Five bills from 15th District Sen. Jim Honeyford, R-Sunnyside, have been unanimously passed by the Senate in time to meet the March 13 deadline for most bills to be passed out of the body of origin. If signed into law, Honeyford’s bills would help keep energy costs low, itemize state debt-service costs, make employees easier to pay, protect Washington’s waterways from invasive species, and finally update the way irrigation districts finance new projects.
Senate Bill 5132 would clarify the way debt-service costs are reported. The state takes on debt in order to fund about half of the capital-budget projects, like elementary schools and prisons, and Honeyford’s bill would require the itemization of exactly what projects the incurred debt is paying for.
“Our current debt-service appropriation does not identify how much of the debt is being used on each project,” Honeyford said. “We cannot maintain a sustainable budget if we do not know how much debt has been financed for each project.”
Senate Bill 5400 deals with the costly provisions of the 2006 voter-approved Energy Independence Act, also known as Initiative 937. This bill would help power companies who also serve out of state customers find other renewable energy resources in order to meet yearly conservation requirements. Essentially, this bill allows Pacific Power to count the wind power produced in eastern Wyoming toward their renewable standard (the current boundary to be able to count renewable is down the middle of Wyoming). SB 5400 would keep the power rates more affordable in eastern Washington and aid low-income families as well as the agricultural industry.
Senate Bill 5702 would give Washington waterways and lakes more protection against invasive aquatic species by requiring any recreational or commercial watercraft brought into Washington by road to carry documentation that it is free from aquatic invasive species. SB 5702 also disbands the Aquatic Nuisance Species Committee.
Senate Bill 5770 would authorize local conservation districts to pay their employees via direct deposit. Under state law, conservation districts can only utilize direct-deposit services to pay employee wages if 25 or more employees request the service in writing.
“This is a well-drafted, good little bill,” Honeyford said. “Conservation districts rarely have 25 total employees so the law does not fit their circumstances.”
Senate Bill 5824 is an important technical fix updating the law for irrigation-district financing. Under the provisions of this bill the regulations governing how irrigation districts are able to organize and fund themselves through levies and bonds would be updated for the first time since 1929.
“This bill is the highly technical update we’ve needed in order to bring the statutes up to modern standards,” Honeyford commented. “In the future we will need to supply irrigation water to 200,000 people who have been using deep wells for all their water needs. If irrigation districts cannot fund projects to bring them water, the wells could run dry.”
Since the 2013 legislative session began Jan. 14, 11 Honeyford bills have been sent across the Capitol Rotunda to the House of Representatives for consideration.
Honeyford’s earlier bills passed by the Senate included proposals to increase funds for school construction, update how mosquito-control districts operate, clarify how various state agencies acquire lands, and address the water rights on state land that is no longer used.