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WashingtonVotes NEWS: February 27, 2015

State senate acts on bills on consumer protection, nuclear waste, and child access to powdered alcohol

Trolls are not welcome in Washington State. Patent trolls, that is. The Senate this week passed Senate Bill 5059, called the “Patent Troll Prevention Act,” to strengthen consumer protection statutes and allow the Office of the Attorney General to bring action against a company which violate patent rules.

The state attorney general requested the bill in response to requests from many small business owners. The business owners have receive threatening letters from so-called “patent trolls” that falsely claim patent infringement and demand that businesses pay licensing fees for everything from online file storage to using a smart phone application. A recent investigation by the attorney general’s office identified one predatory company that had sent 900 patent-troll letters to more than 300 Washington businesses. The bill passed 41-6 in the Senate and is currently in the House Judiciary Committee.

This week, the Senate unanimously passed Senate Joint Memorial 8000, urging Congress to build a permanent facility to store the nation’s nuclear waste. In 2011, the Obama administration stopped work on the Yucca Mountain national repository in Nevada, which was supposed to take much of Hanford’s nuclear fuel waste.

The measure is part of a series of bills introduced by Sen. Sharon Brown, R-Kennewick, to promote safe nuclear energy and small reactors as part of a comprehensive state energy policy. The bills are expected to come to a full vote in the Senate in the next few weeks. Last week, the Senate Law and Justice Committee passed Senate Bill 5292, to protect children and youth from gaining access to powdered alcohol. Sen. Pam Roach, R-Auburn, introduced the bill in response to news that a company plans to sell a product that binds alcohol in a dry powder. Consumers would add water to the powder to release the alcohol and create a drinkable form.

Washington regulates liquor sales, but powdered alcohol may fall outside current liquor laws and regulations. The bill would apply all current laws on the use, possession, and sale of liquor to powdered alcohol products.

In its 47th day, the Legislature has reached nearly the halfway point of the scheduled 105-day regular session, and these bills illustrate the wide range of topics before lawmakers, in addition to the core issues related to state spending, education, and transportation.

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