Honeyford-sponsored public health, land and water bills pass Senate

Senate Floor DebateOver the past several days in the Washington State Senate, Sen. Jim Honeyford, R-Sunnyside, saw three of his bills approved and sent to the House of Representatives.

The first to pass on Friday was Senate Bill 5324, which would encourage municipalities to use state Department of Ecology design guidelines when constructing stormwater retention ponds in an effort to reduce the mosquito population. In addition, DOE would need to consult with the state Department of Health about strategies to prevent West Nile virus, and any retention pond found to contain West Nile virus would be the responsibility of the area’s mosquito-control district.

“West Nile virus was first detected in Washington in 2002, and the first human case was reported in 2006.” Honeyford said. “In 2009, there were 38 human cases, and I believe this is an issue that is not going away. This bill would help to head off the propagation of virus-breeding mosquito colonies before they become a serious public-health risk.”

Honeyford’s second proposal to pass Friday, Senate Bill 5054, would require legislative approval in most cases before the state Department of Fish and Wildlife, Department of Natural Resources or Washington State Parks can purchase additional land. Agencies must consider their ability to pay for maintenance and operation as well as taxes on the property under consideration for purchase without having to obtain funds from the state operating budget. If they were unable to do so, they would be required to obtain legislative approval for the land purchase.

“Much of eastern Washington’s land is in public ownership, and there are concerns that agencies often have not planned well for additional purchases,” Honeyford said. “Sometimes they can’t keep weeds under control or pay for ongoing maintenance of the land, and I think it’s time to bring some legislative oversight into the process.”

The third Honeyford bill to receive Senate approval on Monday was Senate Bill 5219, which would require DFW, DNR and the state Parks and Recreation Commission to seek assistance from DOE on maintaining a water rights inventory for their purchased lands.

“As state agencies buy up more and more land – and the water rights that go with that land – local economies begin to dry up as they no longer have income from the water or the land,” Honeyford said. “This bill will help keep water in the area and in use, so that we can keep the local economies going.”

All three Honeyford bills have been referred to the House of Representatives for consideration.