Evan Smith: Ryu gets dose of Legislature’s freshman hazing

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Rep. Cindy Ryu D-32
By Evan Smith
ShorelineAreaNews Politics Writer

Rep. Cindy Ryu was confident that her first bill would pass the State House of Representatives Monday.

Ryu had lined up 17 co-sponsors for her bill to allow cities to reduce speed limits without conducting expensive traffic studies.

The bill had unanimously cleared the House transportation committee after Ryu rewrote it to overcome a few objections.

Then, it got a unanimous endorsement from the House rules committee.

So, Ryu was shocked when Republicans raised objections on the House floor and when many of her fellow Democrats spoke against the bill, and finally when the vote board filled with red lights that indicated “no” votes.

Then, the presiding officer asked if any legislators wanted to change their votes.

All of the red lights turned green, and the bill passed 92-0.

Ryu and other newly elected legislators learned about the Legislature’s form of freshman hazing.

Ryu got the surprise treatment as the first freshman legislator to pass a bill in the current session.

The bill, which now goes to the Senate, would allow cities to reduce speed limits to 20 m.p.h. without conducting expensive traffic studies. Instead, it allows local governments to do less expensive background work. Ryu said Tuesday that this is particularly important in very small communities that don’t have the resources to do the studies.

Ryu told me that the transportation committee, on which she sits, had rewritten the bill to reduce possible city liability and to make it clear that the bill created an option rather than a mandate.

Ryu said that engineering studies required by current law could cost a city or county $1,000 to $5,000 when it wants to reduce a speed limit either for safety in residential neighborhoods or for economic development in business districts,

She said that bicycle groups had asked her to introduce the bill and that the Washington State Association of County Engineers had backed the bill.

Ryu won election in November to the seat formerly held by Sen. Maralyn Chase.

Ryu said that she now would turn her attention to two other projects: A bill to study upgrading Northeast 145th Street, which is Washington Highway 523 but is owned in part by the City of Seattle, in part by the City of Shoreline and in part by King County; and a bill to extend the mortgage-lending fraud prosecution account. She said that neither would take money from the general fund because a surcharge on deed recordings pays for fraud protection, and the fuel-tax-backed transportation fund would pay for the highway study.


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