15 Dec League’s Preview of Washington 2022 Legislative Session
By: Mike Schwisow, Government Relations Director, Columbia Basin Development League
The pace is starting to pick up on preparations for the 2022 Washington Legislative Session. House and Senate Committees held virtual work sessions the week of November 15 to hear updates on implementation of legislation passed last session and to discuss potential bills that could come before the Legislature in the Session beginning on January 10.
The Senate Administration Committee has determined that the committee hearing process will again be conducted on a virtual basis due to continued COVID infection concerns. The Senate expects to conduct in-person floor sessions with access limited to members and necessary staff who are vaccinated or regularly tested. As of the writing of this article, the House is expected to adopt a similar operating procedure. Virtual committee hearings did provide the opportunity for citizens from across the state to participate but large numbers limited the amount of time each person was given to make their arguments.
The Department of Ecology Office of Columbia River’s Odessa Ground Water Replacement Program appropriations requests are made as part of the biennial Capital Budget. DOE OCR is not planning any supplemental budget requests for the 2022 Session. During the 2021 Session an additional $21 million was made available by the Legislature to implement the OGWRP project.
The CBDL and other Ag Lobby members will also monitor potential bills related to drought relief and salmon recovery. A joint legislative task force on water supply during drought has been meeting to evaluate this past summer’s drought and what the State can be doing
to respond more rapidly. Fortunately, the Columbia Basin Project water supplies have not been impacted by drought situations like those experienced this past summer. But, abnormally dry conditions and early high temperatures did significantly impact water demand. The situation focused the need for operational flexibility in a very dynamic system serving a large landscape.
The Governor’s office is expected to roll out a new salmon recovery program before the session and a thorough review of impacts to the ag industry will be in order. As the largest diverter of water from the Columbia River, Columbia Basin Project interests pay close attention to river management proposals that may impact Project operations.
The 2022 Session is a short session, only 60 days including Saturdays and Sundays and will conclude by mid-March.