Washington 2023 Legislative report, week 4

By Diana Carlen
WAWG Lobbyist

We have completed the fourth week of the 2023 Legislative Session. So far, legislators have introduced nearly 1,500 bills for the body to consider. There are only two weeks remaining until the first legislative deadline known as a “cutoff date”. By Feb. 17, bills must be voted out of their respective policy committees to remain under consideration. Bills that fail to meet this deadline will be considered “dead” for the legislative session. After this first deadline, the number of bills under consideration will significantly decrease.

Discussions continue to ensure ag is exempt from carbon price as law clearly states

As reported previously, agriculture is paying a carbon price on fuel even though it is exempt from the provisions of the Climate Commitment Act (CCA). On Jan. 1, the CCA went into effect which establishes a cap-and-trade program that places a cap on emissions from industries that emit over 25,000 metric tons of carbon per year. The CCA specifically exempted agriculture from on-highway and special fuel use. However, the Department of Ecology has not established a mechanism for agriculture to exercise this exemption.

Agricultural representatives have had several meetings with Ecology staff, the Ecology director, the Governor’s Office and legislators to discuss this problem. Ecology also released interim guidance, but unfortunately, the guidance issued by Ecology does not fix the problem. The guidance documents can be found here and here.

We are likely to see legislation to address this issue soon.

Food processor B&O tax incentives moving through process

Legislation (SB 5277/HB 1573) extending three B&O tax preferences for dairy, fruit and vegetable and seafood processing for products produced in Washington and exported out of the state for sale continues to move through the process. The companion bills will receive hearings next week in both the Senate and House fiscal committees. This is priority legislation for food manufacturers in Washington state because it exempts their sales outside of the state from the B&O tax. A coalition of agriculture and wine industry supports extension of these important tax preferences.

Other notable bills that saw action this week:

  • Voluntary Stewardship Program (HB 1421), sponsored by Rep. Kelly Chambers (R-Puyallup), would extend the deadline for counties to join the Voluntary Stewardship Program under the Growth Management Act to July 1, 2024. The bill passed out of the House Local Government Committee on Friday.
  • Light Pollution (HB 1173), sponsored by Rep. April Connors (R-Kennewick), would require Ecology to adopt rules, in consultation with DOT and EFSEC that establish light mitigation requirements for new and existing wind energy facilities by Jan. 1, 2025. The bill is aimed at the blinking lights on wind turbines which are constantly flashing and annoying local residents at night. Essentially the bill would require radar equipment to be installed on wind turbines that only turn on when airplanes are nearby. New and existing facilities would have to comply with the mitigation requirements. The bill was amended and was unanimously voted out of the House Environment & Energy Committee.
  • Milk Product Haulers (SB 5531), sponsored by Sen. Curtis King (R-Yakima), would allow the Department of Transportation to issue a one-year special operation permit for double trailers hauling liquid milk (between 61-85 feet combined). The permit fee would be set at $300. The bill was heard in the Senate Transportation Committee on Tuesday.
  • Reusable Packing Materials (HB 1422), sponsored by Rep. Larry Springer (D-Kirkland), clarifies that renting or leasing of packing material under a packing material sharing and reuse program is not subject to retail sales and use tax. The clarification provided by HB 1422 is necessary as a recent Washington Court of Appeals decision that held that Tyson Fresh Meats Inc and a bottled water seller are not entitled to a sales tax exemption on rental payments for wooden pallets used in food delivery. Specifically, the appeals court ruled that the companies’ rental payments for wood pallets didn’t qualify for a sale-for-resale exemption or lease-for-sublease exemption under state law because they didn’t lease the pallets for sublease and nor sublease them to their customers.