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Legal Challenge Upheld

Signature-gatherers will have to keep their distance from fair entrances, for now


August 02, 2018

The sidewalks along the main entrances to the Washington State Fairgrounds won’t be fair game for initiative signature-gatherers during Puyallup’s main event — this year.

A signature-gather sued the city of Puyallup earlier this year, contending the so-called “pedestrian safety zones” that keep him from those entrances violate his free speech rights.

While the lawsuit works its way through federal court in Tacoma, Roy Ruffino asked U.S. District Court Judge Benjamin Settle to keep the city from enforcing the zones during this year’s fair, from Aug. 31 to Sept. 23.

On Thursday, Settle said no to the request for a preliminary injunction.

Ruffino’s attorney, Fred Diamondstone, had argued that face-to-face contact is important to the free speech activity of gathering signatures.

“This is core political speech here,” Diamondstone, told the court.

The city’s restrictions, he said, “pushes Mr. Ruffino too far away to be able to engage with people.”

Ruffino was collecting signatures outside the Spring Fair in April, when police told him to leave. They said he could be arrested for trespassing and pedestrian interference.

The zones are near the fair’s Blue Gate and Gold Gate, and take effect during the fall fair and the Spring Fair. They extend “along sections of sidewalk up to 121 feet in length,” according to Ruffino’s lawsuit.

Puyallup says they’re necessary to prevent congestion that could lead to injuries, such as someone stepping into the roadway.

“We’re not talking about a ban on free speech,” Adam Rosenberg, an attorney representing the city, told the court. “We’re talking about a ban on obstructive conduct.”

Ruffino argued in his motion for the injunction that the fall fair is a big opportunity for him, in part because many of the 1 million-plus fairgoers come from rural areas that tend to be more conservative, and therefore are more likely to support Initiative 976, a Tim Eyman-backed measure about car tab fees.

Ruffino’s company, Citizen Solutions, has contracted to gather signatures for the initiative.

Settle said that, while Ruffino’s effort technically could be irrevocably hurt by not being able to collect signatures in the zones during this year’s fair, “the same could be said of the city of Puyallup,” if the zones weren’t enforced and someone were injured.

“The court is reluctant to interfere with a city’s good faith effort to try to balance these very important competing interests,” of public safety and free speech, Settle said.

But he said the city could take another look at the executive order that created the safety zones, to see if it could be improved.

It’s still early in the case, the judge said, and he asked that the city and Ruffino investigate whether the executive order could be amended, to avoid further litigation.

Asked about that, City Manager Kevin Yamamoto said: “... we don’t want to compromise in the executive order if it’s going to increase the risk to the public. ... We’re certainly open to changes that would be good for both sides.”


Fairs across the state could soon see an economic boost

February 8, 2018 | By Washington House Democrats

OLYMPIA—Fairgoers and organizers could soon have new reasons to celebrate thanks to two of Rep. Brian Blake’s bills that would designate fairs as economic drivers for their communities and ensure funding for their operations.

House Bill 2725, which passed the House of Representatives this morning on a unanimous vote, would update laws concerning agricultural fairs, youth shows, and exhibitions.

“These laws haven’t been updated in decades; it’s time for an overhaul that aligns them with current practices,” said Blake, an Aberdeen Democrat, whose legislation would modify the definition and purpose of agricultural fairs to include the promotion of rural economic development.

The measure also addresses fair funding logistics by expanding, to all fairs, the authority to use funds from the Fair Fund for operating expenses.

“Funding from the Fair Fund makes a big difference in the ability of local fairs to operate,” Blake said, adding that there’s a fair at each of the five counties in the 19 th district he represents: Grays Harbor, Pacific, Lewis, Wahkiakum, and Cowlitz. “So fairs are a big deal in our area. Small businesses showcase their wares, local artists offer their works, entertainers perform, and kids learn new skills while having fun, all of these things create jobs, help grow the economy and strengthen communities.”

Blake’s other legislation, House Bill 2765, would ensure the long-term funding of fairs by allowing the Fair Fund to grow for the first time in twenty years.

The current source of revenue for the Fair Fund is a transfer from the general fund. This bill does not create a new tax; instead, it diverts sales tax revenue generated on fairgrounds from the general fund to the Fair Fund, replacing the existing transfer. The more revenue is generated, the higher the Fair Fund increase.

This legislation did not move in the House, but its identical companion, Senate Bill 6386, is alive and sailing through the legislative process, since it did pass out of both the policy and fiscal committees in the Senate before the cutoff.


Mobile Food Trucks

Washington State Fairs Association

Legislative Day in Olympia – Thursday, February 22, 2018,

Washington State Fairs Association members that were present had discussion on Mobile Food Units. From the discussion there seems to be no coherent understanding (by all) how to obtain Labor & Industries approval for concessions trailer or truck. During our visit in Olympia, we met with Tammy Fellin, Legislative director Government Affairs and Policy division, Department of Labor & Industries. During our meeting with Tammy, she provided us with a clear understanding that Labor & Industries was responding to public safety concerns and how to mitigate impacts of the proposed changes on small business and streamline approval processes as much as possible. She provided me with the 2017 Report to the Legislature from the Food Truck Advisory Committee Recommendations (SHB 2443, Chapter 167, 2016 Laws). After reviewing the information in the 2017 Report to the Legislature, and email from the Advisory Committee, I concur with the Advisory committee that the requirements are appropriate and are needed to maintain public safety. The report summarizes the law that requires all conversion vending units (also known as concession trailers or food trucks and referred in the report as food trucks) to be inspected and approved by Labor & Industries before operating in Washington.The committee is led by James Barrington, Chair, Food Truck Advisory Committee, and Seattle Food Truck Alliance. The committee has done a very commendable job in carrying out their advisory role.

Also, I read the 48 pages of the State of Washington Department of Labor and Industries Factory Assembled Structure. This was forward to by Penny Nelson, Vice Chair, Food Truck Advisory Committee, and Washington State Fairs Association board member.The 48-page document contains clear and practical direction to obtain Labor & Industries approval of your concessions trailer or truck.There are fees in this process and they are outlined in the document. After you pass the final inspection, the inspector will affix the insignia to the outside of the unit to show approval of Labor & Industries.Based on what I have read, I see nothing to suggest the system is broken.

In summary, communication with the parties involved is of utmost importance.With that said, to gain more knowledge and understanding on this subject, the Washington State Fairs Association has asked Labor & Industries to attend the Management Team Meeting on March 30 th, 2018, Enumclaw Expo Center, Enumclaw, WA 98022. If you need more information, please call WSFA Office 360-269-9971.

Terry Atchison, President,

Washington State Fairs Association
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