Dear Friends and Neighbors,
After many months of intense negotiations, the Legislature finally passed a bill late last week to fix the state Supreme Court's disastrous Hirst decision. For two years, Hirst effectively halted development in rural communities by prohibiting people from drilling wells on their private property without first paying for expensive hydrological studies to determine the legal availability of water.
Since this was cost prohibitive for most families, building in many communities stopped altogether, which created enormous financial uncertainty and put a lot of dreams on hold. Only now, with the passage of Senate Bill 6091, can all Washingtonians who own land with private wells finally start building again.
With the passage of a Hirst fix also came passage of the 2017-19 capital budget. The two bills became inextricably linked last session, which I know frustrated some folks. However, it simply did not make sense to pass a capital budget to fund school construction while simultaneously denying water rights to families living next to the school.
Passage of the capital budget was dependent on a solid, long-term Hirst fix that ensured legal, available water for Washingtonians. That became a reality, so we were able to support the $4.17 billion capital budget. The budget makes investments in K-12 school construction, mental health, higher education, and more.
Locally, 47th District residents will see funding go toward a number of projects, including:
$5 million to build a new YMCA in Kent and renovate surrounding parks
$5 million in grants will be allocated to build a new YMCA in Kent on the East Hill. The capital project will be a Silver LEED-constructed, 60,000 square foot state-of-the-art facility. Additionally, funds will be allocated for the renovation and consolidation of two aging parks that bookend the central YMCA site: Morrill Meadows Park immediately to the west, and East Hill Park immediately to the east. The renovation will bring the two park parcels together with the YMCA to provide a high-quality indoor and outdoor recreation experience for the local community.
$820,000 for Covington Town Center civic plaza development
This project involves land acquisition, design, and construction of a new civic plaza and outdoor public space within the new Town Center for Covington. Beyond the benefits of redevelopment and new retail business activity that will occur, this new civic plaza and public gathering space will allow and foster large public activities, small social events, and a new place for our youth to interact in a safe and positive way.
$717,000 for the expansion of Clark Lake Park
The City of Kent will use this grant to buy 5.5 acres to expand Clark Lake Park. The land is next to the park's undersized 10-car parking lot and main entrance, and will allow the City to expand the parking lot and provide space for amenities like a restroom, picnic shelter, trails, and a nature playground.
$592,000 for Phase 2 of the SoCo Park expansion
The City of Covington will use this grant to buy 2.25 acres to expand the three-acre SoCo Park, which is next to the newly developing downtown area of the city. This expansion will provide future walking trails, picnic areas, lawns for informal play, play equipment and gathering areas.
$500,000 for Nexus Youth and Families
Nexus Youth and Families will be renovating a portion of its campus to enhance the space where their Homeless Services and Behavioral Health/Substance Use Disorder therapists deliver services. Currently, Nexus employees are operating in a space that was constructed in 1979. The upgrades provided by these funds will provide a better space that helps them serve the public more effectively.
In my first video update of the session, I provide my thoughts on what I believe we'll see this session now that the Democrats are in the majority in both chambers. I invite you to watch here:
I've introduced two bills this session, both aimed at eliminating unnecessary government regulations.
The first is House Bill 2419, which was brought to me by a local constituent who owns a microbrewery in Auburn. Under current law, brewers who set up shop at farmers markets can only sell bottled beer and offer two-ounce samples from those bottles. This is frustrating both for the seller, who is left to guess how much beer to bottle for the farmers market, and for the buyer who wants their container freshly filled.
To address this issue, House Bill 2419 would make it legal for microbreweries to fill and sell growlers, as well as bottles and cans of beer at farmers markets in Washington state. The bill would also authorize wineries to offer two-ounce samples of cider and mead at farmers markets, as well as bottles and growlers. Finally, the bill would eliminate a prohibition on microbreweries selling “strong beer” that contains more than 8 percent alcohol by weight.
The other bill I've introduced is House Bill 2420. This bill would protect property owners of on-site sewage systems (OSS) from unnecessary government regulations that limit their private property rights to maintain their private systems. Under the bill, rules adopted by the Washington State Board of Health may not permit a local health office to require a property owner to 1) replace a system that can be repaired to safe standards, 2) grant an easement to the system, or 3) obtain a service agreement in order to receive any permits related to an OSS.
This has been a challenging issue, but it's also been a pleasure meeting with constituents and staff with the Department of Health to discuss how to get it done. I also enjoyed working across the aisle with Rep. Strom Peterson to get the bill to a point that reasonably addresses the objectives each party is after. While I don't think either side is perfectly content with the bill, I think that's a sign of successful negotiation, don't you?
Last session, I co-sponsored several pieces of legislation that would have provided real relief for Washingtonians burdened by excessive taxes and fees from the passage of Sound Transit 3. Perhaps unsurprisingly, with the Democrats in the majority in the House, the bills didn't move.
What House Democrats offered instead was House Bill 2201, which would provide a small rebate to the individuals who have seen a huge increase in their car-tab fees. The bill passed the House, but died in the Republican Senate. With Democrats now in full control in each chamber, I'd expect to see us take up a vote again on HB 2201 soon.
That's a shame because it doesn't offer nearly as much relief as Senate Bill 5893, the proposal offered last year by Sen. Steve O'Ban. O'Ban's bill would not only have cut car-tab taxes in the Sound Transit taxing district by 55 percent, but it would have also tied car valuations to true market value as determined by Kelley Blue Book or the National Automobile Dealers Association.
While I will support the majority party's small cut to car-tab fees, I much prefer O'Ban's proposal.
I'll keep you updated on future ST3-related developments as the session progresses.
Please feel free to contact me any time with comments, questions or concerns. My email address is firstname.lastname@example.org and my phone number is (360) 786-7918.
It is an honor to serve you in the Legislature.