When the 2012 legislative session begins Jan. 9, what is now the Senate Agriculture and Rural Economic Development Committee will add “water” to its title and list of policy duties. I will also be the new Republican leader.
I’m currently the leader of what is now the Senate Environment, Water and Energy Committee, and a member of the Senate agriculture committee. But the Senate majority party has decided to devote a committee to environmental issues, which meant moving water and energy policy matters to other committees.
I’ve been on the water committee since coming to the Legislature in 1994, and I wanted to stay with water issues. I’m still interested in and concerned about energy and electrical power – but I couldn’t be leader on both committees, now that water and energy will be split, and water policy is more important to my district.
My priorities as Republican leader of the new Senate Agriculture, Water and Rural Economic Development Committee will include water storage, accelerating the water-permitting process, and keeping tabs on the performance of the state Department of Ecology, especially now that the agency’s level of funding has been linked to its ability to process water-rights applications.
I’m also interested in bringing the tracking of water rights into the modern age. When property is sold and water rights are transferred it can be difficult to keep track of who owns what and where they are. All those records are available someplace, on paper, but we could use a better system, and you’d think modern technology would offer a solution.