Lawmakers have returned to Olympia to kick off the 2018 legislative session. Session officially began at noon Monday, Jan. 8. In even-numbered years, session is 60-days, including weekends and holidays. In order to finish on time, we will need to work smart and stay focused.
In addition to approving the supplemental operating and transportation budgets, the Legislature has some important unfinished business from the previous session.
Lawmakers left Olympia at the end of the 2017 legislative session without an agreement on the capital budget or a comprehensive, long-term Hirst solution. As a result, some construction projects throughout the state have been left in limbo and rural property owners continue to suffer from the adverse effects of the state Supreme Court's water rights ruling.
What's at stake?
A study by the Building Industry Association shows the court's Hirst ruling, which makes it costly and difficult for rural property owners to obtain permits for new wells, may be costing the state nearly $7 billion dollars per year in unrealized rural and suburban economic development. During the 2017 legislative session, a few solutions were considered, but none of them were approved.
Permit-exempt wells affect very little of the state's water supply. In fact, if you turned off every faucet to every permit-exempt well in the state today, you would affect less than one percent of the state's water.
The Hirst decision boils down to this; urban dwellers can draw water from sources that rural residents cannot. This means you can build a 500-home development in Seattle, drawing water from rural watersheds, but can be restricted from building a single-dwelling home with a permit-exempt well in a rural area.
The governor's most recent proposal would limit new, previously permit-exempt wells up to 350 gallons of indoor use per day and cost property owners a minimum of $1,500. In the coming weeks, I will be fully examining this and other potential solutions. We need a capital budget and a real fix for Hirst.
There is good news! During the 2017 session, a solution for McCleary, that includes fully funding basic education, creating equity for students, teachers and taxpayers, while still promoting local control, was approved. A few weeks ago, the state Supreme Court essentially endorsed the K-12 funding solution, House Bill 2242. However, the justices said the money for teacher and staff salaries needs to be spent earlier than planned. In the coming weeks, we will be looking at ways to resolve this issue.
Here are some new bills I'm sponsoring this session
In order to encourage businesses to invest in carbon reduction technologies, I've introduced The Carbon Free Washington Act. The measure would provide a tax credit to any business that reduces its greenhouse gas emissions through carbon investment projects.
Cap-and-trade models, while theoretically workable, can be extremely difficult to implement. My bill would make the credit equal to the amount of the investment. This would eliminate the need for a complex and hard to implement cap-and-trade scheme.
As it stands today, under the Energy Independence Act (I-937), hydroelectricity is not considered to be a renewable energy source. My bill would change the definition to renewable. It also creates a new category of resources called “clean energy resources” including, water, landfill gas, tidal power, biodiesel fuel, biomass energy, nuclear energy and any other energy source that is effectively carbon neutral. House Bill 2283 has been referred to the House Technology and Economic Development Committee, where it awaits a hearing.
Another bill I've sponsored would help provide broadband internet access to rural communities. My measure creates a program to award funding for high-speed internet infrastructure projects in unserved and underserved rural regions. House Bill 2312 has also been referred to the House Technology and Economic Development Committee, where it awaits a hearing.
There are several ways you can stay up to date with events in Olympia
Visit leg.wa.gov. This the official website for the Washington State Legislature. Learn about bills being considered by the Legislature, view committee agendas and materials, plan your trip to the Capitol, and more.
Watch TVW. You can watch committee hearings and floor action in both chambers on TV or online at tvw.org.
Visit my website. Learn about everything I'm working on, you can also read these email updates and my current press releases.
Listening, helping, leading
Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions, concerns or comments about legislation or state issues. Better yet, if you are planning a visit to Olympia, come see me. I welcome your feedback and questions. My contact information is listed below.
Thank you for the privilege of serving you in Olympia!