Legislative Legacy for 2018

Jan 18, 2018

The 60-day legislative session for 2018 began on Jan. 8. Our elected officials have been tasked to find agreement on education, transportation, taxation and our future. Their efforts will help determine how well we are able to take care of each other in the short term and how well we will do in the future.

On the environmental front, the health of our water resources is vital. Previous sessions have begun to address keeping known toxins out of Puget Sound through filtration systems of storm water. While fingers point to key industries, the greatest quantities of pollutants come from our cars, trucks, and lawn chemicals that enter our water ways through storm drains from our roads and our homes.

Another water issue pits developers against environmentalists and Native American tribes. In the last session, Republicans vowed not to vote for approval of the capital budget unless the Hirst decision was addressed. It was a pledge they upheld.

The state supreme court ruled that development planning had to consider impacts on surface and ground water. The Hirst ruling was directed at developments in Whatcom County where rural wells intended to supply homeowners was found to impact the volume of water supporting streams and rivers. Environmentalists were concerned that residential wells threatened streams and rivers by draining some of the flow of water. Developers were concerned over the loss of property rights and restrictions in development.

Citizens' Alliance for Property Rights claimed the decision lacked common sense on their website. Meanwhile Chris Wierzbicki of Futurewise said, “The supreme court’s common-sense opinion protects both fish and consumers.” This issue alone highlights the battle to balance diverse economic activities like construction and the fishing industry.

Two carbon tax proposals will be on the table this coming session. Governor Jay Inslee is again proposing his carbon tax would be used to meet the McCleary State Supreme Court decision. The State Supreme court recently decided that the additional funding provided by the legislature in the last session, was short by almost $1 billion.

The Alliance for Jobs and Clean Energy is also proposing a carbon tax, but this one would be used to support the development of clean energy and fossil fuel free transportation systems in Washington state. Collections of their tax proposal would not be spent on basic education.

Their five-point plan also calls for training and assistance to communities that are hit hardest by climate change and to make sure low-income families have access to low-cost clean energy. While the plan would aim to reduce the largest carbon polluters, some of the state's largest employers would be exempt.

The Alliance for Jobs and Clean Energy have identified what they call "Energy Intensive and Trade Exposed businesses like food producers, the paper industry, and metal manufacturers that would be exempt. The purpose for the exemptions would be to insure that jobs would not be lost to companies who could move their business out of the state or the country.

Without the support of the legislature, The Alliance for Jobs and Clean Energy will be collecting signatures for a ballot measure this fall.

A recent proposal from Gov. Jay Inslee would spend $950 million from state reserves to be repaid with his proposed carbon tax. Investments would also be made to clean energy and transportation, protecting state waters, job training, and residential energy conservation for low-income communities.

The plan would tax carbon emissions generated by transportation fuels and electrical generating units and through natural gas consumption at a rate beginning at $25 a ton. The tax would increase 3.5 percent per year along with inflation.

Stricter standards are also expected to be introduced on net pen fish farming and restricting non-native species in those pens. High tides associated with last year's August eclipse were blamed for damage to an Atlantic Salmon pen farm releasing up to 300,000 fish into Puget Sound, potentially threatening the fragile fishery of native salmon.

Bees, birds and humans would be well served to see legislation eliminate a number of pesticides. Supported by beekeepers and organic farmers, pesticides are slowly being eliminated in small areas around the country, but large-scale lack of regulation poses a threat, especially to bee colonies. The neonicotinoids class of pesticides are deadly to bees and are found in top name brands that are top sellers nationwide.

The Washington Bee Keepers Association is also asking for legislation that would reduce liabilities for urban beekeepers. The requested legislation would be similar to that already for agricultural areas. According to Tim Hiatt, legislative chair for WSBA.

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