After two years of remote lawmaking, Washington state legislators returned to Olympia for the first in-person session since 2020. A return to pre-pandemic normal means legislative buildings are once again open to the public and there will be more face-to-face interactions with lawmakers – albeit some adjustments in the House and Senate have been made to support the health and safety of members and staff.
For many legislators, it will be their first time working at the state’s Capitol Campus. The 105-day session will have nearly a quarter of its lawmakers having never sat in a hearing room for a committee meeting or meet with constituents in their legislative offices. That’s because 27 new legislators were sworn in on the first day of session and a similar number of new lawmakers were sworn in two years ago but served remotely during the time of COVID restrictions.
Nearly 300 bills have been pre-filed for the 2023 legislative session. Below are bills that may be of interest to working forests and private forest landowners.
HB 1013 would establish two pilot regional apprenticeship programs in rural communities. This bill aims to have the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction work with local stakeholders to provide graduation pathways and future career opportunities for students.
HB 1018 would change the expiration date for the sales and use tax exemption of hog fuel to comply with the 2045 deadline for fossil fuel-free electrical generation in Washington state and to protect jobs with health care and retirement benefits in economically distressed communities.
HB 1019 would create a pesticide advisory board to advise the state Department of Agriculture on pesticide-related actions.
HB 1032 would create a set of recommended actions for utilities to mitigate wildfire risk and would require utilities to establish and periodically update their wildfire mitigation plans.
SB 5083 aims to protect third parties from hazardous conditions arising from conservation easements and would make entities acquiring conservation easements subject to strict liability for damages.
The 2023 Legislative Session runs January 9th through April 24th. Though the Legislature has resumed in-person operations, lawmakers also will continue to offer remote participation opportunities to allow for residents and stakeholders throughout the state to participate in committee hearings virtually. For the latest legislative updates on bills and hearings, you can go to the Washington State Legislature website throughout the session.