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Capital budget floor action planned for this week, Hirst negotiations threaten to slow it down

With the passing of Hirst related bill SSB 6091 out of committee, and planned floor action on the capital budget scheduled for either Wednesday or Thursday of this week, negotiations on a Hirst fix have kicked into high gear.

Last night, legislators from all four caucuses were up until 1:30AM debating the finer points of the compromise bill which puts forth short-term regulations on new household wells. While they say progress was made, additional meetings are planned for this afternoon and potentially into the days ahead. The bill, originally introduced on the first day of the 2018 session, faced broad opposition and underwent significant changes before passing unanimously out of committee.

Hirst and the capital budget remain bound together with Hirst causing the lag in floor action. While Speaker of the House Frank Chopp disagrees with the idea of these two issues being tied together, Republicans have stated they plan to keep them united.

“We do not believe there should be a tie between the capital budget and the water bill. That’s their decision and we think it’s wrong,” said Chopp on Tuesday. “There is actually 5 corner agreement on the capital budget. We’ve already agreed to the projects, the priorities… so that should go forward.”

The House had originally planned on running the capital budget and bond bills last week, but House Majority Leader Pat Sullivan granted a courtesy delay at the request of House Republican Leader Dan Kristiansen. Rep. Sullivan says floor action on the budget will take place either Wednesday or Thursday of this week, however Rep. Kristiansen says he plans to request another delay should Hirst negotiations need to continue.

The passage of SSB 6091 out of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Water, Natural Resources, & Parks is seen as a sign of compromise and action on Hirst, however, it may not be the promising leap forward that many are hoping for. Rather, Rep. Kristiansen implies the bill is simply more of a jumping off point rather than a bill that is close to being finalized.

“An agreement that takes place in a Senate committee is very different than an agreement that is a four corners agreement and also something that the Governor is going to sign,” says Rep. Kristiansen. “While they may have had an agreement in the Senate committee to get the bill moving forward, I think most of us agree that there’s still work that needs to be done to it.”

Rep. Sullivan has not commented on if he would be willing to further delay floor action on the capital budget should Rep. Kristiansen request it.