26th Legislative District:

Bills move forward; town halls set

Lawmakers representing South Kitsap’s 26th Legislative District have been busy during the first half of the state legislative session drafting bills on issues ranging from transportation to military families.

State Rep. Jesse Young, R-Gig Harbor, introduced a bill that would educate drivers on the proper methods of “zipper merging” and the effects it has on easing backup during traffic periods on Washington’s state highways.

So, what is “zipper merging” and just how would it alleviate traffic congestion?

According to transportation experts, zipper merging — also known as a late merge — describes the way cars take turns getting into a lane, much like how the teeth of a zipper come together. The maneuver, when used in a traffic situation, eliminates backups and moves traffic more efficiently, thereby easing congestion.

Young said the bill would help educate drivers about the benefits of the maneuver.

“This issue was brought to my attention because of the local congestion and merging problem on Highway 16 and Highway 302,” Young said in a news release issued by his office.

“WSDOT allows for shoulder merging along this stretch of the highway, yet most drivers don’t know how to properly use this technique,” he said. “Oddly enough, zipper merging isn’t taught to new drivers or those renewing their license. My bill would provide a new educational tool to drivers on the correct ways to merge.”

Young’s bill — HB 1614 — would require driver education courses to include in their curriculum instruction on the late-merge zipper method. The bill also would mandate testing of this method in the written portion of the driving exam.

Young said his bill is a common-sense solution that is fiscally responsible, doesn’t create or increase taxes, and improves traffic safety.

“Most drivers in the 26th District and across the state are polite to one another. I believe this is one of the reasons merging isn’t done correctly. Drivers don’t want to make their fellow drivers feel as if they are getting cut off,” Young said. “However, when merging is done incorrectly, it leads to increased traffic congestion, potential road rage, and more accidents. My bill will decrease these occurrences. Knowledge is power, and I hope through increased education, drivers start merging correctly. We need to use the proper methods to help aid in reducing our traffic congestion.”

HB 1614 recently received a public hearing in the House Transportation Committee and awaits further committee action.

Caldier town halls

State Rep. Michelle Caldier, R-Port Orchard, has scheduled three town hall meetings in different parts of the 26th Legislative District.

Caldier said the meetings will take place in Port Orchard, Vaughn and Gig Harbor on Saturday, March 16.

“We are in the middle of a scheduled 105-day legislative session [and] voting on major bills that could easily affect families, employers and other citizens throughout the 26th District,” Caldier said in a news release.

“It is important to listen to people from throughout the district and to hear their views. I invite citizens to join me as we talk about what is important to them.”

Caldier’s town halls will take place at the following locations and times:

Saturday, March 16

Port Orchard: 9-10:30 a.m.

Kitsap County Chambers, 619 Division St.

Vaughn: Noon-1:30 p.m.

Key Peninsula Civic Center

Whitmore Room, 17010 S. Vaughn Road NW

Gig Harbor: 3-4:30 p.m.

Gig Harbor City Hall, 3510 Grandview St.

Caldier’s bill, HB 1198 to require health providers disciplined for sexual misconduct to notify their patients, unanimously passed the House on March 4.

Under the bill, a licensed health professional who has been sanctioned by a disciplining authority for an act of unprofessional conduct involving sexual misconduct must provide a disclosure to patients scheduled for an appointment. The disclosure would include details and length of all sanctions and how the patient can find out more from the disciplining authority. The measure now heads to the Senate for further consideration.

“The first duty of government is to protect the public,” Caldier said. “This is an important step in doing so and providing transparency. It’s important they have this information so they can make informed decisions about their health care providers.”

Randall’s bill passed by Senate

Legislation to ease the transition of children in military families to new schools, introduced by state Sen. Emily Randall, D-Bremerton, passed unanimously in the state Senate.

SB 5603 will allow children of service members who receive transfer orders to any base in Washington state to enroll in school before they have an address in the district. The bill establishes a 14-day conditional enrollment period during which students can register for classes and schools can prepare for the new students.

“This is all about ensuring that the families that are serving us are served by the work we’re doing for them,” Randall said in a news release. “It will be good for kids, for their families and for their school districts.”

As the district welcomes the families from USS Carl Vinson to Bremerton this year, the state senator said “we want to make sure that regardless of the makeup of your family or how soon you know that you’re coming to our community, we’ve cleared the ground for you.”

SB 5603 is one of five bills Randall has introduced this session that is focused on military families. The four other bills are:

SB 5571: The bill would authorize cities and counties near military bases to establish military benefit zones, which would allow for tax incentives and state grants to fund investment in public infrastructure, including streets, parks and broadband access.

SB 5713: This bill would allow disabled veterans who are entitled to federal Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment Services benefits to qualify for in-state tuition at public higher education institutions in Washington state.

SB 5755: This bill would increase the tuition and fee waiver for gold star families and expands tuition waivers to more veterans and National Guard members.

SB 5900: The bill would create the position of LGBTQ coordinator in the Washington Department of Veterans Affairs. The coordinator would conduct outreach to LGBTQ veterans, their spouses and their dependents, and connect them to benefits and services earned through their service.