Dear Friends and Neighbors,
As we begin Week Seven of the scheduled 105-day session, I wanted to bring you up to date on the latest activities in the state Legislature.
The Legislature has a series of deadlines to keep us on schedule to finish our business before the last day of the regular session, April 28. Last Friday, Feb. 22, we reached our first major deadline: house of origin policy cutoff. Policy-only bills that did not make it out of their respective policy committees by that date are considered “dead” for the session.
This coming Friday, March 1, is the first fiscal cutoff. All fiscal-related bills must be passed by that date from their fiscal committees in their house of origin, or they're also considered “dead” for the session. Bills necessary to implement the budget are exempt from the cutoffs.
You can view the entire session cutoff calendar here.
Floor sessions coming
Once we pass the committee and fiscal cutoffs, for nearly two weeks, our attention will turn from the committee process to the floor where we will vote on the hundreds of bills that passed their respective committees. Typically, we spend all day and many late nights on the floor and meeting in caucus during this period. Depending on the schedule, we may even work weekends. This leads up to 5 p.m., March 13, which is the last day to pass bills from their house of origin.
Dye bills alive
All five of my bills have survived the first cutoff. Hopefully, they pass their respective committees this week before the fiscal cutoff Friday. Here's a quick status of each:
- House Bill 1606 – Broadband loans and grants: This measure would continue the momentum of legislation I sponsored that passed last year, which gave port districts the ability to build open access networks for private internet service providers to operate in underserved/unserved areas of the state. Under this year's bill, the Community Economic Revitalization Board (CERB) would be given the authority to make broadband loans and grants to any Washington local government or federally-recognized tribe to finance infrastructure for high-speed, open-access broadband service. This measure passed the Innovation, Technology and Economic Development Committee and was referred to the Capital Budget Committee. A public hearing was held yesterday and I expect action to be taken before the end of the week.
- House Bill 1712 – Farm products/vehicle weight: Often, when loading a truck with livestock or agricultural products, the weight load is a guess until the truck reaches the scales, sometimes many miles away. Fines can sometimes be as much as a dollar per pound over weight limit. This measure would give these drivers some “grace,” by allowing a vehicle or combination of vehicles carrying farm products to exceed the weight limits by up to 2,000 pounds when operating on any highway in Washington that is not a part of the federal interstate system. It would not, however, allow a vehicle/vehicles to exceed the posted weight limit for a bridge. A public hearing was held in the House Transportation Committee and the bill awaits committee action.
- House Bill 1889 – Water infrastructure program: I discussed this issue at length in my last e-newsletter. Wells are drying up across the lower Columbia Basin and particularly in the Odessa Subaquifer. This measure would secure at least $500 million in bonding authority as seed money to be used to leverage federal funding for completion of the Columbia River Basin Project. The White House is paying close attention to this issue. A public hearing was held Feb. 21 in the Capital Budget Committee and the bill awaits committee action.
- House Bill 1958 – Wildland fires/aviation: This measure, proposed to me by the Asotin County Fire District 1 Chief Noel Hardin, would establish a premobilization aviation assistance program to assist local fire suppression entities on the initial attack of a wildland fire. Minutes count when a fire breaks out. If local fire suppression entities can immediately begin using air support to attack a fire, it could be out much quicker and save hundreds of thousands of dollars, than if those entities must wait for state mobilization efforts. In the period of that waiting time, a small fire could explode into a large one. This bill would allow local air support to take place quickly and provide reimbursement to those local fire suppression entities, which could save lots of dollars, lives and property. The measure passed the House Rural Development, Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee. It is now in the Appropriations Committee, awaiting consideration.
- House Bill 1959 – Marijuana tax distribution: This measure, requested by Adams County Sheriff Dale Wagner, would change the distribution of marijuana excise tax revenue to provide for wider resources of law enforcement in Washington's counties. The measure is in the House Appropriations Committee.
Honoring Future Farmers of America
I was honored to draft and introduce a resolution recognizing Washington's Future Farmers of America (FFA) and the contributions they make toward the advancement of agriculture.
Through 32 career and leadership development events, Washington FFA members are challenged to learn skills that prepare them for more than 235 careers in agriculture. Agriculture is Washington state's economic lifeblood, with more than 37,000 farms and a $9.1 billion impact on our economy. The nearly 11,000 FFA members are truly our “future farmers” — the next generation who will feed our families.
House Resolution 4611 was adopted by the House on Feb. 15, during FFA Week, which was celebrated Feb. 16-23.
USDA announces help for those who lost livestock in the snowstorms
It was heartbreaking to hear of the losses of cattle, sheep and other livestock that literally froze to death during the recent snowstorms.The USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service announced it is accepting applications from agricultural producers in Adams, Franklin, Benton, Grant, Kittitas, Yakima and Whitman counties impacted by snowstorms that resulted in livestock losses.
Up to $300 per animal is available to eligible producers to assist with the recovery of costs for transport and disposal of animal carcasses from the blizzards. For more information, go to www.wa.nrcs.usda.gov.
Many thanks to our visitors
We welcome all who make the drive over to visit our beautiful state Capitol. If you are planning a visit, please contact my office so we can make arrangements to meet with you. Here are the names of a few of the many people who've dropped by my office:
- Jennifer Ashby, Asotin County Library
- Steve Lee, Clarkston
- Heidi Hunt, Adams County auditor
- Vicky Dalton, Spokane County auditor
- Members of the WSU College of Pharmacy
- Michelle Beckman, Whitman County
Should you have any questions about the issues discussed in this email update or other legislation, please contact my office. My contact information is below. It is an honor and a privilege to serve you!