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WashingtonVotes NEWS: Monday, July 24, 2017.
Record-long legislative session ends. Lawmakers adjourn without passing water-access bill or capital budget.

It all ended last Thursday evening. With just a few members present, the state legislature adjourned after a record-breaking 193 days in session. Lawmakers left Olympia throughout the day as it became clear negotiations on a water-rights bill to fix the devastating effects of last October’s state Supreme Court’s Hirst decision had broken down. The ruling effectively limited new domestic water wells, leaving property owners in many rural areas without access to water and unable build homes on their property.

Lawmakers proposed several bills in response to the ruling, including a recent offer by House Democrats (HB 2248) to allow property owners to obtain water-access permits for two years, while a legislative task force works on a permanent solution. House and Senate Republicans, however, said people need a permanent fix now. They want the House to vote on SB 5239, to reduce the harm imposed by the Hirst decision. The bill passed the Senate four times this year, but House Democrats have refused to allow a vote on it in the House.

Without an agreement on a water-rights bill, Senate Republicans have held up the two-year, $4 billion capital construction budget. Sen. Jim Honeyford (R-Grandview), head of the Capital Budget Committee, explained that the court decision has stopped construction in rural areas and it is crucial to resolve the problem. He said Republicans held back the capital budget because “this was our leverage point, and that’s why we’re using it.”

The Democratic controlled House approved a $4.2 billion capital budget (HB 1075) on June 30th with a bi-partisan vote of 92-1, but the Senate adjourned without taking action on it. This means that no new money for school construction, sewer projects, mental health facilities and other projects across the state is available, and that some state workers who are now paid by existing agency funds might ultimately face layoffs.

Republicans say they want to pass a capital budget, but that the water-access problem must be solved this year. House Republican Leader Rep. Dan Kristiansen (R-Snohomish) said: “We’re disappointed that Hirst negotiations ended at an impasse. In the end, the House Democrats failed to bring any Hirst-related bill to the floor for a vote. If they would have allowed a vote on the bipartisan striking amendment offered on June 30, it would have passed both chambers of the Legislature. We are now left with no Hirst solution and, as a result, no capital budget. This is unfortunate.”

He added that “like we have since this flawed court decision was released, House Republicans will remain at the table and continue to put forth comprehensive, long-term solutions to this problem. We hope negotiations will continue.”

Governor Inslee said he would not call lawmakers back for another special session unless they have a firm plan that will lead to a vote on the capital budget. Visit washingtonvotes.org to see how legislators voted on the issues this session and follow us on

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2017-2018

Bills Introduced
2237
Amendments Introduced
1341
New Laws Passed
0366