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Sen. Murray: Wild Olympics bill likely won’t pass this year


Wild Olympics legislation has little chance of passage during the 2014 congressional session, the bill’s sponsors in the House and Senate say.

Sen. Patty Murray, D-Seattle, sponsor of the legislation in the Senate, sat down Wednesday for a brief interview with the Peninsula Daily News during a visit to Port Angeles to dedicate an expanded veterans clinic.

Murray also discussed federal banking regulations related to Washington state’s new marijuana-legalization law, pledging to monitor the impact of the law before she considers proposing legislative changes in banking regulations.

She introduced her Wild Olympics legislation as the Wild Olympics Wilderness and Wild and Scenic Rivers Act of 2014.

Logging curbs

A reincarnation of her 2012 bill that never made it out of committee, it would prohibit logging on 126,554 acres of the 633,000-acre Olympic National Forest.

It also would designate 19 rivers and seven tributaries in Olympic National Forest, in Olympic National Park and on state Department of Natural Resources land as wild and scenic.

The bill, which lacks co-sponsors in both chambers, has a 2 percent chance of passage by the House and a 3 percent chance of passage by the Senate, according to www.GovTrack.us, an unaffiliated, legislative-transparency website.

Only 3 percent of all bills introduced in Congress from 2011-13 were enacted.

Murray, who introduced the Wild Olympics bill Jan. 16, said Wednesday it probably will not be passed out of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, its first stop.

“This is probably highly unlikely,” she said, adding that there has been turnover on the Senate committee.

Wild Sky legislation

Murray, who has announced her intention to seek a fifth term in 2016, recalled that it took eight years for Congress to pass her Wild Sky Wilderness Act of 2007.

The bill designated 106,577 acres of national forest in east Snohomish County as wilderness.

“It takes awhile to educate other members of Congress,” Murray said.

In an email Thursday to the Peninsula Daily News, Rep. Derek Kilmer, D-Gig Harbor, blamed “dysfunction” in Congress for his bleak prognosis on companion Wild Olympics legislation that he introduced in the House on Jan. 17.

It, too, lacks co-sponsors and likely will stay mired in the House Committee on Natural Resources, he predicted.

Kilmer’s 6th Congressional District includes Clallam, Jefferson and Grays Harbor counties.

“This bill, like many other good ideas, will have a difficult time even being considered in committee,” the Port Angeles native said.

“That being said, I continue to have productive conversations with (committee) Chairman (Doc)Hastings on the legislation, and I’ll keep working to move it forward.

“In the meantime, I’ll also continue dialogue about the bill as well as efforts to increase harvest levels in a responsible way.”

Banking rules

Murray took a wait-and-see attitude on adjusting federal banking regulations that will make it difficult for marijuana growers, producers and retailers to do business on anything but a cash-only basis, putting them at risk of having large amounts of money stolen.

In Aug-ust, U.S. Attorney Gen. Eric Holder said the federal government would allow Washington and Colorado to implement voter-approved initiatives legalizing marijuana for recreational use despite strict federal laws against the drug.

On Feb. 14, the Obama administration issued guidelines for banks to conduct transactions with legal marijuana businesses.

But banks that process money from marijuana entrepreneurs and operate across state lines still are in danger of being targets of federal drug racketeering charges.

Murray said she met Monday with members of the Washington State Liquor Control Board to get their views on banking regulations.

The state expects to begin issuing licenses in March for growing and processing marijuana.

“This law is just being implemented,” Murray said.

She wants to monitor the law as it’s being put in place “to assess what the challenges are,” she added.

Liquor Control Board spokesman Brian Smith said Thursday that the first retail marijuana stores should be open in late June.

That means marijuana will be available for legal recreational use by the time the Senate holds its annual summer recess in August.

Murray lives in Seattle during the week and visits family on Whidbey Island on weekends, her spokesman Sean Coit said.

Murray does not intend to smoke pot when she returns to the Evergreen State, she said.

Asked why not, Murray responded: “Why would I?”

 

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