Dear Friends and Neighbors,
It's hard to believe we are nearing the end of week three of the scheduled 60-day legislative session, which began Jan. 8. It's been a couple of months since I last communicated with you in my email update. So let me take a few minutes to share with you the latest news from Olympia.
Legislature reaches agreement, passes a Hirst fix and capital budget
Although we have some big issues remaining, probably the heaviest lift for the session was finally reaching agreement last week on a Hirst solution. As you know, we've been negotiating this water rights issue for more than a year, following the state Supreme Court's ruling in Whatcom County vs. Hirst, Futurewise, et al. decision in October 2016. The ruling put on indefinite hold the ability for many rural private property owners to drill a well on their properties. Most of them can now move forward following passage of Senate Bill 6091.
Here's what the bill does:
- It grandfathers existing wells as a legally adequate water supply to obtain a building permit throughout the state.
- It allows the counties to rely on the Department of Ecology to manage the water without the county doing an independent analysis of water availability before issuing building permits.
- It implements two new planning processes in certain areas of the state that did not exist before, including restrictions on water usage for domestic purposes.
- It provides for up to $300 million for projects in restricted areas to address stream-flow issues.
Unfortunately, we were not able to negotiate changes into the Skagit River Basin, which was under a previous court order from a 2013 lawsuit by the Swinomish Tribe challenging Skagit River minimum instream flow rules. However, the compromise agreement does allow for wells and protection of instream flows for fish.
In the Snohomish River watershed, along with seven other major watershed areas in Western Washington, there will be a limit for new wells to a maximum annual average of 950 gallons per day. There is also a new state fee of $500 ($350 to the Department of Ecology and $150 to the permitting authority) at the time of a building permit.
While I do not agree with the new and higher fees, it was one of the compromises of the bill to allow this legislation to move forward so property owners no longer have their hands tied. In the end, I supported this bill because it will allow most property owners to develop and it provides a balanced process that also protects our watersheds.
Capital budget brings home your tax dollars to the 39th District
I'm very pleased to report that once a Hirst agreement was reached, lawmakers in both the House and Senate passed a $4 billion capital budget. Also known as the “construction budget,” it pays for schools, colleges and universities, prisons, juvenile rehabilitation facilities, parks, housing for low-income residents and veterans, and other facilities and programs.
More than $24 million is appropriated for projects in and around the 39th District. These projects include (but are not limited to):
- $4 million to improve shellfish growing areas;
- $2 million to replace intakes at the Wallace River Hatchery;
- $1.5 million for a public safety center in Sultan;
- $1 million for Americans Disability Act (ADA) retrofits at the Monroe Correctional Complex;
- $800,000 for Lake Tye all-weather fields in Monroe;
- $525,000 for remodel of the Skagit County Public Safety Emergency Communications Center;
- $500,000 for the Skagit County Veterans Community Park in Sedro-Woolley;
- $415,000 for protection on the Skagit River system;
- $250,000 for improvements to the Darrington Rodeo Grounds;
- $99,000 for the Arlington Boys & Girls Club expansion; and
- $46,000 for the Arlington Pocket Park Downtown Business District.
This money will provide jobs and improvements to our local communities. I was pleased to vote for it.
It didn't take long — just 24 hours after the Legislature convened the 2018 session — before Gov. Jay Inslee proposed an enormous tax on energy during his State of the State address.
Bills introduced in the House and Senate would raise nearly $3.3 billion in new taxes over four years. Half the money from the tax would be paid by power plants and fuel importers, but would ultimately affect consumers in the form of higher energy prices. If enacted, the governor's policy staff said consumers could expect to pay a 4 to 5 percent increase in electricity, a 9 to 11 percent increase in natural gas and higher gasoline prices by as much as 18 – 20 cents per gallon.
During a press conference after his address, I called the governor's proposal “extremely tax heavy and policy short.” (Listen here my comment.)
If this is truly not about state government trying to get more of your money — and if Washington is sincere about a cleaner, greener environment, leaders in Olympia should consider policies that would reduce the over-abundance of fuels in our forests that have contributed to horrific wildfires and massive amounts of carbon output when they burn.
Rather than punishing employers and jeopardizing jobs with a carbon/energy tax, why not encourage businesses to invest in carbon reduction technologies by providing tax credits when they reduce greenhouse gas emissions? This concept, known as The Carbon Free Washington Act, has been introduced in the form of House Bill 2283 and awaits a hearing in the House Technology and Economic Development Committee.
In the media
As House Republican leader, I have been constantly interviewed by radio, television and newspaper reporters since before the 2018 session began, starting with the Associated Press forum on Jan. 4. Here are a few of the interviews I have done since the beginning of the year:
- 01-04-18 – Associated Press Legislative Preview
- 01-08-18 – The Impact – TVW
- 01-09-18 – Interview with Kirby Wilbur and John Carlson on KVI – Seattle
- 01-09-18 – House Republican Podcast
- 01-09-18 – Legislative Republican News Conference
- 01-09-18 – House Republican Radio Report
- 01-10-18 – Legislative Update Video
- 01-16-18 – Legislative Republican Leadership Media Availability
- 01-18-18 – Inside Olympia – TVW
- 01-19-18 – Leadership Podcast – An inside look
I need to hear from you!
This is a short session and deadlines on public hearings, floor sessions and voting on bills are rapidly approaching. There's a saying in Olympia: “Silence is agreement.” I need to hear from you to know how you feel about legislation we are voting on. Please don't be silent, especially on those bills that may impact you. My contact information is below. Please call, write or email me.
Thank you for allowing me to serve and represent you.
In your service,