Legisletter – February 15, 2019

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Week 5
As week 5 of the 2019 legislative session rolled to an end, your Government Relations team were feeling a bit roughed up from battling so many bad bills. Dare we say a plethora of legislation has been introduced that is damaging to our farmers and ranchers.
Here are two examples:
Creation of fees on H-2A Users – SB 5438
As we have been reporting to you for the past few weeks, HB 1398 and SB 5438 are bills that would give the Employment Security Department (ESD) authority to raise fees on farmers who use the federal H-2A farm worker program.
This bill was approved by the governor and has now passed out of the Senate Labor & Commerce Committee – and at no time has ESD ever proven how many staff they need to add to cover the work they claim is required by the federal government. The bill essentially gives the department a blank check.
Prior to passing the bill out of committee yesterday, an amendment was adopted that delays ESD’s ability to create new fees on farmers for two years. The argument for the delay is to give the state time to work with Congress to increase federal funding for the program.
But this amendment also flies in the face of the compelling arguments made by Farm Bureau members and other farmers in the Senate committee about how damaging it would be to make the H-2A program any more expensive to use.
As stated above, passed the amended version of SB 5438 out of committee yesterday by a surprising vote of four Democrats and two Republicans.
Here is the list of senators who voted for the bill:
Sen. Steve Conway (D) Vice Chair
Sen. Curtis King (R) Ranking Member
Farm Bureau, as well as many other Ag associations, are still adamantly opposed to this bill, even in its substitute form. Delaying the effect of this bill does not change the fact that it’s still bad policy.
This bill is now in the Senate Ways & Means Committee, but no hearing date has been set. We will alert you once the hearing has been scheduled and ask for you to communicate your concerns to the committee members. Stay tuned.
Attack on the integrity of our state’s farmers and ranchers – SB 5693
How would you feel if you and your fellow farmers were accused of engaging in slavery and human trafficking? Ridiculous right? Sadly and shockingly that is exactly what SB 5693 does. Nearly every agricultural lobbyist in Olympia, including Farm Bureau, testified on how outrageous this bill was and why it was so insulting to our family farmers who operate across Washington. Based on the questions and statements made by a few of the committee members, it appears the bill supporters were seeking to make a statement about the problem in other countries where slavery and human trafficking are being used to provide farm workers. But the actual bill language clearly insulted and falsely assumed these evil actions were occurring on our family farms. We will continue to closely track this bill.
Here’s a list of the worst of the bad bills we are tracking this session:
Next Week’s Hearing Schedule
Monday, February 18
Environment & Energy (House) @ 1:30pm
·        HB 1984 – Public Hearing – Ensuring that attempts to limit greenhouse gas emissions in Washington state do not make Washington’s agricultural products and food processing businesses economically uncompetitive, thereby shifting emissions to jurisdictions without similar greenhouse gas policies. (Support/Medium)
·        HB 1985 – Public Hearing – Providing regulatory relief from greenhouse gas emissions rules for producers of agricultural commodities and food products. (Support/Medium)
Labor & Workplace Standards (House) @ 1:30pm
·        HB 1841 – Exec Session – Establishing minimum crew size on certain trains. (Oppose/High)
Tuesday, February 19
Rural Development, Agriculture, & Natural Resources (House) @ 10:00am
·        HB 1940 – Public Hearing – Providing wildland fire response resources in the first forty-eight hours of a wildland fire. (Support/Medium)
·        HB 1941 – Public Hearing – Conducting a comprehensive review of the impact of catastrophic wildfires on communities as a means of improving government responses for the future. (Support/Medium)
·        HB 1964 – Public Hearing – Requiring the written consent of a lessee before the department of natural resources may terminate a lease for reasons other than default. (Support/Medium)
·        HB 1983 – Public Hearing – Concerning natural resource management activities. (Support/Medium)
Agriculture, Water, Natural Resources & Parks (Senate) @ 1:30pm
·        SB 5626 – Public Hearing – Ensuring the safe and productive cultivation of shellfish. (Support/Medium)
·        SB 5543 – Public Hearing – Retaining productive farmland. (Support/Medium)
Environment & Energy (House) – @ 3:30pm
·        HB 1611 – Public Hearing – Ensuring the safe and productive cultivation of shellfish. (Support/Medium)
Wednesday, February 20
Rural Development, Agriculture, & Natural Resources (House) @ 8:00am
·        HB 1784 – Exec Session – Concerning wildfire prevention. (Support/Medium)
·        HB 1894 – Exec Session – Concerning additional temporary duties for the wildland fire advisory committee. (Support/Medium)
·        HB 2047 – Public Hearing – Concerning carbon sequestration on natural and working lands as part of the state’s climate change response. (Support/Medium)
Appropriations (House) – @ 3:30pm
·        SHB 1579 – Public Hearing – Implementing recommendations of the southern resident killer whale task force related to increasing chinook abundance. (Oppose/High)
·        HB 1587 – Public Hearing – Increasing access to fruits and vegetables for individuals with limited incomes. (Support/Medium)
Transportation (Senate) – @ 3:30pm
·        SB 5883 – Public Hearing – Authorizing vehicles or combinations of vehicles carrying farm products to exceed total gross weight limits by two thousand pounds. (Support/Medium)
Thursday, February 21
Environment & Energy (House) – @ 8:00am
·        HB 1824 – Exec Session – Addressing the impacts of pinnipeds on populations of threatened southern resident orca prey. (Support/Medium)
Labor & Commerce (Senate) – @ 8:00am
·        SB 5877 – Public Hearing – Establishing minimum crew size on certain trains. (Oppose/Medium)
·        SB 5878 – Public Hearing – Concerning hours of service for certain railroad employees. (Oppose/Medium)
Labor & Workplace Standards (House) – @ 8:00am
·        HB 1725 – Exec Session – Implementing the recommendations of the pesticide application safety work group. (Support/Medium)
Agriculture, Water, Natural Resources & Parks (Senate) – @ 1:30pm
·        SB 5525 – Exec Session – Concerning whitetail deer population estimates. (Support/Medium)
·        SB 5620 – Exec Session – Establishing a pilot project to test elk fencing. (Support/High)
·        SB 5626 – Exec Session – Ensuring the safe and productive cultivation of shellfish. (Support/Medium)
·        SB 5543 – Exec Session – Retaining productive farmland. (Support/Medium)
·        SB 5597 – Exec Session – Creating a work group on aerial pesticide applications in forestlands. (Oppose/Medium)
·        SB 5696 – Exec Session – Concerning payments in lieu of real property taxes. (Support/Medium)
·        SB 5692 – Exec Session – Concerning recreational fishing and hunting licenses. (Oppose/Medium)
Capital Budget (House) – @ 1:30pm
·        HB 1889 – Public Hearing – Establishing the water infrastructure program. (Support/High)
Appropriations (House) – @ 3:30pm
·        HB 1013 – Public Hearing – Concerning the Walla Walla watershed management pilot program. (Support/Medium)
·        SHB 1110 – Public Hearing – Reducing the greenhouse gas emissions associated with transportation fuels. (If measure is referred to committee.) (Oppose/High)
Friday, February 22
Rural Development, Agriculture, & Natural Resources (House) – @ 10:00am
·        HB 1875 – Exec Session – Concerning wildlife damage to agricultural crops. (Support/High)
·        HB 1940 – Exec Session – Providing wildland fire response resources in the first forty-eight hours of a wildland fire. (Support/Medium)
·        HB 1964 – Exec Session – Requiring the written consent of a lessee before the department of natural resources may terminate a lease for reasons other than default. (Support/Medium)
·        HB 1983 – Exec Session – Concerning natural resource management activities. (Support/Medium)
·        HB 2047 – Exec Session – Concerning carbon sequestration on natural and working lands as part of the state’s climate change response. (Support/Medium)
·        HB 2055 – Exec Session – Expanding the elk management pilot project. (Support/Medium)