Dear Friends and Neighbors,
The 2018 legislative session is officially underway. This year, lawmakers will be in Olympia for 60 days and are tasked with doing supplemental work on our state budgets. This means making adjustments for unanticipated changes to an entitlement program workload or caseload, or for emergencies.
As session continues, please be sure to stay in touch with me and my office. It's important I know how you feel about issues being considered by the Legislature. Here are some ways you can stay connected and informed:
Visit my website at RepresentativeVincentBuys.com.
Listen to my radio interviews and other audio reports on SoundCloud.
Subscribe to the Capitol Buzz for weekday news clips from around the state.
Watch committee hearings, floor action, and more on TVW.
Hirst compromise bill passes
Last Thursday evening, the Legislature approved a compromise Hirst-fix that restores certainty to property owners throughout the state. I'll get into details in a moment but most importantly, here's what you need to know:
If you own land and you have a well, you can apply for a building permit today. In Whatcom County, the county should begin issuing permits again starting Wednesday.
For more than a year, property owners have been in limbo, living with the uncertainty brought by the Hirst decision. With new legislation Senate Bill 6091, now signed into law, rural families can finally begin to build their home – to achieve their American Dream.
Under the bill, existing wells are grandfathered in. New water usage limits are established — between 950 and 3,000 gallons per day depending on the Water Resource Inventory Area (WRIA) — and water needed for wildfire buffers is permitted. In Whatcom County, you can withdraw as much as 3,000 gallons per day. The bill also provides for an investment of $300 million over 15 years for projects to improve instream flows, and stream restoration and enhancement.
This bill isn't perfect. There's still more work to do. But this bill gets rural Washington building again, and that's far better than where we were a week ago.
Capital budget passes, signed into law
Passing a permanent Hirst solution broke the logjam over the capital budget.
The 2017-19 capital budget prioritizes K-12 school construction needs by investing $933 million for the School Construction Assistance Program, which provides funding for new school construction and modernization projects. An additional $35 million has been set aside for small, rural district modernization grants, as well.
Investing in our mental health institutions was also a priority. More than $136 million will go toward community- and institution-based funding, including targeted investments in behavioral health community capacity and security updates to Eastern and Western State hospitals.
There is funding for a number of projects in Whatcom County in the budget, including:
- Swift Creek natural asbestos debris cleanup,
the Washington Agricultural Education Center at the Northwest Washington Fair and Event Center in Lynden, and
the Pepin Creek Realignment.
Reducing your property taxes in 2018
Rep. Van Werven and I have launched an effort to reduce your property taxes in 2018.
The education-funding plan the Legislature passed last year calls for an increase in the statewide property tax, to a flat rate of $2.70 per $1,000 of assessed value beginning in 2018. Since local levy changes provided in the plan won't be implemented until next year, taxpayers throughout the state will see an increase in their property taxes for this year.
Under our bill, the 2018 state property tax levy for basic education will be frozen at 2017 levels – $1.89 for each $1,000 of assessed value. Then once the new funding system is fully implemented in 2019, about two-thirds of Washington property owners will see an overall reduction in the state portion of their property taxes. At the same time, our schools will see significant compensation increases.
Helping food trucks cut through the red tape
Food trucks face unique challenges unlike brick and mortar restaurants. One major impediment to these mobile food units finding success is the fact that, right now, they're required to do most of their food preparation in commissary kitchens. This is because our current health code regulations date back to the 1970s, when food trucks didn't have sanitization equipment, handwashing stations, running water or the proper refrigeration equipment to keep food at safe temperatures. Things have changed and it's time our rules and regulations changed, too.
My bill, House Bill 2639, would simply allow food trucks to prepare their food onsite so long as they meet other, necessary health requirements. It removes redundant red tape so they can continue to grow and strengthen local economies.
Thanks for reading this legislative update! If you have any questions about what you read, or want to know more, please don't hesitate to contact my office.
It's an honor serving you.