Legislative update: Bills pass first major hurdle

By Diana Carlen
WAWG Lobbyst

Last Friday, we reached the first deadline of the legislative session.  Any policy bills that did not move out of their original committee by last Friday at 5 p.m. are dead for this session (unless otherwise revived). This drastically reduces the list of bills that are likely to move this session. The only legislation not covered by this deadline are budgets and fiscal bills necessary to implement the budget. For example, all the carbon tax bills (SB 5127, SB 5385, SB 5509, HB 1555 and HB 1646) are considered fiscal bills that generate revenue for the state and are not subject to today’s deadline. The next deadline is Feb. 24 when all bills must make it out of their fiscal committees.

Notable bills that passed out of policy committee are:

• DNR lease bill (SSB 5051). The bill requires the Washington State Department of Natural Resources to provide at least 180 days written notice and include certain written documentation regarding the termination in any nondefault or early termination provision included in an agricultural or grazing state land lease. The bill passed out of the Senate Agriculture, Water and Rural Economic Development Committee unanimously. The bill is now on the Senate Floor calendar awaiting a vote of the full Senate.

• Fixes to Hirst/Foster decisions (exempt wells/mitigation of water rights). SSB 5239, sponsored by Sen. Judy Warnick (R-Moses Lake), reverses the Hirst decision by authorizing new exempt wells (that withdraw less than 5,000 gallons of water per day and are exempt from a permit) if water for the well is physically available, and its use won’t violate the terms of an instream-flow rule adopted by the Department of Ecology (Ecology). It also addresses the Foster case by allowing Ecology to approve water-right mitigation measures that benefit fish and aquatic resources but don’t fully replace the water in a stream or lake that might be reduced by the water right. The bill previously passed out of the Senate Agriculture, Water and Rural Economic Development Committee and was scheduled for a hearing in the Senate Way & Means Committee on Feb. 21. HB 1885, sponsored by Rep. Larry Springer (D-Kirkland), also addresses the Hirst decision by allowing local governments to rely on Ecology’s instream-flow rules to determine the existence of an adequate potable water supply when approving an application for a subdivision or similar development. It also authorizes Ecology to carry out watershed-scale programs to mitigate the cumulative impact of wells on fish species of concern.  This bill passed out of the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee by a vote of 9-6. This bill has been referred to the House Appropriations Committee. HB 1918, sponsored by Rep. Derek Stanford (D-Bothell), sets conditions for approval of new exempt wells if they receive a mitigation certificate backed by a program that will ensure strict water-for-water mitigation of the well’s impact on streamflow. This bill came out on a party line vote 8 to 7 with no Republican support. The bill has been referred to the House Appropriations Committee.

• Protecting Snake River dams (SJM 8004). This legislation requests that the federal government prevent the breaching of any dam in the Columbia-Snake River System. The bill was pulled to the Senate floor calendar this week and is awaiting a full vote of the Senate.

• Exempting Shortline railroads that haul nonfuel oils from oil spill contingency requirements (SHB 1136). The bill narrows the contingency plan requirements for Class III railroads that do not haul crude oil. The bill passed out of the House Environment Committee unanimously and was referred to the House Rules Committee.

• Food policy forum (SHB 1562). The bill establishes a food policy forum as a public-private partnership to promote a variety of goals related to Washington’s food system. Directs the food policy forum to submit recommendations to the Legislature no later than Oct. 31, 2018.

• Marijuana and right to farm (SHB 1692). The bill adds marijuana, useable marijuana and marijuana-infused products to the list of farm products whose production constitutes an “agricultural activity” so as to be presumed reasonable and not a nuisance.