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Gov. Inslee signs bill making it harder to dissolve library districts

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(The Center Square) – Gov. Jay Inslee has signed into law a bill that changes the process for how library districts can be dissolved. The measure was filed in response to a recent attempt to do so in a southwestern Washington town.

Last year, a group of individuals in Columbia County opposed to what they considered to be sexually charged reading materials being marketed to children almost managed to get a vote on the November ballot dissolving the rural library district, but the vote was prevented by a court order. The dissolution vote required 100 signatures to get on the ballot, while the people who lived in the city of Dayton, where the library was physically located, were not allowed to vote.

SB 5824 changes state law by increasing the signature threshold for petitions to dissolve libraries from 100 taxpayers to 25% of eligible voters in the district. Also, all qualified voters in the districts are allowed to vote on whether to dissolve the library district. The bill passed unanimously in the Senate, while receiving just five opposing votes in the House.

At the bill’s March 26 signing, Inslee said that “allowing all impacted voters to participate ensures the will of the community is heard. Libraries bring vital resources to our communities and this bill will allow more people to participate in elections that impact them. (I’m) glad the people of Dayton are continuing to have access to good reading material.”

In a press release statement, SB 5824 sponsor Sen. Sam Hunt, D-Olympia, wrote that “the Dayton library was on the verge of becoming the first library in the country to shut down because of a dispute over the books inside. We’re just trying to give all people a fair say in what happens to their library and not let minority rule.”

The bill takes effect on June 6.