January 22, 2018
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Agreement reached on Hirst fix and capital budget

Two AWB priorities were realized last week when legislative leaders from all sides agreed on a fix for the state Supreme Court's 2016 Hirst ruling on rural exempt wells. With the Hirst issue resolved, House and Senate Republicans agreed to approve the state's $4.2 billion capital budget and the bonds to fund it.

Senate Bill 6091 passed 35-14 in the Senate and 66-30 in the House. It allows landowners in rural areas to drill household wells (also known as permit-exempt wells). The bill also includes $300 million over the next 15 years for projects to improve stream flows and restore watersheds, The Seattle Times reports.

The Spokesman-Review has more on the bill and its passage.

Sen. Judy Warnick, R-Moses Lake, who has long championed a fix, said: “It has been an arduous and complex negotiation. I believe that the compromise we have reached meets the criteria that I stated at the end of last year, namely that any solution must not be a burden on rural families who simply need water to build a home.”

Highlights of the bill:

  • Allows 950 gallons per day in some basins, and 3,000 gallons per day in other basins
  • Charges a $500 fee for a new exempt well
  • Declares existing exempt wells are not impacted
  • Provision to allow water use during a drought for wildfire protection
  • Allows counties to rely on the Department of Ecology rules for water resources
  • Creates a Foster Task Force and 5 pilot projects to inform the task force on impacts
  • Assumes $300 million for projects to achieve this act and enhance stream flows
  • The bill does not require metering, but it does create two pilot projects on measuring water use in two basins

The deal also included approval of a $4.2 billion capital budget that funds schools, housing, mental health beds, public works and other projects.

Gov. Jay Inslee quickly signed the Hirst fix and the capital budget bills.

The Associated Press and The News Tribune also covered the story.

Legislative action to remedy the adverse impacts of the state Supreme Court's Hirst ruling has been an AWB priority, and was a major topic of discussion at AWB's two Rural Jobs Summits last year. To learn more, contact Mike Ennis, AWB government affairs director for rural issues and infrastructure.

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Key Workforce Education

Help community colleges meet job training needs

By The Editorial Board of The (Everett) Herald

The state's 34 community and technical colleges are playing an indispensable role in educating and preparing students for further study and advanced degrees at universities but also for more immediate jobs with employers throughout the state, particularly in manufacturing and other trades.

With some 740,000 job openings in the state expected over the next five years -- and more than half of those requiring post-high school education and training -- community and technical colleges represent the best option for many of those students...

Read the full editorial in The Herald
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