Legislative session, Bi-State Bridge Coalition will be discussed at Pike town hall

Camas legislator recently completed her second session

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State Rep. Liz Pike R-Camas

Following the completion of her second legislative session as an 18th District representative, Liz Pike has planned two public meetings in Camas.

An open house reception will be held Friday, May 2, from 5 to 7 p.m., in her recently opened downtown Camas office, 307 N.E. Birch St., Ste. 203.

In addition, a town hall event will be held Saturday, May 10, from 2 to 4 p.m., at the Camas Police Department community room, 2100 N.E. Third Ave. Pike, along with Sen. Ann Rivers, will provide an update on the 2014 legislative session.

Also on the town hall agenda is the formation of a Bi-State Bridge Coalition. This group, made up of Washington and Oregon lawmakers, will gather for what has been billed a “private” meeting June 4 in Vancouver to discuss new options to the recently scrapped Columbia River Crossing bridge project. Pike has been a vocal opponent of the light rail component of the proposed interstate bridge project between Vancouver and Portland.

Pike completes second session

During the recent 2014 60-day legislative session, which ran through March 13, Pike said she introduced about a dozen bills. Two of them were recently signed into law by Gov. Jay Inslee and will become effective June 11.

Pike said House Bill 2296 helps to “clean up election law,” by requiring that duplicate signatures on city and county petitions be counted once, rather than thrown out completely. This brings city and county petition laws in line with state law. It was her first bill to gain approval in the House.

“It protects voters’ intentions on the petitions and upholds the spirit of the state constitution,” she said.

House Bill 2298, which was initially suggested to Pike by a Cowlitz County commissioner, allows for expansion of the use of real estate excise tax dollars so that cities and counties can use the funds to pay for police and fire security and technology upgrades.

“Apparently, before my bill, the definition of what REET money could pay for in a public safety building was so narrow that it didn’t include technology,” Pike said. “So the county had to pay out of pocket for this infrastructure.”

Pike said REET money now has a little bit more flexibility.

“A substantial portion of costs for building police stations goes for technology to ensure jails are secure,” Pike said. “Similarly, there’s a lot of new technology built into local modern local government infrastructure projects to ensure security and public safety. However, it can be costly. This gives counties and cities the flexibility they need to advance to 21st century technology for public safety.”

There was little movement by the state legislature, however, on two issues that Camas city leaders have voiced strong concerns about: the restoration of the Public Works Trust Fund and state funding dedicated to supporting local jurisdictions dealing with impacts of the legalization of marijuana.

The revolving Public Works Trust Fund, which provides low-interest loans to cities and counties for basic infrastructure projects, was drained by the legislature in 2013 to help offset a severe budget deficit.

Pike said restoring the funding remains one of her top priorities.

“It gets paid back. It’s a revolving fund. It gets paid back at a low interest rate, so that it can be lent out to other cities,” Pike said. “There was no reason to sweep that fund. We could have easily found a less priority item to get rid of. I think a lot of legislators have remorse over it.”

Pike said she and Sen. Rivers are working on drafting a bill that will restore the public works trust fund in the next two-year budget cycle.

“This is critical funding to provide low-interest loans to our cities and counties to pay for important infrastructure projects, such as water and sewer systems,” Pike said. “Many projects have been put on hold because that fund was drained. I am disappointed it still has not been restored.”

The ramifications of I-502, which legalized recreational marijuana, is another issue that has been a hot topic for city leaders who are currently working through the zoning issues related to the establishment of marijuana production, processing and retail sales facilities.

Rivers introduced a bill during the 2014 session to address some related issues. Pike said it made it through the Senate but failed to make it to the House.

“I agree with the city councils,” Pike said. “They are all asking for more revenue percentage, and that’s another thing that I like about Ann Rivers’ bill — it provided 10 percent of the sales tax back to the local jurisdiction where the marijuana was procured.”

Pike said she expects both issues to receive a fair amount of attention during the 2015 legislative session.

Pike was appointed to serve the 18th District in August 2012, and she won election to the two-year seat later that year.