The Benton bill machine
by John Stang
Senator Don Benton, R-Vancouver. Credit: Don Benton for State Senate
Republican Senator Don Benton has been one busy guy. Besides the usual technical tweaking bills submitted by all legislators, here are some Benton originals:
SB 5156 – Requires any pregnant girl 18 years of age or younger to notify her parents before getting an abortion.
SB 5087 – Prohibits illegal immigrants from qualifying as resident students to obtain in-state college tuition and financial aid—even if they have lived in Washington for years. To Benton, those prospective college students are in the nation illegally and should not take aid away from U.S. citizens. Democratic Senator Ed Murray sees such a bill as hurting residents who are trying to work their way up.
SB 5012 – Requires any person getting or renewing a driver's license to show proof of citizenship, or proof that he or she is in the United States legally. Benton said Washington and New Mexico are the only states that don't have this requirement. Murray said it would hamper non-citizens trying to work in the state.
SB 2013 – Prohibits Washington and its local governments from restricting property rights due to policies traced back to the U.N.'s "Agenda 21." Created in 1992, Agenda 21 is a 300-page document that addresses sustainable development efforts. The United States signed the Agenda 21 agreement, which is non-binding. Last year, Alabama became the first state to adopt a law that forbade Agenda 21 practices from infringing on property rights. Despite its non-binding status, Benton said Agenda 21's policies have seeped into state and local government regulations, such as requiring stream setbacks for construction.
SJR 8200 – Sends a referendum to the public to amend the state constitution to require a two-thirds majority in the House and Senate to raise taxes. This is currently a state law due to initiatives by Tim Eyman. A case is before the Washington Supreme Court, stemming from a challenge that the two-third's requirement is unconstitutional.
SB 5090 – Prohibits light rail connecting Vancouver and Portland, contending this is an Oregon-originated proposal that would add $925 million to the $3.5 billion Columbia River Crossing bridge project intended to replace the Interstate 5 bridge over the Columbia. Clark County voters rejected a sales tax increase last November to pay for a light rail component. Benton described light rail as taxpayers subsidizing transit riders without relieving traffic congestion.
SB 5017 – Eliminates reviews for certificates of need for all health facilities except hospitals. Certificates of need are state-required approvals which declare that a sufficient number of patients exist to justify a new or expanded health facility. Benton contended that market forces are more efficient in matching supply to demand in the health fields, saying competition drives down costs to patients.