We are in week three of the 60-day legislative session. The reason for the short session is to adopt changes to the budget(s) related to caseload forecasting; and, to finish policy work not completed during the first half of the biennium.
Bruce Beckett, the Chamber’s lobbyist in Olympia, covered the big issues facing legislators this session, provided an update the States efforts to re-establish a statewide tourism marketing plan, and shared what issues appear to be on the fast track.
There are two big issues at play this session related to the budgets:
1) Did the State satisfy their requirement to fund basic education? And, 2) The connection between the Hirst decision (permitting of exempt wells) and the passing of a capital budget.
The Supreme Court ruled late last year the State did a good job funding basic education, but it still needed to accelerate K-12 teacher compensation. To do this and finally satisfy McCleary, the Legislature would need to allocate an additional $1 Billion dollars in K-12 funding this biennium. The Governor has proposed to tap the Rainy-Day account and then back fill that account with a new carbon tax. It requires a 60% vote by the legislature to use money in the Rainy-Day account. With Democrats holding slim majorities in both the House and the Senate, this issue will need to be resolved with strong bi-partisan support.
The Legislature passed a bill last Thursday to resolve the Hirst decision (permitting of exempt wells) and then promptly passed a capital budget once the Governor signed the bill into law on Friday.
Hirst Agreement Highlights
- Allows 950 gallons per day in some basins, and 3,000 gallons per day in other basins
- Charges a $500 fee for a new exempt well
- Declares existing exempt wells are not impacted
- Provision to allow water use during a draught for wildfire protection
- Allows counties to rely on Ecology rules for water resources
- Creates a Foster Task Force and 5 pilot projects to inform the task force on impacts
- Assumes $300 million for projects to achieve this act and enhance stream flows
The Chamber will be hosting a program on how this bill will be implemented at the local level in May.
The agreement on Hirst paved the way for the Legislature to adopt the 2017-19 Capital Budget. The 12th legislative district received $68 million dollars of funding for projects throughout North Central Washington. Here is a link to the capital budget, and a link to specific 12th District Projects:
Statewide Tourism Marketing Bill Gets Hearing
The Senate Trade & Economic Development Committee held a hearing last Thursday on SB5251, which re-establish a statewide tourism marketing. This appears to be a top priority for the Senate. The bill would establish a funding mechanism to market the state to national and international travelers. It calls for an emphasis to be placed on rural and tourism dependent counties, and to highlight our states natural assets. This is good news for businesses and communities that benefit from tourism.
Shiloh was in Olympia last week to testify in support of the bill both as the director of the Wenatchee Valley Chamber of Commerce and as the vice chair of the Washington Tourism Alliance Board of Directors.
The Washington Tourism Alliance in conjunction with the Washington Hospitality Association is holding a Tourism Rally in Olympia next week. There is no cost to attend this rally, but the WTA requests you RSVP by Wednesday, January 24th to secure appointments with your legislators and receive materials before the event.
The rally will kick off with a reception hosted by the Washington Hospitality Association at the Hands On Children's Museum in Olympia on the evening of January 29th, 2018. The next morning, January 30th, participants will gather at the United Churches of Olympia for a legislative briefing, and review talking points and handouts for legislative meetings. Hotel block information available here, hotels are filling up fast so make your reservation asap.
Issues on the Fast Track
- Gender pay equity. A bill was passed out of the Hose with a 69-27 vote. There are a number of amendments being worked on in the Senate.
- Labor Issues. Legislation has been proposed to address anti-retaliation, bullying, and wage theft. So far there have been no bills on predictive scheduling. There will be a bill to provide technical fixes to the Paid Family Medical Leave, but nothing in the works to amend the bill passed last year.
- Election Reform/ Voters Rights. There is a bill under consideration to provide guidance or allowance for the formation of districts at the local government level, and another to address/call for election day voter registration.
- Rural Economic Development is a big focus for the legislature. Ideas about infrastructure, workforce development, trust land management, tourism are all up for consideration. This also seems to be the emphasis people are trying to tag on to bills to help them make it through the process.
The next legislative briefing call will be on Monday, February 5th at 8:30am. You can register to participate in the call by emailing Jerri@wenatchee.org.