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 →
Over 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. Continue reading →
During floor action Wednesday, members of the Washington State Senate adopted Senate Resolution 8610, sponsored by 15th District Sen. Jim Honeyford, R-Sunnyside. The Senate resolved that all members and staff offer their best wishes for a happy and fulfilling retirement and their deepest gratitude to retired 7th District Sen. Bob Morton.
“Bob was one of my best friends here in the Senate,” Honeyford said. “I am proud to have been able to serve the people of Washington alongside him for so many years.”
Morton was elected to represent the 7th District in the state House of Representatives in 1991 and served until 1994. In 1995 he was elected to the Senate, where he served with distinction until his resignation in January. During his time in the Senate, Morton served as chairman of the Natural Resources, Energy and Water Committee as well as chairman of the Agriculture and Environment Committee, where he became affectionately known as its “Minister of Agriculture.” Continue reading →
I received an e-mail from Maria Bellon, Water Resources Program Manager for the state Department of Ecology. She was excited to tell me about updated decision numbers for the water rights they have been processing this fiscal year. Including the month of May, the decision count for the last 11 months was:
661 decisions (excluding withdrawals)
For a total of 827 applications being taken out of the backlog this fiscal year. Continue reading →
Senate Bill 6392 – Expanded farm internship program. In 2010, the Senate agriculture committee heard testimony that Washington is facing a crisis of aging farmers. The average age is 56, and 70 percent of farmland is expected to change hands in the next 20 years. To help bring young people into farming as a career, the Legislature established a farm internship pilot program for San Juan and Skagit counties in 2011. This on-the-job training opportunity is exempt from minimum wage requirements and unemployment insurance. L&I was directed to create a special industrial insurance risk class for farm interns. SB 6392 expands the farm internship pilot program to Whatcom, Kitsap, Pierce, Jefferson, Spokane, Yakima, Chelan, Grant, Kittitas, Lincoln, and Thurston counties. (Passed the House Labor and Workforce Development Committee on February 21).
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.
Land owners, cities, irrigators and other public water entities trying to access water for development will no longer spend years waiting for the Department of Ecology to process their water right applications because of a bill signed into law today.
Senate Bill 6267was co-sponsored by me and has a House version co-sponsored by Rep. Bruce Chandler. When the law goes into effect in July, it will result in more water applications being processed and encourage the department to contract with the private sector to complete some analysis and technical work on the applications.