Regional News

Gov. Inslee vetoes Rep. Short's bill to help rural development


Apr 14, 2016

Governor Jay Inslee has vetoed legislation sponsored by Rep. Shelly Short, R-Addy, that would have helped rural development in the 7th Legislative District.

"I'm very disappointed the governor didn't sign this legislation.  This is another example of Olympia saying they know what's best for us," said Short, R-Addy. "The governor is saying he trusts state agencies more than locally-elected officials who know the issues and problems we face here in rural Washington."

Short's bill, House Bill 2061, would have created a pilot project to allow certain rural counties to approve small-scale water systems, known as Group B water systems, based on the water delivered instead of the raw water source.  The pilot project required reporting water quality information to the Legislature in 2019 and would have expired in 2021 unless renewed by subsequent legislation.

Several years ago, the state Department of Health decided to no longer regulate Group B water systems, instead allowing local jurisdictions to approve these water systems.  However, the rules put in place by the department required more stringent standards than previously required.  Short said the problem came about because the options available to local officials simply don't work.

"If the Department of Health would have worked with our local officials we wouldn't be having this problem," said Short.  "We worked diligently with our local folks to come up with a hybrid solution that was a good balance between keeping the quality of our drinking water safe and helping rural development.  Unfortunately, the department's attitude of 'our way or the highway' didn't help anybody.  And the governor has decided to support unelected bureaucrats in Olympia rather than trust local officials who know what's best for their region and their citizens."

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Short's bill faced intense scrutiny in the Legislature with several public hearings in multiple committees and many conversations with legislators on both sides of the aisle.  In the end, it gained bipartisan support in both the House and Senate with many Democrats and most Republicans voting in favor of the bill.

"Frankly I don't think the department thought we had a chance to pass this bill," said Short.  "But we worked with several members in both chambers to educate them on the unique situations we face with rural development and small water systems.  I think the department's play all along was to simply appeal to the governor to kill it.

"But we'll be back.  This isn't the end of the issue," said Short.  "We'll continue to work for solutions to help rural development that also keeps our water clean and safe.  I'm hopeful the department will realize that just saying 'no' doesn't serve anybody."


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