Sen. Ranker government reform package signed into law

Sen. Kevin Ranker - Contributed photo
Sen. Kevin Ranker
— image credit: Contributed photo

Reforms to strengthen the financing of Washington state recreational lands and to protect jobs have now been signed into law. In an effort to make state lands self-sustaining, legislation was enacted in 2011 to create the Discover Pass, a universal parking permit for state parks and recreational lands. Changes made by the Legislature reflect public input gathered throughout implementation of the pass and an effort to increase sales of the pass.

“We’ve said from the beginning that this was a work in progress,” said Sen. Kevin Ranker, D-Orcas Island, who was the prime sponsor of legislation creating the Discover Pass in 2011. “After hearing from citizens statewide, it's clear that several common sense changes needed to happen.”

House Bill 2373 would allow the pass to be transferable between two vehicles. The change would be retroactive, allowing current pass holders a second vehicle as well. In addition, the bill authorizes state agencies to offer a new Family Discover Pass, which would be transferable between any vehicle and available for not more than $50.

A November survey conducted by Washington State University under the direction of state Parks, Fish and Wildlife and Natural Resources agencies showed the lack of transferability was discouraging people from purchasing passes and was undermining revenues. Ranker said the new rule is expected to increase the desirability and sales of the pass.

The bill was passed by both chambers with bipartisan support.

Senate Bill 6387 will redirect revenue derived from violations from local jurisdictions and the general fund to the Recreation Access Pass Account, which distributes funding for operation and maintenance of lands to the Departments of Natural Resources, Fish and Wildlife and State Parks. Under current law, two-thirds of revenue collected from violations  are retained by counties in which the violation was committed.

This bill was also passed with strong bipartisan support.

“Each year, state recreation lands see well over 40 million visitors,” said Ranker. “Not only do these lands help create vibrant communities, they represent critical economic drivers as well. Many rural economies across the state could not bear widespread closure of state parks and recreational lands.Together, these two bills will reform and strengthen our state’s approach to creating a self-sustaining recreational lands system, keeping the gates open for future public use.”

A proposal to protect marine-related jobs and provide a greater understanding of Washington's coastline was signed into law today as well.

Senate Bill 6263, also sponsored by Ranker, removes roadblocks from marine spatial planning legislation passed two years ago, allowing the state, coastal counties and industry to take advantage of opportunities to leverage private, state and federal support.

“We are at a time where traditional and new users of our oceans must work together to meet increasing demands,” said Ranker. “It's critical that we not only protect the thousands of existing jobs that depend upon our marine resources, but also keep advancing opportunities for progress in new sectors within our marine-based economies. This bill gives us the tools to manage Washington’s marine resources more effectively for everyone, while ensuring a healthy ocean that supports fisheries, agriculture, recreation and the jobs they create. While I’m disappointed that the governor felt it necessary to veto two sections of the bill, I am pleased that she approved the key operational tenets of the legislation.”

The bill passed both chambers with strong bipartisan support.

“While these bills vary in issue area, their overarching goal is the same,” Ranker said. “This is an important package of bills creating fundamental change so the state can operate more efficiently, better serve the public and protect jobs.”

Each of the bills follow through on a reform agenda introduced by Senate Democrats in January and take effect in 90 days.

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