State Legislative Update: Session Adjourned!

By Diana Carlen
WAWG Lobbyist

The Washington State Legislature adjourned late Tuesday night, March 29, after passing final supplemental operating and capital budgets. The supplemental budget adds $191 million in spending to the two-year, $38.2 billion budget approved in 2015 and reflects a compromise between the $467 million spending increase originally proposed by House democrats and the $49 million proposed by Senate republicans. The Senate and House also voted to override (requires a two-thirds majority vote) the 27 bills vetoed earlier this month by the governor.

The legislature did not end up taking action on Sen. Parlette’s (R-Wenatchee) bill to overhaul the state’s approach to wildfire management (SB 6657) before it adjourned. If passed, the legislation would have emphasized prevention—through prescribed fire and mechanical thinning—to reduce fuel accumulations in forests, and therefore the likelihood of more massive wildfires.

Below are highlights from the final supplemental operating budget:

Food Policy Forum. One-time funding of $50,000 is provided for the State Conservation Commission to convene and facilitate a food policy forum.

• Fire Recovery. One-time funding of $7.8 million is provided to the State Conservation Commission for Firewise contracts, as well as a state match for federal funds that will assist private landowners with reseeding, fencing, replacement of agricultural and other property infrastructure related to natural resource management, soil stabilization and partial funding of conservation district staff to coordinate with other entities assisting with wildlife recovery efforts.

• Conflict Transformation Capacity. $475,000 is provided for the Department of Fish and Wildlife (DFW) to establish a work unit to engage and empower diverse stakeholders in decisions about fish and wildlife.

• Livestock Damage Prevention. $300,000 is provided for cost-share partnerships between DFW and landowners through Livestock Damage Prevention Cooperative agreements. The agreements are part of DFW’s efforts to help landowners implement measures to reduce the potential for wolf-livestock conflict.

• Forest Resiliency Burning. $800,000 to implement HB 2928 to ensure that restrictions on outdoor burning for air quality reasons do not impede measures necessary to ensure forest resiliency to catastrophic fires.

• Prevention and Forest Health. $700,000 for fuel reduction and forest health activities on state lands.

• 20-Year Forest Health Strategic Plan. $215,000 is provided for the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to develop a 20-year strategic plan for treating state forest lands in poor health.

• Smoke Management Plan. $629,000 is provided to DNR to update the state’s smoke management plan.

• Aerial Attack Wildfires. $443,000 to enhance the capacity of aerial attack of wildfires.

• Industrial Hemp. $145,000 to implement SSB 6206 for the Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA) to adopt rules to set a license application fee and a license renewal fee for industrial hemp research licenses and to adopt rules for an industrial hemp seed certification program.

• Dairy Groundwater Discharge Permit. $100,000 for WSDA to provide technical assistance to dairy farmers, collaboration with Washington State University and the U.S. Natural Resources Conservation Service on analysis of risks to groundwater resources and collaboration with Ecology on recommendations to the legislature on providing a state groundwater discharge permit for dairy farmers.

• John Wayne Trail Noxious Weed. A one-time expenditure ($100,000 from the Parks Renewal and Stewardship Account) for the State Parks and Recreation Commission is provided for noxious weed control and vegetation management on the John Wane Pioneer Trail.

• Discover Pass. A one-time funding ($250,000) for State Parks and Recreation Commission to coordinate with DFW and DNR on recommendations to improve access fee systems and for a contract to facilitate this process.