Dear Friends and Neighbors,
We are back under the dome in Olympia. The 2018 legislative session began at high noon on Monday, Jan. 8. The pace is fast in this 60-day session, and we are hard at work for you!
After several months of tough negotiations, the long-awaited bipartisan 2017-19 capital budget passed. We also agreed upon a bipartisan solution to the Hirst water-rights issue. It has been a successful week.
Capital budget | Update
Late Thursday, the House and Senate passed the 2017-19 capital budget. Friday afternoon, Gov. Inslee made the budget official by signing it into law. This budget funds public works construction projects around our state. Many jobs, constructions projects, and businesses faced hardships with the stalemate of this budget. It's time to get back to 'business-as-usual.'
- $933 million for K-12 school construction through the School Construction Assistance Program (SCAP). This allocation will address a record number of local school bond levies across the state. There is also an allocated $35 million for small, rural school district modernization grants.
- $136.5 million for community-based and institution-based mental health facilities.
- $106.5 million for the Housing Trust fund including: nearly $25 million for supportive housing and case-management services for people with chronic mental illness; $5 million for housing projects that benefit those affected by natural disasters; and $5.6 million for housing projects that benefit veterans.
For more information on this budget, please click here.
The 2nd District also has several local projects funded through the capital budget including:
- $3 million for the Affordable Housing Innovations Grant (Orting)
- $1.75 million for the Mt. Rainer early warning system (throughout Pierce County)
- $1.25 million for Nisqually Tribal Housing
- $500,000 for pedestrian evacuation crossing on SR 162 (Orting)
- $252,000 for a new fire station at Lake Lawrence (Yelm)
- $247,000 for Yelm City Park playground modernization (Yelm)
- $216,000 for UW: Middle Ohop Protection, phase 3 (Pierce County)
- $206,000 for the Billy Frank Jr. Heritage Center (Olympia)
- $30,000 for the South Thurston Senior Meals on Wheels kitchen upgrade (Yelm)
Hirst | Update
As many of you know, the Hirst decision has prevented people across our state from drilling wells on their private property, which has jeopardized property values and dreams, and created financial uncertainty for families.
For over a year, the Department of Ecology (DOE), the governor's office, and members of the Legislature have been discussing solutions that would allow counties to rely on the Department of Ecology's rules to manage water and authorize the building of new wells. Fortunately, we finally reached, and passed, a bipartisan solution that:
- “Grandfathers in” existing wells as a legally adequate water supply to obtain a building permit throughout the state.
- Allows the counties to rely on the DOE to manage the water without the county doing an independent analysis of water availability before issuing building permits.
- Implements two new planning processes in certain areas of the state that did not exist before, and includes restrictions on water usage for domestic purposes.
- It requires $300 million over 15 years in bonds for projects in those restricted areas to address stream flow issues.
With any proposal, there are reasons to 'be for it,' or to 'be against it.' I voted in favor of this solution. Here's why:
- Impacts to our district not only came from Hirst, but also the Foster decision. This solution creates a joint legislative task force to prepare recommendations, by November 15, 2019, to develop a mitigation sequencing process, and scoring system, to address impacts of the Foster v. Department of Ecology
- The original Hirst decision said “no water” and halted all new building permits. Under this solution, we now have a minimum of 950 gallons of water per day.
- The solution removes the burden the state Supreme Court imposed on counties to find legal availability of water so they can once again rely on DOE. This is a big deal for our smaller counties, like so many throughout our district, that have limited resources.
- There is no longer an impact on existing wells by the high court's decision because they are grandfathered into existing law, before the Hirst decision happened. Our rural homeowners no longer need to live in fear that the state is going to take away their water or require excessive and unnecessary metering.
- Many construction projects were immediately put on hold with the Hirst ruling. There isn't a perfect fix, but this solution allows economic development and will help keep housing affordable.
- The solution allows us to address stream flows through increased funding.
I believe this solution, while not perfect, will help our district, and those that depend on exempt wells the most, to move forward, thrive and prosper.
It's been a busy first two weeks of the 2018 session. Please take the opportunity to watch my latest edition of the Barkis Breakdown. This time around we talk about affordable housing, Barkis bills of importance, and a heartfelt thank you to our law enforcement community. You can watch the “Barkis Breakdown” by clicking here, or on the photo below. Thanks for watching!
It's an honor to serve you!