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 →
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.
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.