Photo by Stephen Colebourne/flickr

Olympia

Session Ends With Hirst Unresolved, Capital Budget Not Passed

The governor says he is willing to convene yet another special session if an agreement can be reached.

Lawmakers ended the longest legislative session in state history Thursday without resolving a water rights dispute or passing a capital budget to fund school construction, affordable housing, and a slew of community projects throughout Washington.

Most legislators departed the Capitol by dinnertime and leaders formally adjourned before 8 p.m., concluding a marathon that lasted 105 days of regular session and three month-long extra sessions.

Along the way, lawmakers barely averted a partial government shutdown, enacted a huge increase in the state property tax to fund schools, and approved one of the nation’s most generous paid leave programs and one of its toughest distracted driving laws.

But their inability to settle on a response to the Hirst decision from the state Supreme Court last fall leaves thousands of rural property owners wondering if they’ll be able to build a home and drill a well.

That ruling said counties must determine whether there’s enough water available for a new well. Each county must come up with its own system for predicting the impact on water flowing to nearby streams or available to existing wells.

Leaders of the Republican-led Senate and Democrat-controlled House declared an impasse in negotiations on possible fixes Wednesday. There were no breakthroughs Thursday though Democrats pushed a last-ditch plan for a 24-month delay in rules that Republicans rejected as inadequate.

As a result, a proposed $4.2 billion capital construction budget would not be acted on because all along Senate Republicans have refused to vote on this spending until there was an agreement on Hirst.

“This was the only way we could really address this issue,” Sen. Kirk Pearson, R-Monroe, said of the linkage. “This problem was created by the state Supreme Court when it pulled the rug out from under thousands of people in our state who now may not be able to develop their property.”

Rep. John Koster, R-Arlington, said the problem demanded a permanent solution not a temporary one.

“It’s frustrating but this is a forever decision,” he said. “It has to be done properly. No fix is better than a bad fix.”

Rep. John Lovick, D-Mill Creek, was discouraged by the outcome.

“I’m disappointed in the Senate Republicans for holding up all these construction projects over the Hirst decision,” he said.

Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee said the “Republican intransigence” leaves a “sour note” at the end of a year filled with bipartisan achievements. He cited accomplishments such as boosting public school funding, improving mental health treatment services, expanding early education opportunities and launching a paid family leave program.

“The Legislature got a lot done this year,” he said at a Thursday evening news conference. “But they did not add to those successes tonight, unfortunately.

“This ‘my way or the highway’ attitude did prevent the construction of schools … it prevented the construction of colleges that everyone agreed to and it prevented people from being able to drill wells for the next two years,” he said.

Lawmakers said they’ll keep talking about Hirst. Inslee said he’ll call them back for another special session if they come up with an accord that ensures passage of the capital budget.

jcornfield@heraldnet.com

A version of this story was originally published in the Everett Herald.

More in News & Comment

Bellevue Votes to Permanently Ban Safe-Drug Sites

Leaders say the sites make “no sense” for their city.

What Jenny Durkan’s Time as U.S. Attorney Says About Her As a Candidate

She made some progressive reforms. But she also leaned on activists and declined to prosecute anyone involved in the WaMu collapse.

Beds at Recovery Place, a new substance abuse and mental health treatment facility in Seattle. Photo by Sara Bernard
In Effort to Tackle Opioid Epidemic, New Facility Will Host Detox and Mental Health Services in One

The facility is designed to address drug addiction and the root causes of homelessness.

Sebastian Burns, left, and Atif Rafay, right, when they were arrested at age 19. Contributed mug shots
‘The Confession Tapes’ Re-Opens the Triple-Murder Case of Sebastian Burns and Atif Rafay

King County prosecutor Dan Satterberg says the show is bunk. The creators disagree.

Flickr/Chris Sampson
Union: Airline Caterer Kept Paying Sub-Minimum Wages After It Was Hit With $300K Fine

And because of a new settlement, the city is unlikely to go after wages the workers say they are entitled to.

Nikkita Oliver at a campaign’s-end press conference at Washington Hall on August 15. Photo by Sara Bernard
Nikkita Oliver Will Moderate a Mayoral Debate On Oct. 29

Oliver announced plans to hold a debate during her concession speech in August.

Superintendent of Public Instruction Chris Reykdal
What to Look For Next Week When the State Supreme Court Hears the Latest McCleary Case

As each side argues over school funding, the schools chief pushes for more special education money.

Most Read