The Olympia Outsider™ has been taking his name very literally, soaking up some serious ray-age the past few days, but back indoors Washington lawmakers have been busy girls and boys in the halls of power, amending, debating and voting on all sorts of bills.
While some fish and wildlife bills are still moving along smartly, other major pieces of legislation don’t appear to have escaped last week’s cutoff to get out of their chamber of origin.
May we have a moment of silence for:
Senate Bill 5617, the statewide nontribal gillnet phaseout. Not that it ever had a chance in the House, but on its first drift this bill netted a whopping 24 then 27 cosponsors — more votes than it even needed to get it out of the upper chamber! all but assuring passage! pack up your nets, NT comms! — but then it was pared back to just the Columbia, then three cosponsors somehow wriggled out of the webbing, and then somebody must’ve thrown some haybales into the Senate because this bill sank way out of sight before ever getting a hearing before Ways and Means.
House Bill 1824, directing WDFW to apply to NOAA for a permit to take out the maximum number of sea lions to increase salmon survival to benefit orcas. Anglers might have been ready to lock and load this bill out of the House, but while there was no opposition, WDFW signed in as “other” on this bill, because, well, it is a bit more complicated than that and I’ll just let the agency’s Nate Pamplin explain why that is starting at the 16:58-minute mark.
NOW, OLYMPIA IS A FUNNY PLACE, and not just because its name can be rearranged to Oily Map and Mayo Lip. In similarly slippery fashion, some bills that don’t meet deadlines aren’t necessarily dead-dead.
Those that can help set the state budget but didn’t hit cutoffs can still technically be “slightly alive,” in the words of my colleague Miracle Max.
Trying to sort this year’s “only mostly dead” bills, I called the Legislative Hotline in hopes they had a master list of NTIB, or necessary to implement the budget, bills, but sadly they hadn’t received anything along those lines from lawmakers yet.
Still, last week, a key source at WDFW informed me that based on what they were hearing several key bills were dead for the session, but we’re categorizing them as “mostly dead” just to be on the super-safe side.
HB 2122, the tiny tax on big-ticket recreational gear and clothing to help fund WDFW’s wildlife management. No sooner did a bipartisan coalition of urban and rural lawmakers propose the two-tenths of 1 percent tax on tents, rain jackets and certain other goods over $200 than one of those huge-ass firefighting jetliners must’ve come in real low and doused that campfire right the hell out because very little has been written about it. Still, an Audubon Washington update earlier this month lists it as a “conversation starter this legislative session.” Under it, license-holding sportsmen would be exempt because we already gladly contribute more than our fair share because we are awesome and other nature lovers could learn from our example.
HB 1662/SB 5696 would change the way WDFW compensates counties for the million or so acres it has taken off local tax rolls to match how DNR does it. During public hearings literally nobody opposed this important change to the PILT, or payment in lieu of taxes, program proposed by a number of lawmakers from parts of the state rich with state wildlife areas (and where ideally more lands are purchased from willing sellers), so it’s puzzling why it didn’t advance further. Aliens could be to blame — the Senate version was placed in the “X File” … which actually means it’s “no longer eligible for consideration,” though even then it could be plucked out of the ether should some lawmaker need it for a little leverage with another.
HB 1230, which would broaden eligibility of disabled sportsmen who could get discounted licenses. Another bill with literally no opposition but just couldn’t get out of the House. What. The. Hell?
YET DESPITE THOSE UNTIMELY DEATHS as well as the possible but not fully finally Miracle Max-confirmed deaths, other critter bills are still grazing/swimming/prowling along in Olympia, including:
HB 2097, gray wolf status review, passed House 98-0, referred to Senate ag-natural resources committee;
SB 5148, hunter pink, passed Senate 48-0-0-1 (yes-no-abstain-absent), referred to House ag-natural resources committee and scheduled for an executive session today.
HB 1061, designating the razor clam as the state clam, passed the House 98-0, scheduled for a hearing in the Senate government and tribal relations committee March 27.
HB 1187, streamlining approval of conservation districts’ fish passage improvement projects, passed House 96-0-0-2, referred to Senate ag-natural resources committee;
HB 1579, hydraulic code enforcement and Chinook habitat, passed House 59-39, scheduled for a hearing before Senate ag-natural resources committee today;
HB 1580 / SB 5577, addressing SRKW watching from boats, watered down and passed by the House 78-20, referred to Senate ag-natural resources committee and scheduled for a public hearing tomorrow;
HB 1516, training hounds for nonlethal pursuit of predators, passed House 96-0-0-2, scheduled for a hearing before Senate ag-natural resources committee today;
SB 5322, essentially bars suction and other motorized mining in critical salmon habitat, passed Senate 30-17-0-2, had hearing before House environment committee last week;
SB 5404, adds eel grass and kelp beds to streamlined reviews for fish enhancement project funding, passed Senate 48-0-0-1, scheduled for a hearing before House ag-natural resources committee tomorrow
SB 5525, gives WDFW goal to up whitetail numbers so surveys find 8 to 9 a mile, passed Senate 48-0-0-1, scheduled for a hearing before House ag-natural resources committee tomorrow;
SB 5597, creates work group to study aerial applications of pesticides on forestlands, passed Senate 47-0-0-2, scheduled for a hearing before House ag-natural resources committee on March 22.
AND THAT BRINGS US TO THE BIG BILLS still hanging out there for Washington sportsmen, WDFW’s fee increase.
HB 1708 and SB 5692 have both had a hearing in their respective chambers, but haven’t budged too far off that initial starting line, though that doesn’t matter much because they’re NTIB bills.
If passed all individual licenses would go up in cost by 15 percent (see breakout of costs here), but thanks to Fish and Wildlife Commission concerns, anglers would only end up paying a maximum of $7 more on bundled packages such as the Combo License and Fish Washington, and hunters $15 more on the “Big Four” (deer, elk, cougar, bear) plus small game.
The commission would be allowed to make small increases to license fees to account for inflation starting two years from now, and the Columbia River endorsement would be extended to 2023.
The bills are part of a $60-plus-million ask of lawmakers to help deal with shortfalls, inflation and unfunded mandates from the legislature, as well as provide better fishing and hunting ops, but only a quarter of that would be raised through the license hike, the rest through the General Fund.
Groups like Puget Sound Anglers, Inland Northwest Wildlife Council, Mule Deer Foundation, Ilwaco Charterboat Association, Conservation Northwest, Hunters Heritage Council, Trout Unlimited and others have offered strong support, but the commission’s recent backtrack on Columbia River salmon reforms saw the Northwest Sportfishing Industry Association switch from “other” to opposition.
The fee bills’ updated odds of passage weren’t immediately clear to the Olympia Outsider™, but to learn more about them, check out this WDFW brochure and stay tuned to this station — the OO is monitoring the situation, albeit from a far sunnier locale than the chambers of the state legislature.
Editor’s note: For previous coverage of this year’s legislative session from the OO, see this blog, that blog, the other blog, the other-other blog, the other-other-other blog, and the one that kicked off this whole tired, boring, sure-to-get-two-views (thanks, Mom and Dad) series.