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The Washington State Legislature has returned to Olympia for work. The 2018 legislative session convened at noon Monday, Jan. 8. In even-numbered years, session is 60-days, including weekends and holidays. We have a full plate for a short session. To get good policy passed, we need to hit the ground running.

Political climate change 

Although the margins of control are slim, there has been a shift in the political climate in Olympia. With a one-seat differential in the senate, there is now one-party Democratic control for both the state legislative bodies and the governor’s mansion.

In order to see good bills become law, we will need to go on the offense, early. That’s why before session officially began, I prefiled quite a few of my bills. Some of the measures I’m sponsoring include tracking the environmental impacts of the marbled murrelet, using marijuana revenue to pay for indigent defense, and making it a “fireable” offense to knowingly give false testimony to the state Legislature.

With these good reforms on the front-burner, I’m ready to play defense for the bulk of the remainder of the session. I fully expect to hear some really bad policy ideas come from the majority party. Along with my House Republican colleagues, we are ready to stand against any extreme gun control measures and increases in taxes – including the governor’s new carbon tax proposal.

Perseverance, politics and working hard

We adjourned last year without an agreement on the capital budget or a comprehensive, long-term Hirst solution. As a result, many property owners have been left to suffer the adverse effects of the state Supreme Court’s water rights ruling and construction projects throughout the state have been left in limbo.

Read my recent opinion-editorial published in the Seattle Times: Rural Washington hit hardest by Hirst water ruling.

I fully expect a vote on the capital budget will happen soon. However, until we have a solution for Hirst, I believe it will fall short of the necessary supermajority. Many representatives from rural communities refuse to be shaken on this. Our people need real relief. My goal is to protect residential wells and property owner rights. We need a capital budget and a solution for Hirst.

Listen to my Jan. 10 radio interview with KXRO on the capital budget.

The second coming of the spotted owl

The increased Endangered Species Protections for the spotted owls decimated our local timber industry in the 1990s. Recently the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) increased its ongoing efforts to protect the marbled murrelet. Despite the urging of myself and other lawmakers to soften the impact to coastal communities, DNR set aside an additional 50,000 acres in buffer sites, blocks of land and other “significant” areas of marbled murrelet habitat. These protections are over and above the federal requirements.

Listen to my radio report on the fight DNR’s marbled murrelet decision

In the process of putting this complicated plan together, DNR has created a good deal of economic stress. To mitigate any potential economic hardship, Rep. Brian Blake, D-Aberdeen, and I have teamed-up to sponsor House Bill 2300.

The measure would form a task force of community and government leaders dedicated to finding ways to provide economic relief and save local jobs that rely on revenue from timber harvests. The bill had a public hearing in the House Committee on Technology and Economic Development Wednesday, Jan. 10.

Helping counties and cities pay for indigent defense

As it stands in 2018, costs associated with public defenders are one of the fastest-growing unfunded mandates for local governments. The state chipping-in to help offset those costs is not only moral and ethical; it’s really just common sense.

House Bill 2103 would give a proportion of the allocation taken from the state’s marijuana account to local governments based on the total excise tax revenues collected by licensed marijuana businesses located in the cities, counties and unincorporated areas within that county.

It should be illegal for state employees to lie to the state Legislature

I’ve also introduced a bill that would allow for disciplinary action for state employees who knowingly provide false or misleading testimony to the state Legislature. House Bill 2414 would clarify that the violation must be done knowingly. The bill has been referred to the House State Government, Elections and Information Technology Committee, where it awaits a public hearing.

Washington’s native salmon species need to be protected

The massive escape of Atlantic salmon from Cooke Aquaculture’s net pen at Cypress Island last summer was a disaster for our native Pacific species. There is no way of knowing yet the full impact of the release. What we do know is months later Atlantics are still turning up very much alive in the Skagit River, one of Washington state’s premier salmon habitats.

Native Pacific salmon need to be protected. Along with my colleague, House Republican Rep. Drew MacEwen, I’ve introduced a bill to ban Atlantic salmon farming in marine waters regulated by Washington state. House Bill 2260 is scheduled for a public hearing in the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee Thursday, Jan. 18 at 1:30 p.m.

Stay connected

Visit leg.wa.gov. This the official website for the Washington State Legislature. Learn about bills being considered by the Legislature, view committee agendas and materials, plan your trip to the Capitol, and more.

Watch TVW. You can watch committee hearings and floor action in both chambers on TV or online at tvw.org.

Visit my website. Learn about everything I’m working on, you can also read these email updates and my current press releases.

Listening, helping, leading

Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions, concerns or comments about legislation or state issues. Better yet, if you are planning a visit to Olympia, come see me. I welcome your feedback and questions. My contact information is listed below.

Thank for the privilege of serving you in Olympia!


Jim Walsh

State Representative Jim Walsh, 19th Legislative District
428 John L. O'Brien Building | P.O. Box 40600 | Olympia, WA 98504-0600
(360) 786-7806 | Toll-free: (800) 562-6000