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Ferry bills clear Senate

Two bills aimed at reducing ferry operating costs, generating revenue to build new vessels and improve performance cleared the state Senate Monday.

The first bill, Senate Bill 5742, creates a capital vessel replacement account to fund construction of a 144-car ferry and authorizes the state Transportation Commission to tack on a 25-cent surcharge on each fare to fund ferry construction. The bill was sponsored by Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen, D-Camano Island.

“This money isn’t enough to cover the entire cost of the ferry, but it gives us something to bond and build on,” Haugen, who chairs the Senate Transportation Committee, said in a news release. “We need to look at a variety of options to make our ferry operations sustainable, and this is one of them.”

According to the news release, the bill will also reduce ferry costs by:

• Exempting the fuel used by Washington State Ferries from the state retail and use tax starting July 1, 2013.

• Abolishing the Marine Employment Commission and transferring its functions to the Public Employment Relations Committee.

• Reducing capital costs by requiring apprentices to perform a minimum of 15 percent of the work on all Washington State Ferries public work projects that cost $5 million or more.

The bill passed the Senate by 36 to 10 margin and heads to the House for consideration.

The second bill, House Bill 1516, was amended and passed by the Senate 36-11 and has to be reconciled in the House before going to the governor.

House Bill 1516 defines ferry performance measures and reclassifies ferry captains, deck officers, chief engineers and terminal supervisors as managers and holds them accountable to those performance measures, according to the news release.

The bill also limits the scope of issues subject to collective bargaining to hours, wages, benefits, shift bidding, scheduling leave time and grievance procedures.

“This bill establishes clear standards and goals and holds the managers accountable for meeting them,” Haugen said. She sponsored companion legislation, Senate Bill 5406. to “ increase the accountability of all managers at all levels of the ferry system.”

 

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