Senate approves Hirst bill for second time

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OLYMPIA — A bipartisan bill sponsored by District 13 Sen. Judy Warnick, R-Moses Lake, was voted through the Senate for the second time on Tuesday in a 28-18 vote.

Warnick said the bill was one of the first items on the Senate’s agenda in the special session and a priority for the leadership in the Majority Coalition caucus.

“The easy part just happened, getting it through the Senate,” Warnick said. “There were votes on both sides. … Now I have to figure out how to get it through the house and past the governor.”

Warnick’s bill is designed to address a State Supreme Court decision which changed the way the Department of Ecology and county governments operate when issuing and enforcing building permits and instream flow rules. As a result of the ruling, many counties stopped relying on the Department of Ecology’s instream flow rules and some counties quit issuing new building permits.

In previous interviews, Warnick has said that the goal of her bill is to restore water policy surrounding wells to the previous standard. Her bill would allow the Department of Ecology to be the authority on water resource rules, allow local governments to rely on their rules when drafting a city plan. Warnick’s bill does not include a plan or requirement for mitigation, replacing the water used with a fee or project, which is a non-negotiable for several members of the House Agriculture and Natural Resources committee.

Committee chair Rep. Bryan Blake, D-Aberdeen, said he supports the underlying structure of Warnick’s bill and plans to have a version of it voted out of the House and back in the Senate for concurrence by the end of the month.

“I’m trying to construct a bill that has broad bipartisan support and comes out of the House that way,” Blake said. “We’ll see if that can happen. I think it’s going to have to be a bipartisan bill to get through the Senate.”

Warnick said she is working with a Democratic member of the Senate to coordinate a sit down conversation with the House and stakeholders to begin negotiations on amendments and a plan to gather bipartisan support in the house.

“I think the door is starting to open for those conversations,” Warnick said. “Most people have left today, a few of us around for some meetings. That’s what difficult about these special sessions, that we’re not here every day.”

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