Dear Friends and Neighbors,
Can you believe it's August already? I hope you are enjoying our beautiful summer!
The final gavel fell on the 2017 legislative session – after a grueling 193-days. This was the longest session in state history. In this email update, I will tell the story of what happened in the final months of this epic session.
Unfinished business | Hirst and Capital budget
A picture can speak a thousand words. Would you agree? Let's put this photo into perspective.
The Legislature adjourned the 2017 legislative session with unfinished business – no capital budget, which funds construction projects throughout our state, and no solution to the catastrophic water-rights issue known as the Hirst decision.
The 2016 Supreme Court ruling, known as Hirst, in effect, has prevented people across our state from utilizing wells on their private property. This has threatened property values, destroyed dreams, and created uncertainty for families and counties. Finding a comprehensive solution, for those negatively affected by this decision, has been a priority since day one of the legislative session. The Senate passed a bipartisan Hirst bill, FOUR times. House Democrats refused to allow a vote. In fact, they have not allowed or moved any Hirst-related bills to the House floor for approval.
Republicans continued to negotiate, in good faith, a balanced compromise to fix Hirst. The compromise would allow many property owners to drill wells for domestic purposes without needing a costly hydrological study. We also proposed creating a task force to review the Foster decision, which makes it difficult to address water needs in fast-growing cities, and offer recommendations. House Democrats also rejected this compromise solution.
Here's the hypocrisy of this issue, and why the capital budget and Hirst decision are tied together. Urban areas, like Seattle and Bellevue, get much of their water from rural areas of the state. This is the same water that the high court's ruling now denies rural Washingtonians to access, on their own property. Without access to water, people can't build new homes. It's hypocritical to pass a capital budget allowing government to build, while property owners throughout the state are prevented from building on their own land.
On the final day of the third special session, lawmakers arrived in Olympia believing they had reached an agreement on a Hirst fix and the state's capital budget. As Republican lawmakers, we took our seats on the floor, ready to vote for both Hirst and a new construction budget. We sat there, all day and into the evening, anticipating the final votes. Unfortunately, after pressure from a handful of special interest groups in Seattle, House Democrats never came to the floor, no vote was called and the Legislature adjourned.
I am disappointed. We had a clear path for both a capital budget and a Hirst fix. But in the end, we walked away with neither. The 2nd District has several projects in the capital budget. With the capital budget on hold, and no fix in place for Hirst, trust between the two caucuses has been shaken.
However, I am confident we will reach a solution. We are continuing this fight. Hopefully in the coming weeks, we will be called back for a special one-day session, to vote on fixing Hirst, and pass the final capital budget. I will keep you posted!
For more information on Hirst, the capital budget, and successes of the 2017 session, please watch my latest edition of the 'Barkis Breakdown.' Simply click on the photo below.
Even though session has concluded, I am your state representative year-round. Please reach out to my office with any questions, concerns or issues you have. During the interim, I look forward to seeing you out-and-about around our great district!
It's an honor to serve you.