Senators welcome House Democrats’ reengagement on Hirst

Senators Judy Warnick and Jim Honeyford welcomed news that House Democrats have planned a work session Dec. 12 to discuss the Hirst water rights court decision.

“I have remained hopeful since the Legislature adjourned that we can deliver a Hirst fix for rural Washington,” said Warnick, R-Moses Lake, who sponsored Senate Bill 5239, the only Hirstrelated bill to receive a bipartisan vote during the 2017 legislative session.

“While serving as chair of the Senate’s water committee, I knew early on how important this court ruling was and the negative impact it would have on rural Washington. We needed a fix then, and need one now. If we had not kept the pressure up, this conversation wouldn’t be happening. I’m pleased the House is finally taking this seriously and look forward to seeing what the committee comes up with,” Warnick added.

This year Senate Republicans refused to move forward with final passage of a capital budget, after months of negotiations ended with House Democrats refusing to vote on any solution to address the issue of water rights and rural development in response to the state Supreme Court ruling known as the Hirst decision.

“It was clear to Senate Republicans coming into the 2017 session that fixing Hirst was a priority,” said Honeyford, R-Sunnyside and a member of the Senate Agriculture, Water, Natural Resources and Parks Committee. “Unfortunately, what also became clear is that House Democrats were more than willing to ignore what they viewed as solely a rural issue.

“Some criticized us for tying the Hirst fix to the capital budget, but we needed to get their attention, and spur them to some action,” Honeyford added. “I am pleased that our colleagues in the House have now acknowledged that addressing water rights and rural development should be a priority of the session, and I look forward to working with them to find a solution that works for all of Washington.”