March 24, 2017
The Puget Sound Partnership's Legislative Update highlights issues related to our region's work to protect and recover Puget Sound.
- Policy Committee Cutoff: Friday, February 17
- Fiscal Committee Cutoff: Friday, February 24
- House of Origin Cutoff: Wednesday, March 8
- Policy Committee Cutoff, Opposite House: Wednesday, March
- Fiscal Committee Cutoff, Opposite House: Tuesday, April 4
- Opposite House Cutoff: Wednesday, April 12
- Last day of regular session: Sunday, April 23
If you have questions or concerns about the legislative
priorities for the Puget Sound Partnership, please contact: Jeff Parsons,
Legislative Policy Director, 360.999.3803
Rep. Dick Muri (R-Distr.
28) introduced the Partnership's agency request bill HB 1121 at
the beginning of this session. The bill reduces the frequency of Action Agenda
and Science Work Plan updates from once every two years to once every four
years. With a vote of 75-22, the House passed a slightly modified substitute
version of the bill on February 13. Sen. Shelly Short (R-Distr. 7) has helped us shepherd the bill through the Senate. On March 9, the bill received a public
hearing in the Committee on Energy, Environment & Telecommunications, progressed
immediately to executive session, and by unanimous vote passed to the Senate
Rules Committee, where it awaits scheduling for action on the Senate floor.
Budget committees in both houses of the
Legislature are developing their own versions of operating and capital budgets.
A key piece of information for budget development arrived on March 16 when the
State Revenue Forecast was released. The revenue forecast for the state General Fund increased by $247
million for the 2015-17 biennium and by $303 million for the 2017-19 biennium. Although
this doesn’t solve all of the state’s revenue problems or meet the demands of
the McCleary decision, it does improve the situation marginally.
The Senate Operating Budget proposal,
released March 21, eliminates $907,000 included in the Governor’s Operating Budget (SB 5048/HB 1067) that would have
funded the following critical staff positions at the Partnership:
Planning Manager position and contract support to facilitate Action Agenda
- Salmon Recovery Manager position
- Puget Sound Ecosystem Monitoring Program (PSEMP)
Senate budget cuts an additional $458,000 from the Partnership’s current budget
level—a 3 percent decrease from current levels, which would only exacerbate the difficulties caused
by proposed cuts of federal funding for Puget Sound recovery.
House Operating Budget and the Senate Capital Budget are expected early next
The Governor’s Capital Budget (SB 5086/HB 1075)
includes the following funding priorities supported by the Partnership:
million for the Puget Sound Acquisition and Restoration program
million for the Estuary and Salmon Restoration Program
million for the Floodplains by Design program
million for the Salmon Recovery Funding Board grant program, including $30
million in state funds and $50 million in expenditure authority for federal
funding not yet appropriated by Congress
million for the Fish Passage Barrier Removal Board (the Governor’s
Transportation Budget includes $97 million for removal of fish passage barriers)
million for the Stormwater Financial Assistance Program, including $30.1
million to restore 2016 budget cuts and $19.9 million in new funding. The
Governor’s Capital Budget also allocates $38.9 million for delayed projects.
Governor’s Revenue Package
following bills have been introduced as the major components of the Governor’s
revenue package needed to support his budget requests. None have passed either house
so far, but all such budget-related bills are exempt from the Legislature’s
HB 1550/SB 5113: Business & occupation tax/education
HB 1555/SB 5127: Carbon pollution tax
HB 1730/SB 5111: Capital gains tax
of the many problems facing budget writers this year is the school funding
challenge. In recent elections, local school districts passed school
construction levies that require $365 million more matching money from the
state than is usual. This reduces the amount
of money available for all other types of capital projects, like salmon habitat
restoration and protection projects.
free up more bond capacity for other construction-related capital projects, Rep.
Drew McEwan (R-Distr 24) sponsored SHB 1694 in the
House. The bill would authorize $250 million in special revenue bonds backed by
lottery revenues to address public school construction, and it would transfer $290
million from the Budget Stabilization Account to offset the impacts of the
special revenue bonds on the operating budget and to bolster school
Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) is seeking legislative reauthorization
to collect fees to cover the cost of processing of Hydraulic Project Approval
(HPA) permits. The bill also eliminated an HPA permit exemption for single-family
residences. The exemption currently allows construction of shoreline bulkheads
that harm nearshore habitat without a permit.
A person must obtain a Hydraulic Project Approval (HPA)
prior to commencing any construction project that will use, divert, obstruct,
or change the natural flow or bed of any of the salt or fresh waters of the
state. Hydraulic Project Approvals are issued by the Washington Department of
Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) to ensure the proper protection of fish life. To
receive an HPA, the applicant must provide certain information to the WDFW.
This information includes general plans for the overall project and complete
plans for the proper protection of fish life.
HB 1428 passed the House Agriculture
& Natural Resources Committee, but the committee changed the bill to reinstate
the single-family HPA permit exemption. The revised bill now awaits action in
the House Appropriations Committee. The Senate companion bill, SB 5466, has not
progressed out of the Senate Natural Resources & Parks Committee. Because
of its budget implications, this legislation is exempt from the cutoff
Another bill, SB 5228, as introduced, would have limited
the WDFW’s HPA jurisdiction to projects at or below the normal high water mark.
We expressed concern that this could exempt from review some high-impact projects like bulkheads and levees.
A substitute version of this bill – SSB 5228 – creates a joint legislative task force to review issues relating
to HPA jurisdiction, including current law, current and historical practices by WDFW, and alternative approaches. The bill stipulates that the task force must
consist of four members, one from each caucus of the Senate and House of
Representatives, as well as the Director of WDFW or a designee. The legislative
members must appoint additional members who represent stakeholders, including
business, local government, agricultural, and conservation interests. The members
must also request representation from interested tribes. The task force must
summarize its work and provide any recommendations to the Legislature by
October 1, 2017.
5228 passed the Senate and received a public
hearing in the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee on March 21.
series of court decisions over the past 20 years have reduced the flexibility
of state and local governments to balance competing needs of water users in
Washington State. Most recently, in the 2016 Hirst decision (Hirst, Futurewise,
et al v. Whatcom County), the State Supreme Court ruled that the county had
failed to comply with the requirements of the Growth Management Act to protect
water resources and must make an independent determination of water
availability that ensures new permit-exempt uses of water won’t impair instream
flows. Because they lack the capacity to make these kinds of independent
determinations, several counties have instituted moratoria on new building
permits for properties otherwise dependent on a permit-exempt well for their
number of bills have been introduced this session to address the impacts of the
Hirst decision and other related court decisions. Some of these bills would
reduce protections for instream flows, thereby adversely affecting fish
populations. Others attempt to achieve a balance among competing water users.
The Legislature is considering the following water resources bills. All are “works
in progress,” and all have elements of concern to the Department of Ecology,
which is responsible for managing the state’s water resources, including setting
minimum levels for instream flow.
HB 1885 clarifies the roles of state and local governments in
regulating and mitigating water resources. The bill passed out of the House
Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee and is now in the House
HB 1918 addresses treatment of groundwater under state water
codes to support rural development while protecting instream flows. The bill
passed out of the House Agriculture & Natural Resources Committee and is
now in the House Appropriations Committee.
SB 5010 promotes water conservation by protecting certain water
rights from relinquishment. This bill passed the Senate on a vote of 27 to 22
and is now in the House Agriculture & Natural Resources Committee.
E2SSB 5239 ensures that water is available to support development.
This bill passed the Senate on a vote of 28 to 21 and is now in the House
Agriculture & Natural Resources Committee.
Department of Ecology has requested passage of legislation to increase the
so-called barrel tax, a tax on petroleum products that funds the agency’s Spill
House version of this legislation, HB
1210, passed out of the House Finance Committee and awaits action in the
House Rules Committee. The Senate companion to this bill, SB 5425, failed to move out of the Senate Energy, Environment &
other bills are intended to strengthen the state’s ability to prevent oil
spills in the marine environment:
SHB 1611 includes the barrel tax increase as proposed in HB 1210
and SB 5425. The bill passed out of the House Environment Committee and is
scheduled for executive action in the House Finance Committee on March 24.
SB 5462 received a public hearing in the Senate Energy, Environment
& Telecommunications Committee, but remains in that committee.
The state Model Toxics Control Act (MTCA), carried out by
the Department of Ecology (Ecology), aims to ensure cleanup of sites where
hazardous substances have been released. The purpose of MTCA is to raise
sufficient funds to clean up all hazardous waste sites and to prevent the
creation of future hazards due to improper disposal of toxic wastes into the
state's land and waters.
Last year, due to declining revenue from MTCA, the Legislature cut more
than $30 million from previous appropriations to the Stormwater Financial
Assistance Program and other stormwater programs. The Public Participation
Grants Program was also defunded.
To restore these funds, the Department of Ecology has requested passage of HB 1663/SB 5501, which would place a
surcharge on the Hazardous Substance Tax. The surcharge would stabilize funding
for high-priority stormwater pollution prevention projects, as well as for
important hazardous waste cleanups and other pollution prevention programs.
House Finance Committee passed HB 1663, which
is now with the House Rules Committee; SB 5501 failed to move out of the Senate
Energy, Environment & Telecommunications Committee.
MTCA is funded by a 0.7 percent tax on the wholesale value
of hazardous substances, cost recovery from remedial actions, mixed waste fees,
and to a lesser extent fines, penalties, and other charges. Under MTCA, Ecology
is directed to investigate, conduct remedial actions, enforce actions to
protect human health, and provide technical and administrative assistance.
SSB 5170 exempts a
person conducting independent remedial actions from certain procedural and
permitting requirements. Ecology is not required to ensure that the substantive
permit requirements are met for independent remedial actions. Ecology opposed the
original bill because neither Ecology nor other state and local permitting
agencies could ensure appropriate regulatory oversight, public involvement, and
bill passed the Senate on a vote of 25 to 24 and is now with the House
Environment Committee, where it had a public hearing on March 20. It is
scheduled for executive session March 27.
ESB 5212 concerns the scope of land use control ordinances for purposes of vesting. Vested
rights in the context of land use law refers to the legal rights of an owner to
use their property in accordance with the laws and regulations in effect on a
The bill amends the state’s building permit vesting statute to stipulate
that a building permit must be considered under the environmental and
development regulations, as well as the building and zoning or other land use
control ordinances, in effect on the date of application. The same
applies to applications for preliminary plat approval of a subdivision or short
plat approval of the short subdivision.
The bill also amends the state’s subdivision vesting statute to
add that a proposed division of land shall be considered under the
environmental and development regulations, as well as the subdivision or short
subdivision and zoning or other land use control ordinances, in effect on the
land at the time a fully completed application for preliminary plat approval of
the subdivision, or short plat approval of the short subdivision, has been
submitted to the appropriate official, without respect to whether the
regulation or ordinance was enacted for the purpose of complying with state
The bill passed the Senate on a vote of 25 to 24 and is now with
the House Judiciary Committee, where it received a public hearing on March 15.
According to Bruce Wishart, testifying in opposition to the bill
on behalf of the Puget Soundkeeper Alliance, this bill is “designed to overturn
a recent Supreme Court decision, which made clear that vesting laws do not
apply to a federal Clean Water Act permit. [The Puget Soundkeeper Alliance]
spent about eight years working with many of the stakeholders before the
permits at issue were adopted.”
testified at a public hearing on this bill in the House Judiciary Committee,
expressing concern about the potential for this bill to reduce the state’s
ability to prevent pollution from stormwater, which contributes
75 percent of the pollution entering Puget Sound.
years ago, the Partnership supported a Department of Health agency-request bill
that would have established a fee to be paid by owners of onsite sewage systems
(OSS). The money would have paid for OSS management programs at county public
health departments. These programs were to provide inspections of onsite sewage
systems and identify those that needed repair or replacement. The fee was
eliminated from the bill and the bill failed to pass. This year several bills
addressing onsite sewage system management are moving through the Legislature:
ESHB 1503 specifies that the Growth Management Act (GMA) does not
preclude counties from authorizing OSS self-inspections by homeowners, their
tenants, or their family members upon completion of county certification
requirements. The authority of counties to authorize OSS self-inspections does
not eliminate the requirement that counties protect water quality consistent
with the obligations imposed by the land use and rural elements of the GMA. The
bill passed the House on a vote of 91 to 6 and received a public hearing in the
Senate Local Government Committee on March 21.
SHB 1683 stipulates
that counties, cities, and utilities that have adopted a capital facility plan
or utilities element to provide sewer service within an Urban Growth Area (UGA)
during a 20-year planning period are not obligated to install sanitary sewer
systems to certain properties within the UGA before the end of the planning
period. The properties within a UGA that are not required to be served by
sanitary sewer systems must meet either of the following criteria:
- Have no redevelopment capacity
and have an existing, functioning, non-polluting OSS that receives periodic
inspection by a public agency to verify proper functioning
- Not require sewer service as a
result of development density limitations due to wetlands, floodplains,
habitats, or geological hazards.
bill passed the House on a vote of 97 to 0 and received a public hearing in the Senate Local Government Committee on March 16.
EHB 1476 requires
that local health jurisdictions (LHJs) in the 12 counties bordering Puget Sound update OSS program management
plans developed in 2007 and continue to submit updates to the Department of
Health for approval at least once every five years. Among other things, the
LHJs must track the failure rate of septic designs and technologies, take steps
to identify previously unknown OSS and to inspect known OSS, and incorporate
elements to prevent injury or death caused by unsafe OSS.
The bill passed the House on a vote of 72 to 25 and received a
public hearing in the Senate Local Government Committee on March 21.
ESSB 5281 stipulates
that rules adopted by the State Board of Health for small onsite seweage
systems must not require the following:
- A use permit that is
conditioned with a requirement for a monitoring contract between a private
company and an individual
- Dedicated easements for the
inspection, maintenance, or potential future expansion of a system
- Replacement of an existing
system if a repair returns the system to its previously permitted or original
Local jurisdictions, officers, and employees who enforce rules
adopted by the Board must comply with the same rule limitations.
The Washington State Department of Health expressed concerns
about this bill. It may reduce local health officers' abilities to ensure onsite
sewage systems are appropriately operated and maintained. Limiting oversight
could lead to reduced water quality, especially by removing the ability of
local health officers to require replacement of systems that, even if repaired
to original functioning condition, may not adequately protect groundwater from
contamination. Onsite sewage technology has advanced in recent years, and the
bill could allow an older systems to be repaired to an outdated, inadequate
bill passed the Senate on a vote of 29 to 20 and is now with the House
Environment Committee, where it received a public hearing on March 21.
The Senate Energy,
Environment & Telecommunications Committee conducted a public hearing on a
proposed striking amendment to HB 1001, concerning utility easements on state-owned aquatic lands. The original
bill passed the House unanimously and did not negatively affect Puget Sound
recovery and protection. However, the proposed striking amendment would have weakened aquatic reserves as a tool for Puget Sound recovery. As proposed, the amendment requires specific legislative approval before the Department of
may designate, establish, or enlarge an aquatic reserve. It also directs the Commissioner of Public
Lands to rescind a January 3, 2017, action expanding the Cherry Point Aquatic Reserve.
Aquatic Reserves are an important tool for Puget Sound recovery and
protection. They prevent incompatible uses of important state-owned aquatic
habitat, such as the critical salmon habitat of the Nisqually Reach, Puget
Sound’s largest kelp bed, now protected as part of the Smith and Minor Islands
Aquatic Reserve, and the nearshore habitat of the Cherry Point Aquatic Reserve,
once home to Puget Sound’s largest herring population. That population has declined
by more than 90 percent since the earliest sampling date in 1973.
Fortunately,the Senate Energy, Environment &
Telecommunications Committee moved the original bill out of committee without the striking amendment.