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Posted on Dec 11, 2014

Draft bill could bring new money for hospital, fire district

A draft bill that would impose a $1 surcharge on admission tickets to concerts and festivals held at outdoor amphitheaters in rural communities has been pre-filed in the state Legislature by Rep. Matt Manweller.

While the draft bill doesn’t specifically name the Gorge Amphitheatre, it was drafted with the Gorge in mind, Manweller said recently.

Rep. Matt Manweller, R-13th District

Rep. Matt Manweller, R-13th District

The draft bill calls for 65 percent of the proceeds generated by the surcharge to be given to the local hospital district and the remainder distributed to a fire protection district. (It also allows for counties to enact an ordinance changing the distribution percentages.)

Live Nation, the owner of the Gorge, reported in a study completed earlier this year that more than 1.4 million people attended 60 concerts and festivals at the Gorge during the past five years. Those numbers include 387,732 people in 2013 alone.

By those numbers, the proposed surcharge would generate $252,000 for the hospital and about $135,000 for Grant County Fire District No. 3.

The state representative drafted the bill after speaking with Grant County Commissioner Cindy Carter this year about the difficulties the Quincy Valley Medical Center was having with concert-goers who weren’t paying their bills, Manweller said.

Hospital officials have said Gorge Amphitheatre concert-goers who visited the hospital in 2013 cost the hospital about $400,000 in unpaid medical bills and increased expenses.

It doesn’t seem fair that concert-goers, many of whom are from Seattle, are leaving the hospital “holding the bag,” Manweller said. He hopes the surcharge, if passed, makes up for some of those added costs.

“It will give them a little shot in the arm,” he said of the money that will be generated.

The draft bill defines a rural amphitheater as an outdoor amphitheater with a capacity to accommodate more than 10,000 people at one time in a county with less than 150,000 people.

Manweller knows of no other outdoor amphitheater in Washington that qualifies for the bill.

The draft bill reads in part: “The Legislature finds that the capacity of small, rural hospitals and first responders can be overwhelmed by the influx of large numbers of people attending concerts and festival sin rural amphitheaters. The Legislature intends that those who attend these events, most of whom are not from the local community, should share the burden of the local taxpayers to fund spikes in emergency service calls and medical costs that occur during these concerts and festivals.”

Pre-filed bills are introduced on the first day of the legislative session in January. Manweller expects Sen. Linda Evans Parlette to co-sponsor the draft bill in the Senate. If passed, the bill would go into effect in June, he said.

Manweller said he has received no opposition to the draft bill, and the Seattle Times already has endorsed it.

Danny Wilde, general manager of the Gorge, did not immediately return telephone calls from the QVPR.

 

— By Jill FitzSimmons, editor@qvpr.com

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