Legisletter – March 18, 2019

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Week Nine
This past week the House and Senate concluded their floor action on bills that started out in their individual chambers. The focus now returns to committee work. For non-budget bills that did not move out of their house of origin last Wednesday, they are technically dead for this year. However, as you know there are many ways to resurrect dead bills so we will continue to track all bills until the end of session.

For those that like numbers, the House passed 351 bills and the Senate 321 by last Wednesday’s deadline.

The next legislative deadline is April 3 when bills must be out of the policy committees in the opposite house. The deadline for the fiscal and transportation committees is April 9. The last day of session is April 28.

Budget Bills
On Wednesday of this week the Economic and Revenue Forecast Council will announce the latest state revenue numbers that the budget writers will then incorporate into their budget proposals. We expect the House to release its Capital Budget first – maybe as early as this Friday. The House proposed operating budget will likely be rolled out early next week. This will provide us with the first indication of how large a tax increase the House and Senate will claim they need to balance their budgets.

Environmental Justice and the Precautionary Principle
SB 5489 would create a task force to identify strategies for incorporating environmental justice principles into state agency responsibilities and requires use of the precautionary principle. It will require state agencies on the task force to adopt impact analysis that identifies communities that would be more impacted and experience greater health disparities because of exposures to pollution or adverse environmental situations. The bill language remains very vague to actual impact of the bill is hard to accurately assess at this point. However, in California impact analyses of this kind have been a basis for law suits.

This bill is scheduled for a public hearing tomorrow in the House Committee on State Government & Tribal Relations at 1:30 pm.

Low Carbon Fuel Standard
On March 12, the House voted to pass HB 1110 that would create a Low Carbon Fuel Standard. The floor speeches on this bill lasted for an incredible 3 ½ hours. The bill passed mostly on a party-line vote with the exception of two Democrats. Reps. Sharon Shewmake (D-Bellingham) and Larry Springer (D-Kirkland) joined with the Republicans to vote against the bill.

Reps. Norma Smith (R-Clinton) and Mosbrucker (R-Goldendale) both delivered speeches about how this bill will hurt agriculture in Washington State. You can listen to Rep. Smith’s floor speech here and the remarks made by Rep. Mosbrucker here.

California has already adopted this policy and the California Legislative Analyst’s Office predicts their state will see a cost increase of up to 41 cents/gallon by 2030. We oppose this legislation because farmers and ranchers cannot absorb these cost burdens and remain competitive in local and international markets. As one of the most trade-dependent states in the nation, it is critical that we tell the Legislature to oppose this bad policy and articulate the incredible disadvantages this will bring to our food production in Washington.

WFB has partnered with Affordable Fuel Washington to help share information to the public about how this policy impacts Washington State. To learn more, click here.

This bill is scheduled for a public hearing tomorrow in the Senate Committee on Environment, Energy & Technology at 10:00 am.

Railroad Crew Size
Last Wednesday, the House passed a bill (HB 1841) that would increase the minimum crew size on certain trains entering Washington. This bill changes crew size requirements for railroad carriers transporting hazardous materials and car loads of 50 or more, and largely focused on oil trains. Some exemptions exist for class II and class III railroad carriers. We remain opposed to this bill because of the unintended consequences there could be for agricultural-related products that are transported by train into our state. Increased cost is one concern.

Rural Broadband
HB 1498 and SB 5511 regarding rural broadband have each passed out of their House of Origin and are scheduled for committee hearings in their opposite houses next week. Both bills have been changed slightly but we continue to support each of them.

H-2A Farmworker Program Fees
Senate Bill 5438 passed off the Senate floor and is expected to be scheduled for a hearing in the House Labor & Workplace Standards Committee possibly in late March.

Pesticide Application Safety Committee and Advisory Work Group
Both HB 1725 and SB 5550 passed off their respective floors unanimously. This bipartisan and bicameral effort is moving forward in a diligent and promising fashion.

Stay Tuned!