Ranker’s electric vehicle, farm internship bills approved by House; one step closer to Gregoire’s desk

Bills regarding electric vehicle use and farm internships, both sponsored by Sen. Kevin Ranker, D-San Juan Island, cleared the House on Wednesday with near-unanimous bipartisan support.

Senate Bill 6346 allows residents of San Juan County to operate neighborhood electronic vehicles (NEVs) and medium-speed electronic vehicles (MEVs) on city streets and county roads that are not state routes if the road has a speed limit of 45 mph or less. State law previously would not permit these vehicles on roads with speed limits of 35 mph or less. The bill was approved 92-5.

Senate Bill 6349 establishes a farm internship program for smaller farms throughout the state.

“With significant help from farmers and labor we were able to create a pilot that will help us ensure we preserve family farms in to the future,” Ranker said in a press release.

Ranker believes farm internships are a way to inject youth into a pivotal but aging sector of the state’s economy.

“The average age of a farmer in Washington is 57 years old,” he said. “If we’re serious about promoting agriculture in Washington, we’re going to have to encourage younger people to get into the farms and get their hands dirty.”

In order to qualify for the program, farmers with gross annual sales of less than $250,000 must submit a written application to L&I for certification and include the nature of work and how it will provide the intern with vocational knowledge and skills.

SB 6346 was approved 95-2.

Both bills were amended in the House and as a result will return to the Senate for concurrence prior to arriving on the governor’s desk.