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Dear Friends and Neighbors,
First, the really good news: We have a Hirst fix AND a capital budget!
Negotiations on a solution to the Hirst water decision came together with an agreement late last Wednesday and by Thursday evening, we voted on it, and approved a capital budget and the bond bill to finance the projects.
The Hirst solution details
For those of you who may not have been following this issue, the state Supreme Court's October 2016 ruling had the potential to devastate property values across the state by not allowing mainly rural property owners from drilling a well and drawing water. For good background on the issue, read this article by former Rep. John Koster.
Senate Bill 6091, the Hirst solution, passed from the House Thursday evening with a vote of 66-30. It came out of the Senate with a vote of 35-14.
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 up to $300 million for projects in restricted areas to address stream-flow issues.
- Water Resource Inventory Areas (WRIA) with existing water management rules, such as in Clark County, revert to their previously adopted rules.
While I am concerned that the bill imposes new fees, as much as $500 at the time of building, it is a compromise that provides the ability for our rural landowners to develop their properties and access water. We all need water for living. I am proud of my fellow Republicans for standing up for rural Washington families and ensuring important water rights statewide. For those reasons, I supported the bill.
Capital construction budget brings your dollars home
You send a lot of your money to Olympia in the form of taxes. I'm pleased to report we are bringing some of it back home.
Following passage of the Hirst solution, the House and Senate both voted to send a $4 billion capital construction budget to the governor, who signed the measure. Often known as the “bricks and mortar budget,” the capital budget pays for such things as schools, colleges and universities, prisons, juvenile rehabilitation facilities, parks, housing for low-income residents and veterans, and other facilities and programs.
In and around the 18th District and Clark County, we have many new projects, funded by your tax dollars that will benefit our local citizens, including:
- $10 million to extend 10th Avenue on the west side;
- $5.2 million to begin work on a new Clark College campus in Ridgefield;
- $1.1 million in safety improvements at Harmony Sports Complex;
- $1.3 million for Washougal Oaks Natural area; and
- $250,000 to finish the maintenance facility for our historic steam engines in Yacolt that run tourism excursions up and down the north end of the Chelatchie Prairie Railroad.
There are several more projects. Go here to see the entire list funded in the capital budget.
This week's “Bad Bill”
House Bill 1506 – Lawsuit bill disguised as “equal pay” measure
I am all for equal pay. I believe a woman with the same experience and qualifications as a man should be paid the same for the same type of work. I am not, however, in support of legislation that practically begs for lawsuits to be filed.
House Bill 1506 disguises itself as an “equal pay” bill. In reality, the measure would merely make it easier for individuals to sue employers, claiming discrimination.
Current law already mandates that employers provide equal pay for equal work. As I noted during my speech on the House floor, when accounting for women's choice to work fewer hours, have a more flexible job, or taking time off work for children, the statistical pay disparity between men and women is not statistically significant.
Watch my floor speech on this bill here.
Pike bills make progress
This week's Pike bills of interest include:
House Bill 1606 – Would require Transportation Benefit Districts (TBDs) to hold public hearings to allow for citizen input BEFORE raising car tab fees and other new taxes that could be imposed with or without a public vote. Constituents have asked for more transparency with TBDs when it comes to voting for tax and fee increases. This would ensure the public gets to have its say before their taxes go up. The measure passed the House unanimously last year, but stalled in the Senate, and was returned to the House. It now awaits a vote on the House floor.
House Bill 2521 – Would give counties the authority to close roads and other public right-of-ways that abut a waterway for the protection of public safety. This bill is aimed specifically at keeping trespassers away from the “Ghost Bridge” over the Lewis River in Clark County.
This is a narrow Burlington Northern Santa Fe railroad bridge that is only accessed by private land. Numerous people have been killed by trains while trespassing on the bridge. A dead-end county road is between the river and a 1,700 acre farm. The landowner has sought to have the road closed because he suffers continual damage to his property from vandals who illegally access Ghost Bridge. However, state law prohibits the vacation of county roads that abut a body of water. My bill would change that, allowing the county to vacate the road and, hopefully prevent access to the bridge, as well as damage to the landowner's property. A public hearing was held Jan. 16 in the House Local Government Committee and the bill is awaiting committee action.
For more information on the bills I have sponsored, go here.
More next week in my E-news brief. If you have questions on these or other bills, or state government in general, be sure to contact my office in Olympia. My contact information is below.
Thank you for the honor of allowing me to serve and represent you!
"Protecting life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness!"
469 John L. O'Brien Building | P.O. Box 40600 | Olympia, WA 98504-0600
(360) 786-7812 | Toll-free: (800) 562-6000