Dear Friends and Neighbors,
I am always working to expand our email list to ensure constituents across the district have the opportunity to stay updated on legislative and state issues. I want to keep the citizens of the 13th Legislative District updated before, during and after the legislative session. If you have received this email without directly subscribing, you can visit my website by clicking here and sign up to receive my email updates. Please feel free to forward this legislative update to anyone you think may be interested in receiving these emails as well.
On Monday the gavel fell to start the 2018 legislative session. Each session walking into the Capitol Building is humbling. It gives me pause and provides me the opportunity to reflect on how fortunate I am to represent the folks of the 13th District and Washington state. Thank you for sending me to Olympia to represent you!
Unfinished business – Hirst and capital budget
I said it many times last session, and I will continue to say it until we pass a solution. The single most important issue we need to address is the state Supreme Court Hirst decision. It remains unresolved.
Some question why this bill is linked to the capital budget. How can we allow government entities to build their projects with funds from the capital budget while the landowner across the street can't drill a well or have water access because we can't pass a Hirst fix? That is unacceptable.
The impacts of a Building Industry Association of Washington (BIAW) study detailing the devastating impacts of what will happen without a Hirst decision are alarming. I believe it is worth listing some of the financial impacts from the study again:
- $6.9 billion lost in economic activity each year in Washington, predominantly in rural communities;
- $37 billion in lost property values in areas impacted by Hirst;
- $346 million in property taxes shifted to other properties in Washington due to the decision;
- $392.7 million in lost taxes to state and local governments, annually;
- $452.3 million in lost rural employee wages due to the impacts of Hirst, annually;
- Nearly 9,300 lost jobs (FTEs) in rural Washington, annually; and
- $4.59 billion in losses to the construction industry, annually.
You can find the full study from BIAW here.
I have a number of new bills I am introducing this session.
House Bill 2561 – The commissioner of public lands would direct the wildland fire advisory committee to review, analyze, and make recommendations on the wildfire prevention, response, and suppression activities. The committee would also evaluate the existing fire mobilization process and identify potential efficiencies or other reforms that may lead to a more effective, coordinated wildfire response.
House Bill 2562 – The legislation would allow for the formation of Rangeland Fire Protection Associations (RFPAs). Local landowners would have the opportunity to protect their own, and their neighbors' property, where no fire protection services are available. The RFPAs are voluntary, are governed by members of the community and are set up as nonprofits. Idaho and Oregon are utilizing these associations with success.
House Bill 2555 – This bill provides the director of the Department of Fish and Wildlife (DF&W) the authority to issue permits to the Wanapum Indians for freshwater food fish for ceremonial and subsistence purposes. Other tribes have this authority. It does not give them the authority to fish commercially.
House Bill 2754 – This legislation would use existing aviation-fuel-tax dollars and have them go directly to aviation infrastructure. We have seen the funding gap increase between the amount of dollars needed for aviation projects, and the actual dollars we are receiving in the transportation budget for aviation-related projects and preservation. Currently, the aviation-sales-tax dollars go directly into the general fund.
Rep. Dent and House Ag and Natural Resource Committee members during the first week of session.
I will also be working to get other bills I introduced last session through the legislative process.
House Bill 1019 – The bill would expand the definition of “mobilization” so we can have state resources and services in position before a wildfire starts. We want to be proactive and prepared, rather than reactionary and be stuck scrambling to get resources in place as the fire grows. Every second counts when fighting wildfires. We could be saving property, natural resources and most importantly – lives, if our resources are in place ahead of time. The bill has bipartisan support and was voted out of the policy committee, but did not make it out of the House Appropriations Committee.
House Bill 1839 – The proposed legislation would provide a sales and use tax exemption to eligible fire districts for the purchase of fire and emergency medical equipment necessary to prevent and suppress wildfires. Our rural counties and fire districts do not have big budgets and this would provide a cost-savings to them. The bill received a hearing in the House Finance Committee last year but was not voted out of committee.
House Bill 1399 – The bill would increase the amount DF&W can pay for damage caused to agricultural crops by deer or elk. It also expands the scope of eligible crops. The elk in our region have become a big problem. In fact, my elk pilot project legislation was passed last year with the hope we could start addressing the size of the herd. The House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee passed HB 1399 last session but it didn't get out of the House Appropriations Committee.
Rural Leaders Conference and Legislative Academy
In early January, I had the opportunity to attend the State Ag and Rural Leaders (SARL) Conference in Missouri. I had the privilege of touring the new Missouri Farmers Association (MFA) grain receiving facility in Hamilton, Missouri. It opened in August and has a storage capacity of over 2 million bushels and can load more than 430,000 bushels on a 125-car train in just over 8 hours. The facility takes corn and soy beans.
Grain elevators at the MFA facility in Missouri.
The conference included several tours in the Kansas City area including:
- the Community Veterans Project, a public-private partnership to help veterans with housing;
- the BNSF intermodal yard where thousands of cargo containers are shipped and received;
- a cold storage facility where thousands of tons of frozen chicken, pork and beef are exported daily; and
- an Amazon facility where they are testing package delivery with drones.
There were numerous presentations and breakout sessions on various topics from cannabis, water, livestock and the growing hemp market, as well as rural economic development.
Photos from the SARL conference: BNSF intermodal yard, cold storage facility and loading dock
In December, I attended the Council of State Governments (CSG) Western Legislative Academy (WLA). The academy provides training experience for Western state legislators in their first four years of service. Its objective is to help legislators become more effective and to build stronger state legislative institutions. A faculty of outstanding academics, corporate, military and public trainers work with a small class of lawmakers who come from each of our 13 Western states.
Both the SARL and the CSG-West conference were incredible experiences, time well spent, and I am grateful for the opportunity!
Rep. Dent discussing legislation on the House floor.
Keep in touch
There are a number of ways you can stay in touch during the legislative session. Below are some links and websites to follow my work, as well as the Legislature. These links are good resources to stay involved in your state government.
- Capitol Buzz: A daily electronic clip service from media outlets – newspaper, radio, television – from around the state on a variety of topics. Click here to subscribe.
- Capitol Report: My weekly three-minute radio program, or podcast, on important issues I'm working on in Olympia. Click here to listen to current and previous podcasts. You can also listen via iTunes and Google Play.
- Check out my Website: www.representativetomdent.com. From this link, you can get more information about me, the bills I've sponsored and view my news releases as well as current and past e-newsletters.
- Photos: Access my photo gallery here.
- TVW: The state's own version of C-Span, TVW broadcasts floor and committee action live. You can also watch on your computer, smartphone or tablet: www.tvw.org
- Legislature's Website: You can get bill reports, track legislation, view committee agendas and information about upcoming activities in the Legislature at: www.leg.wa.gov.
If you would like to get in touch with me with any questions, thoughts or concerns or if you are going to be in Olympia, please don't hesitate to send me an email at email@example.com or give me a call at (360) 786-7932. I look forward to hearing from you!
It is an honor to serve you.