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  • Wednesday, January 29, 2020 3:32pm
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Mileage tax

OLYMPIA – State lawmakers will consider a gradual transition from the state’s gasoline tax to a system that would charge drivers fees based on how many miles they travel.

This comes amid concerns over the amount of revenue available to fund transportation and the maintenance of roads and highways due to increasing fuel-efficiency among vehicles, as well as concerns that owners of older and less fuel-efficient vehicles are carrying a larger tax burden.

Reema Griffith, executive director of the Washington State Transportation Commission, said drivers whose cars average fewer than 20 miles-per-gallon could be paying up to 5 cents in taxes for every mile they drive, while drivers whose cars get more than 20 mpg could be paying

as little as a penny.

Vaping controls 

OLYMPIA – Legislation requested by the governor’s office and supported by Democratic senators aims to ban flavored nicotine vaping products and impose sweeping regulations on that industry.

If passed, Senate Bill 6254 would limit the nicotine concentration of vape products, ban certain flavoring chemicals and require vape manufacturers, distributors and retailers to obtain licenses from the state Liquor and Cannabis Board. The bill would also give the board authority to inspect facilities for compliance.

The legislation is proposed in response to rising public health concerns over the widespread use of vape products as well as the growing number of teen users.

Margo Ross, owner of a vapor product store in Moses Lake, claimed that minors were obtaining flavored vape products illegally and that banning flavors would turn away customers who were using vapor products as a substitute to smoking cigarettes.

Shaun D’Sylva, owner of multiple vape stores, said the regulations would effectively kill the vape and e-cigarette industry in the state.

“You’ve given the biggest gift you possibly could to Big Tobacco,” D’Sylva said.

Sex ed 

OLYMPIA – A proposed law to require school districts to implement a comprehensive sexual education curriculum emphasizing healthy relationships and consent was passed after a 28-21 vote by the state Senate Wednesday.

If signed into law, Engrossed Substitute Senate Bill 5395 would require every public school to offer evidence-informed, medically accurate and age-appropriate sex education as an integral part of the curriculum for

kindergarten through 12th grade by Sept 1, 2021.

It heads now to the House. No Republican senators voted in favor of the legislation.

Much of the language of the bill emphasizes a focus on teaching affirmative consent and behaviors to reduce the risk of sexual assault and coercion. The bill also specifies that the curriculum must be inclusive to all protected

classes. It also stipulates that the curricula will include both abstinence and other methods of avoiding unplanned pregnancy and sexually-transmitted disease.

Republican Senators argued that this bill is an overstep of state power and would erode the local control of school boards to implement curriculum that best fits their respective communities.

Plastic bags

OLYMPIA – In an attempt to reduce plastic pollution, a bill banning retailers from handing out free single-use plastic bags in the state is moving in the Legislature.

Senate Bill 5323 was passed 30-19 Jan. 15 and is headed to the House. If the bill becomes law, shoppers will have to either bring their own bags or pay an eight-cent fee for a reusable carryout plastic bag. Paper bags would be another option.

Gun rights

OLYMPIA – Nearly 150 people from across the state gathered Jan. 17 on the Capitol steps in support of their right to bear arms.

Lawmakers and activists alike spoke to a crowd worried that a Democratic legislative majority might pursue increased gun regulation.

Many who attended held signs in support of Rep. Matt Shea, R-Spokane Valley, who was removed from the

Republican Caucus after a private investigation alleged he was involved with the planning and coordination of the

Malheur Wildlife Refuge armed standoff that put law enforcement officials in danger.

Matt Marshall, an Eatonville resident and leader of the Washington Three Percenters gun rights group, spoke. He demanded due process for Shea and attacked the credibility of the investigative that claimed Shea was a “domestic terrorist.” Marshall said Shea’s only involvement was to coordinate peace.

Gun safety

OLYMPIA — A proposal by Senate Democrats would require concealed pistol license applicants to complete a safety course.

Senate Bill 6294 would require conceal-carry permit holders to complete eight hours of training that would include safe handling and storage of firearms, state laws regarding the use of deadly force, conflict resolution, suicide prevention and live-fire shooting exercises.

Sen. Keith Wagoner, R-Sedro-Wooley, said he believes that forcing this kind of training on conceal-carry permit holders could be unconstitutional; he proposed incentives to similar training instead.

-Information obtained from WNPA interns

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