COLUMBIAN: Anti-CRC legislators talk protests, lawsuits over Oregon-led bridge and light rail project



Posted on September 30, 2013 by Stevie Mathieu

State Sen. Ann Rivers condemned the state attorney general’s office over the weekend for saying an Oregon-led Columbia River Crossing project could legally move forward without approval from the Washington Legislature.

Attorney General Bob Ferguson’s top assistant said earlier this month that Oregon can conduct CRC work in Washington as long as Washington doesn’t contribute any money to the project. And, an inter-local agreement between the two states could be agreed upon by Washington’s executive branch, rather than its legislators.

State Sen. Ann Rivers, R-La Center, speaks at a recent town hall meeting while state Reps. Liz Pike, R-Camas, left, and Brandon Vick, R-Vancouver, listen.

“The Legislature controls the purse strings and sets policy in this state while the governor implements the policies we set,” Rivers, R-La Center, said in a statement released Saturday. “Each branch of government must respect the other branches’ authority for our constitutional system to function. The attorney general’s lack of respect for the Legislature’s authority will damage our ability to move forward … with the governor on important issues like transportation.”

Rivers’ statement comes after the controversial CRC cleared two major hurdles in the span of just a few days. Last week, C-Tran approved a plan for financing light rail maintenance and operating costs in Vancouver, and the U.S. Coast Guard approved the CRC’s bridge permit.

The revised Oregon-led plan would still build a new Interstate 5 bridge over the Columbia with light rail and tolls, but would not immediately include any freeway work north of state Highway 14. The revised project would cost an estimated $2.7 billion.

Rivers, who worked to defeat the CRC this year in the Washington Legislature, called the Oregon-led plan “frightening.” She and other senators also sent a letter to Gov. Jay Inslee on Thursday saying they would be much less willing to negotiate on a transportation revenue package if Inslee helps Oregon move forward on the CRC. They said moving forward would make the state vulnerable to a lawsuit.

“We respectfully request that you not put us in a circumstance in which legal action is necessary in order to protect the constitutional prerogatives of the Legislature,” the letter states. It is signed by Rivers, and Sens. Curtis King, R-Yakima; Rodney Tom, D-Medina; and Mark Schoesler, R-Ritzville.

Protest planned for next week

Clark County Republicans are helping to organize a protest on Oct. 8 against the C-Tran board’s light rail vote.

Meanwhile, state Rep. Liz Pike, R-Camas, is planning a protest prior to the next C-Tran board meeting on Oct. 8.

On her Facebook page, Pike appeared to imply that the C-Tran board members who voted in favor of light rail financing are special-interest politicians and corrupt bureaucrats.

“It is no wonder so many of our citizens are unplugged and tuned out of local, state and national politics,” she wrote. “I have never before in my life lost so much faith in those who have sworn to uphold the law and protect the rights of the citizens they serve.”

Pike asked her Facebook friends to join her in a “massive” protest against the board’s vote, adding: “Let’s get 10,000 people to show up!”

The Clark County Republican Party followed by posting the protest details on its Facebook Page, asking the public to “unite against tyranny.”