Monthly Archives: February 2015

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    Senate Democrats express concerns regarding Senate transportation package

Senate Democrats express concerns regarding Senate transportation package

February 13th, 2015|

The Senate transportation funding package was released on Thursday, with Senate Democratic lawmakers Sen. Pramila Jayapal, D-Seattle, Sen. Kevin Ranker, D-Orcas Island, and Sen. Cyrus Habib, D-Kirkland, voicing some concerns.

“It is a top priority for me to pass a transportation package that funds transit, multi-modal options and projects like I-405/SR-167 interchange, as well as maintenance for our roads and highways,” Jayapal said. “But in the current form, this package includes a provision that would take us backward as a state in addressing climate change, and gets all the funding from gas and sales taxes that fall on working Washington families. As this bill moves through the process we must re-consider these conflicts. We need to get to a transportation package that helps Washington’s families, environment and economy while not taking much needed funds from the operating budget that could be going to other priorities like education.”

The package proposed on Thursday includes an 11.7 cent gas tax increase, $1.8 billion for the Puget Sound Gateway project, including SR 167, and $450 million for I-5 through Joint Base Lewis-McChord. Transportation has been funded only at maintenance levels for several years, delaying essential projects, funding for ferries and transit and leaving commuters in increasing gridlock on the state’s freeways.

As part of the negotiation, Senate Republicans included a provision that if the Governor were to take certain actions on low-carbon fuel standards, all funding for transit would be stopped. Some Senate Democrats argue that this is puts the burden onto Washingtonians who rely on low-fuel prices to get to work, and removes responsibility from the 130 corporate polluters who would be subject to a carbon tax under Gov. Inslee’s proposal.

“I appreciate the hard work done by all sides on this very important issue,” Ranker said. “I am, however, concerned that certain aspects of the plan accomplish our state’s transportation needs at the expense of our environment. Most concerning is the provision that will wipe out transit funding if the Governor decides to take action on low-carbon fuel standards, in a time when we absolutely need to address carbon emissions. In addition to that, funding is removed from a critical environmental cleanup account that is essential to maintaining a healthy environment. As it is currently constructed, I will not be able to support this plan.”

“Having voted for a transportation package in 2013 as a state Representative, I continue to believe strongly that addressing our state’s infrastructure needs, including completing the SR 520 bridge and light rail, is extremely important,” Habib said. “I am, however, concerned that the proposal rolled out today seeks to eliminate one of the only tools our state currently has for combating carbon pollution and climate change. I know that if we can all put ideology aside, we can pass a bipartisan bill that relieves congestion while preserving environmental protections.”

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    Bipartisan ‘No Child Left Inside’ bill introduced in Senate

Bipartisan ‘No Child Left Inside’ bill introduced in Senate

February 6th, 2015|

A bipartisan bill introduced in the state Senate would provide $1.3 million for enhancing Washingtonian’s access to our incredible natural surroundings, with a particular emphasis on outdoor education and recreation programming aimed at encouraging kids to leave their video screens and spend more time outside.

Co-sponsored by Sen. Kevin Ranker, D-Orcas Island, and Sen. Linda Evans Parlette, R-Wenatchee, Senate Bill 5843 would reinvest $1 million in the “No Child Left Inside” program, which passed the state Legislature with unanimous support in 2008. Those funds in turn would be used for “NCLI grants” across the state.  The remaining $300,000 would provide two years of funding for outdoor-recreation coordination within the governor’s office.

“This bill will help children get outside while working to protect our natural resources and the jobs that depend upon them,” Ranker said. “Nearly 200,000 jobs and billions of dollars depend on the health of our great outdoors. Our children are the stewards of our environment and I hope this legislation makes that responsibility clear.”

“This bill also would put someone on the governor’s team of advisors to promote participation in and opportunities for outdoor recreation in Washington,” Parlette added. “That reflects the growing importance of outdoor recreation to our state, as an economic force and also for the quality of life Washington offers.”

The bill follows recommendations from Gov. Jay Inslee’s Blue Ribbon Task Force on Parks and Outdoor Recreation, on which Parlette and Ranker served. In a report released last fall, the task force also advocated for the creation of a state outdoor-recreation leader to ensure that state agencies work together to maximize the many direct and indirect economic benefits of recreation.

Outdoor recreation contributes an estimated $21.6 billion to the Washington economy each year, according to a recent report from the Washington State Recreation and Conservation Office commissioned by Sen.Ranker.  The same report notes that across the state there are more jobs in outdoor recreation than in either aerospace or the tech industry.

The NCLI grant program emphasizes support for students on free or reduced lunch as well as those most likely to fail academically or drop out of school. It also encourages funding for programs that tap veterans for program implementation or administration.

The measure has the support of the No Child Left Inside Alliance, a coalition of organizations involved in outdoor education and recreation, including YMCA of Greater Seattle, REI, IslandWood, the Wilderness Society, NatureBridge, the Mountaineers, Northwest Outward Bound School and North Cascades Institute.

“Outdoor recreation opportunities are vital for our kids’ education,” said Martin LeBlanc, Vice President for External Affairs at IslandWood, a Bainbridge Island-based  outdoor learning center serving the Puget Sound region. “Getting kids outside promotes science achievement and increases enthusiasm for learning in and out of school.”

“Washington’s outdoor recreation sector is an economic gem hiding in plain sight,” said Marc Berejka, REI’s Community & Government Affairs Director.  “As it does for other key sectors of the economy, it’s important that our government create a sector leader for recreation – someone who can work across agencies and jurisdictional boundaries to help unlock even more economic potential.”

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    Sen. Ranker proposes preemptive ban on using whales for entertainment purposes

Sen. Ranker proposes preemptive ban on using whales for entertainment purposes

February 5th, 2015|

Sen. Kevin Ranker says the only way whales, dolphins and porpoises should be viewed is in their natural habitat.

Ranker, a Democrat from Orcas Island and the prime sponsor of Senate Bill 5666, testified to his legislation in the Senate’s Natural Resources & Parks Committee on Thursday. His bill is a preemptive strike against holding, capturing or importing whales, dolphins and other porpoises in Washington for performance or entertainment purposes.

“There are no shortage of heartbreaking stories about the negative effects a life in captivity has on these highly intelligent creatures,” Ranker said. “Washington is fortunate to share its waters with orcas and many other species. There is no good reason to put these animals at risk through captivity.”

The law would not apply to animals being temporarily held for research or rehabilitation.

Historically more than half of all orcas taken into captivity originated in Washington waters. Currently, there are 57 orcas in captivity in 14 marine parks in eight countries around the world.

A petition in favor of the bill has been signed by close to 2,000 people and can be viewed at Change.org.