Capital budget and Hirst clean water access bill scheduled for vote by lawmakers this week. Carbon tax bill gets public hearing.

By FRANZ WIECHERS-GREGORY  | 
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Jan 17, 2018

The Senate has scheduled floor debate on the Capital Budget (SB 6090) for this week, along with a possible “Hirst” water bill (SB 6091) that was passed out of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Water, Natural Resources and Parks late last week.

House and Senate leaders have continued to work on a compromise bill to permit drilling of new household water wells in rural areas that had been blocked from doing so 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 has left rural property owners unable to build homes or develop their land

The “Hirst-fix” bill and the Capital Budget have been linked since last session, when the lack of agreement on an acceptable solution to clean water access resulted in the failure to pass a Capital Budget before the end of session.

The House also scheduled debate on its version of the Capital Budget (HB 1075) for this week. The bill, which would authorize $4.2 billion for new construction projects, passed the House last session by a 92-1 margin.

Gov. Inslee’s current carbon tax proposal, SB 6203, had a public hearing before the Senate Committee on Energy, Environment and Technology on Tuesday. The bill would impose a carbon tax equal to $20 per metric ton of carbon dioxide on the sale or use of fossil fuel within the state of Washington and the sale or use of electricity in Washington generated using fossil fuels, beginning July 1, 2019.

The tax rate would be increased by inflation, as measured by the consumer price index, plus 3.5 percent beginning January 1, 2020. Revenues would be allocated for activities that reduce greenhouse gas emissions connected to energy use and other activity in Washington and to provide assistance to vulnerable communities and workers in fossil fuel industries.

No executive action on the bill by the committee has been scheduled so far.

Apple pie and guns also made the news this week, while House and Senate committees held a round of public hearings on a range of issues, including  new gun restrictions and freedom of expression on college campuses.

Sen. Jim Honeyford, R-Grandview, introduced SB 6451, to designate apple pie as the official pie of Washington State. A bill introduced last year (SB 5723) to make the pine mushroom the state’s official fungi was also re-introduced. 

Gun restriction  took center stage in a packed hearing by the Senate Law and Justice Committee on Monday. The bills include SB 5992 to prohibit so-called bump stocks, a rapid fire device that made the news during last year’s Las Vegas shooting. Testimony was also heard on banning high capacity magazines (SB 6049) and SB 5444, to require enhanced background checks for the purchase of assault-style rifles. The checks would be similar to the current requirements for pistol purchases. Also considered was a bill to promote safe firearms storage in homes (SB 5463.)

Keep up with the latest developments in Olympia by visiting washingtonvotes.org and follow us on Facebook and Twitter #waleg.