2012 Legislative Recap
After many months of work, the Washington State Legislature has finally adjourned. This year they were forced into "extra innings" in order to balance the state budget, a particular challenge given the fact that state revenue once again fell short of what was needed to fund existing programs. Senate Republicans joined by several Senate Democrats sought to enact a number of government "reforms" prior to any agreement on the budget. Legislation was introduced in both chambers to roll back important environmental programs that protect Puget Sound. People for Puget Sound, together with allies from other environmental groups and the Tribes, worked steadily to hold the line and prevent these bills from undermining core environmental safeguards.
No program received greater scrutiny than the proposed requirements by the Department of Ecology to regulate polluted urban runoff or "stormwater." Developers and local government lobbyists pushed six bills on this topic, each designed to derail important permits scheduled for adoption by the state this summer. Each of these bills was defeated during the course of session. Phone calls and emails from activists across the state helped turn the tide. Ultimately, during the final days of "special session," a compromise was achieved, allowing the permits to move forward and providing financial support and training for local governments and developers as the new requirements are implemented (SB 6406).
And while much of the session was devoted to "defense," we also saw a few key advances. After decades of debate, the legislature finally approved a "user fee" on developers and others regulated under the state Hydraulic Project Approval (HPA) permits. The HPA is the only state permit designed to protect critical fish habitat on Puget Sound shorelines. This fee, long opposed by the business community, will help fund permit writers and enforcement of the HPA program (SB 6406). Legislation was passed to help identify and remove "ghost nets" and other lost fishing gear that has trapped and killed fish and marine mammals throughout the Sound (SB 5661). The final state budget agreement, while making some modest reductions to natural resource programs, also contained critical funding for stormwater Low Impact Development (LID) projects and cleanups of contaminated sites in Puget Sound.
Thank you to all of those who joined us for Environmental Lobby Day or took the time to send emails and make calls to your legislators during the course of the session. We depend on your involvement to get the job done.
This years’ victories in Olympia were only possible because of our members, who support all of our work with their gifts. Please consider joining People For Puget Sound as a member today, to allow us to continue working on your behalf for a clean and healthy Puget Sound!
You can read more about the previous legislative sessions in our archive: