Bills now before budget committees address issues ranging from school construction grants and water access to food safety and aviation revitalization
Three measures sponsored by Sen. Jim Honeyford, R-Sunnyside, survived the Legislature’s Friday deadline for bills to advance from policy committees in the Senate. They join another three Honeyford bills that had already been referred to the Senate’s fiscal committees.
“I am pleased to see that a number of my bills have found broad bipartisan support and continue to move through the legislative process,” said Honeyford, who has represented the 15th Legislative District since 1998.
“I have always tried to look for solutions to problems that face our agricultural communities, small businesses and families. Many of those solutions are not partisan issues – but reflect common sense and deserve bipartisan consideration. I am hopeful that they will continue to gain support and advance to final passage.”
Senate Bill 6125 would give the Department of Ecology another six years to enter into voluntary regional agreements related to the appropriation of new water for out-of-stream use developed in the Columbia River Basin. State law prevents Ecology from entering into such agreements after June 30, 2018, although existing agreements remain in effect after that date. Honeyford’s bill would extend Ecology’s agreement-making authority until June 30, 2024.
“Having the ability to make these regional agreements is a valuable tool for Ecology,” Honeyford said. “They help provide water for new users and manage water availability during emergencies, including droughts. Although it is not used often, this authority should remain in Ecology’s toolbox and its potential explored longer.”
Another Honeyford proposal to survive Friday’s cut-off was Senate Bill 6319, which would permit the state Department of Agriculture to cooperate in the implementation of the federal Produce Safety Rule. The bill would allow the agency to conduct compliance-verification activities, enforce regulatory compliance, and accept federal funding to help pay for both roles.
“Washington farmers face a host of new federal regulations and inspection regimes,” explains Honeyford. “New regulations can be difficult for farmers – especially small family farms – to adjust to. My bill would create a state program focused more on education than punishment. It would also allow state inspectors, who know Washington agriculture and crops better than federal bureaucrats, to do the work, with funding provided by the federal Department of Agriculture.”
The bill received a unanimous “do pass” recommendation from the Agriculture, Water, Natural Resources and Parks Committee on Feb. 1, and was referred to the Senate Rules Committee – the final stop before a vote of the full Senate.
The third Honeyford bill to receive Senate committee approval was Senate Bill 6367, which cleared the Energy, Environment and Technology Committee on Jan. 31. The bill would allow money earmarked for water-pollution control to be loaned to public industrial wastewater-treatment facilities.
The loans can be used for:
- construction or replacement of water pollution control facilities;
- implementation of managing nonpoint sources of pollution; and
- development and implementation of a conservation and management plan to protect and restore water quality of an estuary.
“This bill is about reducing the burden on our municipal wastewater facilities,” said Honeyford. “Without access to affordable and effective wastewater treatment, communities are hard-pressed to support the growth of agricultural processing. “My bill would give our cities access to the water infrastructure funding they need to promote economic growth and prosperity.”
In addition to the bills that cleared Senate policy committees, Honeyford also has two bills before the Senate’s fiscal committees (Ways and Means and Transportation), which have until 5 p.m. Tuesday to pass:
- Substitute Senate Bill 5453, dealing with school construction grants for small, rural school districts; and
- Senate Bill 6123, which would ban the use of bonds proceeds to pay salaries for state employees.
The Senate Ways and Means Committee has already advanced another Honeyford fiscal measure – Senate Bill 5328, which would create a Community Aviation Revitalization Board. That measure is in the Rules Committees, awaiting action by the full Senate.