Alexander, R-Olympia, would establish a competitive bidding process by which the county coroner or medical examiner could choose a preferred funeral home as the recipient of all unclaimed remains, instead of rotating through funeral homes, as is current practice.
Supporters say this is a common-sense bill, especially in difficult financial times when it can save costs for the medical examiners.
That bill now advances to the governor.
Seattle Times transportation reporter Mike Lindblom describes some of the factors that may have led to the collapse of the I-5 bridge over the Skagit River in Mount Vernon on Thursday, May 23.