How our lawmakers voted — Jan. 15-19, 2018

  • Wednesday, January 24, 2018 1:30am
  • Opinion

In a late-night session on Jan. 18, the House and Senate passed a compromise bill (SB 6091) to permit drilling of new household water wells in rural areas that had been blocked by the 2016 state Supreme Court “Hirst” decision.

The court’s 6-3 ruling restricted new wells that might affect stream flows and impact water temperatures for fish. It also mandated counties to make their own, independent studies of water availability, instead of relying on state Department of Ecology data, before issuing new building permits. County officials said they lacked the resources to conduct such studies and consequently stopped issuing new building permits. That left rural property owners unable to build homes or develop their land.

Under the bill that passed, landowners in rural areas will now be able to drill household wells, while planners in local Water Resource Inventory Areas create new long-term water usage plans. Local governments can also rely on state Department of Ecology rules for determining water availability—as they were able to do before the Supreme Court’s “Hirst” decision.

Water withdrawal for new wells will be set at 950 to 3,000 gallons per day, depending on the area. Landowners will be required to pay a $500 fee to access a domestic well.

According to a Jan. 19 news release, House Republican negotiators are calling the bill an overall success, one that will finally restore some certainty to rural families.

“We started this process with an urban state Supreme court dictating new water law across rural parts of the state with a one-size-fits-all approach,” said Rep. David Taylor, R-Moxee. “With the rights of rural citizens and private property owners in mind, I believe we ended with an acceptable compromise that will help ensure citizens will be able to access water to realize the American Dream of owning a home; one that keeps housing affordable in rural Washington.”

The bill now awaits the Governor’s signature.

A legislative solution to the problems created by the “Hirst” decision had been linked to approval of the 2017-19 Capital Budget since late in the 2017 session, when it passed the House but was not acted on by the Senate. Passage of the “Hirst” water bill cleared the way for approval Thursday night by both chambers of the Capital Budget (SB 6090) and the bonding authority bill needed to implement it (HB 1080).

The Capital Budget authorizes $4.2 billion in new capital projects for state agencies and institutions of higher education in the 2017-19 fiscal biennium This includes appropriations for the acquisition, construction, and repair of land, buildings, and other infrastructure improvements.

Funding for the Capital Budget is primarily secured through state general obligation bonds, with other funding derived from various dedicated taxes, fees, and state trust land revenues. HB 1080, which is on its way to the Governor along with SB 6090, authorizes the issuance of up to $2.9 billion in general obligation bonds that pledge the full faith, credit, and taxing power of the state toward debt service. It also authorizes the issuance of up to $300 million in general obligation bonds over fifteen years, beginning in the 2017-19 biennium, to finance watershed restoration and enhancement projects.

Keep up with developments in Olympia by visiting washingtonvotes.org, on Facebook or via Twitter #waleg.

Senate Bill 6091 — Ensuring that water is available to support development

Passed the Senate on Jan. 18 by a vote of 35-14

As passed, this is the compromise bill that provides a fix to the so-called Hirst decision, the 2016 state Supreme Court ruling which restricted new household wells in rural areas that might affect stream flows and impact water temperatures for fish.

Sen. Kevin Van De Wege (D-Sequim) Yes

Senate Bill 6091 — Ensuring that water is available to support development

Passed the House on Jan. 18 by a vote of 66-30 (two members excused)

Rep. Mike Chapman (D- Port Angeles) Yes

Rep. Steve Tharinger (D-Sequim) Yes

Senate Bill 6090, 2017-19 Capital Budget

Passed the Senate on Jan. 18 by a vote of 49-0

The Capital Budget generally includes appropriations for the acquisition, construction, and repair of capital assets such as land, buildings, and other infrastructure improvements. This bill authorizes $4.2 billion for new capital projects for state agencies and institutions of higher education for the 2017-19 fiscal biennium. Of this, $2.77 billion is financed with state general obligation bonds. The budget also authorizes state agencies and institutions of higher education to enter into alternative financing contracts for a total of $174 million.

Sen. Van De Wege Yes

Senate Bill 6090 — 2017-19 Capital Budget

Passed the House on Jan. 18 by a vote of 95-1 (two members excused)

Rep. Chapman Yes

Rep. Tharinger Yes

House Bill 1080 — Concerning state general obligation bonds and related accounts

Passed the House on Jan. 18 by a vote of 94-2 (two members excused)

General obligation bonds pledge the full faith, credit, and taxing power of the state toward payment of debt service. This bill authorizes the State Finance Committee to issue up to $2.9 billion in general obligation bonds to finance projects in the 2017-19 Capital Budget, and to pay issuance and bond sale expenses. It also authorizes the committee to issue up to $300 million in general obligation bonds over fifteen years, beginning in the 2017-19 biennium, to finance watershed restoration and enhancement projects.

Rep. Chapman Yes

Rep. Tharinger Yes

House Bill 1080 — Concerning state general obligation bonds and related accounts

Passed the Senate on Jan. 18 by a vote of 47-2

After House passage, the Senate passed the bill, and it is on the way to the Governor’s desk for his signature.

Sen. Van De Wege Yes

House Bill 1506 — Regulating workplace practices to achieve gender pay equity

Passed the House on Jan. 17 by a vote of 69-28 (one member excused)

Under the state’s current Equal Pay Act (EPA), an employer who discriminates in the payment of wages as between sexes or who pays any female a lesser wage than males similarly employed is guilty of a misdemeanor. The EPA further provides that if a female receives less compensation because of sex discrimination, she may sue and recover the difference in compensation she should have received. This bill modifies the state Equal Pay Act by defining “similarly employed,” as the performance of a job that requires similar skill, effort, and responsibility and the job is under similar working conditions. It prohibits discrimination in providing career advancement opportunities based on gender, and prohibits retaliation for workplace discussions, such as comparing wages or encouraging others to exercise their rights. The bill passed the House but was not acted on in the Senate during the 2017 session. It is now before the Senate Labor and Commerce Committee for further consideration.

Rep. Chapman Yes

Rep. Tharinger Yes

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