Hirst bill, capital budget stymied

No moving Republicans or Democrats

— If you’ve been following the Hirst Bill state capital budget saga, you’re probably wondering how the two are related.

They are not. But they are pitted against one another by state politicians.

House Democrats want the capital budget passed, the Senate Majority Coalition Caucus wants the “Hirst Bill” passed by the House.

The capital budget provides funding for numerous capital projects.

Both sides like the capital budget and usually pass it with ease every two years. It amounts to billions of dollars for development.

The House’s “Hirst Bill” is an attempt by the Republican-controlled caucus to overturn the state Supreme Court’s Hirst decision late last year. That decision, which came from an environmental lawsuit over wells, overturned long-standing water rights law.

It did away with exempted wells in most of the state and requires residents who want a rural life to prove there is adequate water for their domestic well while not robbing from existing wells.

Republicans say the Hirst decision drives the cost of new country homes up by $15,000-$30,000.

According to Republican State Rep. Bruce Chandler of Ganger, the Hirst ruling doesn’t hit as hard here as it does in most of the state because water rights in the Yakima River Basin have been adjudicated.

However, Chandler joins the fight because he doesn’t want any part of the state to have to live under a decision that essentially denies water to farm families.

And he sees this is as opening the door to further incursions by the state into water law.

The Senate passed a bill sponsored by Moses Lake Republican leader Judy Warnick four times. When it came time for the House to pass her bill or one of its own, Democrats held it up.

Chandler said Republicans and Warnick retaliated by holding up the capital budget.

Nothing in the Senate is voted on unless Warnick and the majority say so.

The reverse is true in the House. Nothing is brought to the floor if Democrats don’t want it.

The parties spent much of the last special session on this clash.

They finally went home, declaring an impasse. Members of the two sides met in Olympia on Wednesday and made no progress.

Until one side flinches, it appears rural land owners won’t be able to drill wells or people waiting on the capital budget will have work.


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