After addressing the Washington State Water Resources Association at its annual conference in Spokane last Friday morning, Sen. Jim Honeyford, R-Sunnyside, was presented with the group’s Water Statesman Award. The association, comprising irrigation-district representatives from across Washington, confers the honor only when members believe it is deserved.
“I was completely caught off guard by this award,” Honeyford said. “I was expecting to deliver a speech to the association updating them on water issues in central Washington, and was totally surprised when they announced I would be receiving their highest honor for the second time.” Continue reading →
I am pleased to report the Senate passed 11 of my bills and sent them to the House of Representatives for consideration. Currently, 10 of my 11 bills have public hearings scheduled in various House Committees.
The most important bill I sponsored this year is Senate Bill 5445 that provides $445m in grants for school construction and safety upgrades. After passing unanimously off the Senate floor to the House, it remains in the House Capital Budget Committee. Continue reading →
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.” Continue reading →
Senate Bill 5292 – Exempting certain structures that are constructed and maintained by irrigation districts and port districts from the definition of critical areas. This is my bill from last session which passed the Senate on February 8. It would essentially clarify that the drainage side of irrigation districts are not considered “natural” streams so they should be excluded from designation as “critical areas” for fish and wildlife. Ports also have a need to be exempted from that designation as they have similar artificial facilities. Signed into law by the governor on March 7.
Senate Bill 6044– Concerning the supply of water by public utility districts bordered by the Columbia river to be used in pumped storage projects. This bill would allow a public utility district bordered by the Columbia river to supply water as authorized by a water right under its control, to be used in a pumped storage generating facility. Additionally, it would require contracts concerning the sale of these resources to be approved by a vote of a PUD’s commissioners after a minimum of ten days public notice. Investors are planning on constructing a multi-billion dollar pump storage project and using the supplied electricity to balance the wind farms that are abundant in the Columbia Gorge. SSB 6044 would update restrictions in the law that are over 80 years old and have outlived their usefulness. It’s being held hostage by the governor until the Legislature reaches a budget agreement.
Senate Bill 6618 – Requiring a financial plan to adequately and amply fund basic education while modifying non-basic education funding mandates. This billrequires the state to develop a financial plan to adequately and amply fund basic education while modifying non-basic education funding mandates (I-728, I-732). It would also create the Basic Education Funding Joint Legislative Work Group to study information regarding the priority order of phased-in funding enhancements, review the phase-in schedule in light of any newly available research-based evidence and develop a long-term financial plan that phases in enhancements and matches the expenditure plan with options for existing or additional state revenue that may include shifting a portion of school district excess levy authority to state property tax levy. It’s currently awaiting negotiation by the House and Senate budget writers.
We’re past the cutoff point for both House and Senate bills not considered necessary to implement the budget to be passed out of committees. From this point on, each day will be spent debating and passing bills in either the full House or full Senate, with the exception of certain committees that have to consider last-minute budget bills. It appears that some of my bills may not make it out of the House for purely political reasons, which is very unfortunate. I’ve never played politics with my bills and I firmly believe that every bill should be considered on its own merit rather than used as trade bait for passing other bills. In fact, I’ve lost bills because of that belief and I am willing to lose another should it come to that. Continue reading →
On Tuesday members of the Washington State House of Representatives unanimously approved Senate Bill 5292, my bill to help clarify exemptions regarding natural versus manmade drainage areas within port and irrigation districts. The bill – which I introduced in the 2011 session – would change state law so that the drainage side of irrigation districts are not considered “natural” streams and therefore should not be designated as “critical areas” under the Growth Management Act.
I’m pleased to see this bill supported by my colleagues in both the Senate and the House. If an artificial drainage district is deemed a critical area, it creates numerous administrative difficulties and increased costs for the district. Some districts have spent thousands of dollars just to establish that a creek is manmade rather than natural. Continue reading →