In what may be the biggest attack on our property rights in my lifetime, the Legislature was unable to come to an agreement on a fix to allow rural landowners access to water via permit exempt wells. Despite a 105-day regular session and three, 30-day special sessions, many rural landowners in our state will not have access to water and will see their investments decimated and their dreams shattered. At the same time, many other property owners will see their property taxes go up as a result of the impending property tax shift.
Coming up with a solution to the state Supreme Court’s Hirst decision was a priority for Republican and rural legislators entering the 2017 legislative session. We understand the larger ramifications of denying our citizens access to water. We were so committed to finding a solution that we tied the state capital budget (construction budget) to Hirst, hoping to stress our serious commitment to this basic human right of access to clean, usable water.
In 2016, the Department of Ecology reports that there were approximately 3,500 notices of intent to drill a residential well filed with their department. Reports from King County indicate that they expect to hook-up more than 12,000 new rentals and single family homes next year. I am frustrated that groups want to single out and attack rural homeowners for drilling a well and yet our urban cities are left unscathed even though the draw water out of some of these same watersheds to subsidize their growth. I would call on the Governor to remember that while I was elected to represent the values and the needs of the 9th District, he was elected to represent the needs of the entire state, not just the interests of King County.
We took an oath to uphold the constitution and the laws of the State of Washington. it is the Legislature’s job to manage water resources. That is not something which should be given away to special interest groups. That would have been the result of what the governor was proposing in his plan.
We were ready with our solution!
Yesterday afternoon, I and my House Republican colleagues were on the House floor ready with an amendment that was agreed upon back in June. We felt we had a bipartisan compromise that would have passed both the House and Senate if House Democrat leadership would have allowed it to come up for a vote. Instead, Democrats chose to send their members home early without bringing the bill forward for a vote. A sad day for rural Washington landowners and all of Washington.
You can read more about the background of the Hirst decision and why it’s important to all of Washington residents here.