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Debate over House bill rekindles Port Orchard’s fear of losing county seat

By JEFF RHODES | TheOlympiaReport.com

OLYMPIA — Port Orchard’s protectiveness of its status as Kitsap County seat was the subject of a bill debated on the floor of the Washington State House of Representatives on Saturday.

At issue was House Bill 1013, which would allow official county commissioner meetings to be held anywhere in a county.

“In all the years I’ve been in North Kitsap, we’ve rarely seen a county commissioner meeting,” said Rep. Sherry Appleton (D-Poulsbo), the measure’s prime sponsor. “This will allow people to testify, and hopefully the commissioners will take a final vote while they’re there. This is about access, participation and transparency.”

The bill was co-sponsored by 26th District Rep. Larry Seaquist (D-Gig Harbor), whose constituency includes Port Orchard. Its companion bill in the Senate, SB-5260, was prime-sponsored by 26th District Sen. Nathan Schlicher (D-Gig Harbor).

Appleton, who denied there was any intent to wrest the county seat from Port Orchard, said present law prevents commissioners from meeting outside the county seat except under special circumstances and when debating an issue having a unique impact on the local community.

She described hers as a “simple little bill” that had been amended to include language specifying that meetings could only take place outside the county seat “occasionally and infrequently,” and that notice of such meetings had to be posted online no fewer than 20 days before the meeting.

However, Appleton opposed an amendment sponsored by Rep. Jan Angel (R-Port Orchard) that would have permitted satellite meetings but required that all official votes be taken at the county seat.

“I don’t believe this is a simple little bill,” Angel said, “because when I was one of the commissioners in Kitsap County, there was an attempt to have a de facto move of the county seat. If my amendment would have been accepted to still allow votes to be taken only at the county seat, I could have supported this bill.

“I am totally in support of bringing the meetings to the people,” she added. “We did that. We held meetings in the Kitsap Pavilion and in the city hall chambers of various cities, but the vote was always taken at the county seat.”

Appleton’s bill passed by a vote of 62-36 in the Democrat-dominated House; Schlicher’s companion bill has not been voted out of the Senate Governmental Operations Committee.

 

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