(By Jamie Henneman/Chewelah Independent)
Legislature still working on Hirst, tax incentive for Addy plant…
With the regular 2017 state legislative session wrapped up on April 23, state legislators are assessing the effectiveness of the 101 day term to address the concerns of Washington’s citizens.
According to Seventh District Senator Shelly Short, work on two key issues for the region are continuing into the special session aimed at helping the state pass a two-year budget.
The first is a legislative fix to the “Hirst” state supreme court decision that created new requirements regarding water availability before homeowners can drill a well or build on a parcel of land. The “Hirst” decision required Whatcom County to determine if domestic wells, previously exempt under state law, would impact in-stream flows of waterways in the county. Counties that have adopted the Hirst decision are requiring landowners to prove their new well won’t impact stream flows or senior water right holders. Stevens County has not yet adopted the regulations from the “Hirst” decision. Senate Bill 5239, designed to roll back the Hirst regulations and return wells to their previously exempt state, has been repeatedly rejected by the House of Representatives, according to Short.
“The most important bill that continues to be a work in progress is SB 5239. The Senate has passed SB 5239 twice now. To date, the House has refused to take up the bill,” Short related. “The Senate’s Majority Coalition Caucus and House Republicans continue to push SB 5239 in its current form. House Democratic proposals to address Hirst include significant fees and mitigation requirements which are completely unacceptable.”
In addition to continuing to push for solutions to Hirst, Short said one of her “top priorities” is securing a tax incentive package for the former Northwest Alloys site in Addy. A Canadian company, HiTest Sands, is considering the site as a possible silicon smelter location to produce high quality silicon metal. It is estimated the plant would bring as many as 150 jobs to the area.
Short said SB 5515 would help the company get a break on their energy bill and is anticipated to be part of the final budget and legislative package.
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Wins and losses
When assessing the regular legislative session, Short said she considers there to be several wins for Washington’s citizens, including the defeat of a Senate Democrat tax increase package (SB 5929) that was defeated.
A number of bills that passed both the House and the Senate that Short considers beneficial and are awaiting the governor’s signature include:
Creates a stricter DUI law. This law would create a felony for any individual who had four DUIs within 10 years. Current law is set at five. “This legislation is the culmination of many years of work of toughening our sentencing when it comes to repeat DUI offenders,” Short related.
The bill is designed to give local governments flexibility to work outside of the parameters of the Growth Management Act (within rural character) in terms of citing business and development. “Economic development, although 1 of the 13 co-equal goals under the GMA, is always overlooked in terms of equal importance. SB 5790 changes that dynamic,” Short noted.
Allows hydro efficiency to be counted as a credit toward I-937.
Expands the use of telemedicine. Short said the bill is a benefit to patients and “incredibly important” for rural hospitals and providers.
This bill protects the personally identifiable information of ranchers (including family members and employees), animal owners and DFW staff who are reporting and experiencing depredations and those who ultimately participate in the lethal removal of wolves. Short sponsored the bill in the house before being appointed senator this year.
Regulatory Fairness Act. This legislation strengthens existing law and will help small business especially when dealing with regulations.
This bill exempts railroads that transport non-fuel oil across short-line railroads from needing to meet the state Department of Ecology’s full regulatory requirements of oil spill prevention.
Preserves local government’s ability to allow for the continued use of septic systems under local set standards. “This is a good base policy that assures its future use even at a time where its use is being discouraged in other areas of the state,” said Short.
However, along with the passage of many positive bills, Short said several potentially beneficial pieces of legislation did not survive the regular session including:
This bill would have allowed development to be vested (locked in) in current land use regulations. “This bill would have created certainty for the building industry, which in turn helps the real estate industry,” Short explained. The House refused to take up this bill.
This bill significantly reforms the State Building Code Council, creating oversight and accountability that is currently lacking. However, Short said the bill was not supported by some trade organizations.