Today is the 36th day of the 105-day legislative session. One of the most significant actions to occur last week was the roll out of the Senate’s transportation package. There is more information on the package below. All policy bills must be voted out of committee by this Friday, Feb. 20, or they are dead, unless they are considered necessary to implement the budget. The following Friday, Feb. 27, is the deadline to move bills out of fiscal committees.
Senators Announce Proposed Bipartisan Transportation Package
Last week, members of the Senate Transportation Committee introduced a package of bills designed to reform our transportation system and fund improvements, maintenance, and preservation for the next decade.
Last Thursday afternoon, Sens. Curtis King, Joe Fain, Steve Hobbs, and Marco Liias announced an agreement on a package. While some differences remain, this negotiating team of legislators believed they were close enough to drop a series of bills and officially begin the legislative process.
The package includes 11 bills total — eight reform bills and three funding bills.
The reform bills are scheduled for a public hearing on Tuesday, Feb. 17. WFB supports these reforms. Here is a brief description of each of the reform bills:
SB 5990 Transferring certain state sales and use taxes collected on transportation projects to the connecting Washington account
SB 5991 Concerning activities at the department of transportation funded by the environmental legacy stewardship account.
SB 5992 Modifying certain requirements for ferry vessel construction.
SB 5993 Concerning public works contracts and projects.
SB 5994 Concerning permits for state transportation corridor projects.
SB 5995 Modifying the transportation system policy goal of mobility.
SB 5996 Concerning Washington state department of transportation projects.
Here is a snapshot of some of the important bills we were tracking last week:
Wildlife damage – SB 5712 sponsored by Sen. Kirk Pearson (R-Monroe) would prevent the WA Department of Fish & Wildlife from taking any wildlife management action that would increase the populations of wildlife in an area that has had commercial crop or livestock damage from that species. A hearing was held SB 5712 last week and WFB testified in favor of the bill.
PILT – SB 5750 sponsored by Sen. Linda Parlette (R-Wenatchee). PILT stands for “payments in lieu of taxes” referring to local property taxes. Property tax generally does not apply to property owned by state agencies. However, DFW pays PILT to some counties. Under SB 5750, all counties who qualify to receive PILT will receive it based on the lands open-space value beginning August 1, 2015. WFB supports this bill.
Weed control on state lands – SB 5769 sponsored by Sen. Mark Schoesler (R-Ritzville) would expand the authority of county weed boards to include controlling weeds on state lands. The bill would also authorize weed boards to collect unpaid costs of noxious weed control actions taken by a county board on state lands by lien proceedings. WFB supports this bill.
Tax incentives for food processors – HB 1823 sponsored by Rep. Terry Nealey (R-Dayton) and SB 5698 sponsored by Sen. Mike Hewitt (R-Walla Walla) would extend the existing tax incentives provided to fruit and vegetable, dairy and seafood processors until 2025. Without one of these bills passing, the tax incentive will expire on July 1, 2015. Food processors provide an essential service to food producers all across the state and create nearly 25,000 jobs. These food processing jobs will be at risk if the tax incentive is not extended. WFB is working with a broad ag coalition to support these bills.
State Drought Preparedness – HB 1836 sponsored by Rep. Derek Stanford (D-Bothell ) was heard last Wednesday in the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee. Irrigation districts supported the measure, as it will improve pre-drought preparation. WFB also conceptually supports the measure and appreciates efforts of the sponsor and other legislators to ensure that drought statutes and funding accounts (which currently have little funding) will continue to meet the needs of agriculture.
Water Quality Determinations – SB5584 sponsored by Sen. Brian Dansel (R-Republic) was heard last week in the Senate Agriculture and Rural Economic Development Committee. The bill would require the Department of Ecology to do site-based, source-specific water quality testing prior to making “substantial potential to pollute” determinations. WFB supported the bill, subject to further vetting by agricultural representatives at upcoming the Ag Water Quality Advisory Committee meeting.
Here are some bills we are tracking that will see committee action this week:
Ag and Water Quality Work Session – Tomorrow, Tuesday February 17, at 8:00 am, the Senate Agriculture Water Rural Economic Development Committee will hear status updates from members of the Ecology Agricultural Water Quality Advisory Committee. Aaron Golladay, who represents WFB on the Advisory Committee, will provide WFB’s perspective. Discussion will focus on efforts to promote transparency and sound science, as well as site-based solutions that can deliver workable economic and water quality outcomes where real problems are identified and voluntary solutions are supported. Much depends on Ecology staff implementation of the “good neighbor” approach being discussed. The next Advisory Committee meeting is Feb 19th.
Better managing wildland fires – HB 2093 sponsored by Rep. Joel Kretz (R-Wauconda) would implement a number of improvements to improve response to and additional authority necessary to improve how the state and local authorizes fight wildland fires. The hearing is tomorrow at 10 am in the House Agriculture & Natural Resources Committee. WFB supports this bill.
Demonstration projects to preserve ag lands from flooding – SB 5347 sponsored by Sen. Steve Hobbs (D-Lake Stevens) directs the state’s natural resources agencies to work collaboratively with a stakeholder group to identify and implement two demonstration projects that reduce flooding and better protect ag lands from erosion. The bill passed out of the Senate Agriculture and Rural Economic Development Committee and will be heard in the Senate Ways & Means Committee on Tuesday, Feb. 17. WFB supports this bill.