Today is the 54th day of the short 60-day 2010 legislative session. We have been spending long hours and late nights on the House floor debating legislation, as we will continue to do for the remainder of the session. Very soon we will be taking a critical vote on a budget that must balance a $2.7 billion budget shortfall. My wish, and the wish of so many that have contacted me this year, is to see government truly prioritize, protect essential services, and seek greater efficiency with our valuable taxpayer dollars. The proposals so far go a different direction – failing to address critical issues that would likely have us facing yet another significant budget deficit again next January. Ultimately, these proposals fail to restore faith in the Legislature's ability to manage its finances. The budget debates are far from over, and my final update next week will provide details of the budget we vote on.
I've received thousands of e-mails, phone calls, hotlines, letters and personal visits on a variety of issues. I assure you it is with your comments in mind that I consider the significant proposals coming before me in these final days.
Please visit my web page to view my most recent video update.
Small business assistance, a small but important step in the right direction…
This week, my small business assistance legislation, House Bill 2603, passed the Senate unanimously. This measure is the product of a small business conference I attended last year. The bill would provide companies that are found out of compliance with a state agency rule or regulation two business days to comply without a financial or civil penalty. There is provisions in the bill ensuring the violation in question does not endanger employees or the public, as well as language ensuring businesses are still held accountable if the rule or regulation was knowingly ignored.
Our small employers that we all frequent in our communities try to do the right thing and comply with the thousands of state agency rules and regulations. However, on occasion they may miss a new rule or regulation or simply misunderstand how to meet the codes outlined by state agencies. This is reasonable regulatory reform to help small businesses during these difficult times, and I was pleased to have such broad bipartisan support in the Legislature.
Senate Bill 6267 passed the House with a problematic amendment, significantly increasing costs to home owners, farmers, employers and others trying to access water…
The original bill, Senate Bill 6267, had been negotiated and agreed upon by the stakeholders, and would have provided full-cost reimbursement to the state in exchange for expedited water rights applications. On March 4, an amendment introduced on the House floor made drastic changes to give the Department of Ecology the ability to collect, set and raise fees at will for water rights applications. As passed, people who have been in line for years, even decades waiting for water rights, would be charged a fee to keep their place in line – and if they cannot afford to pay, they lose their place in line. This fee increase creates additional hardship for many growers struggling to remain viable in Washington, families as well as local municipalities.
The legislation focuses solely on collecting money without regard for the negative impact it is sure to have on rural areas of Washington state. Our agricultural community is a vital piece of our local economy in the 10th District and statewide, but this industry must have water to remain viable. This legislation threatens to further erode our agricultural base. I am very disappointed that 51 members of the House supported this measure, and made such drastic and controversial changes to an agreed upon piece of legislation.
District office contact information
The legislative session is scheduled to end on March 11. Assuming the session ends on time, I will be closing my Olympia office the following week and moving back to my district office in Coupeville. I do hope you will keep in touch, and have provided contact information for you below.
State Representative Norma Smith
P.O. Box 507
Coupeville, WA 98239
As always, it is an honor to serve you in the 10th Legislative District.