Just reading headline stories can leave the impression that legislative bodies are nothing but gridlock and partisan squabbling. The reality, however, is that most measures that pass through a legislature are good government bipartisan bills that achieve near-unanimous support. The Washington Legislature is no exception. A prime example of this comes from the forestry world and the lone WFPA-requested bill: HB 1055.
The bill itself offers just a small bit of good government. It extends by four years a would-be expiring obligation for timber purchasers to report sales prices to the Department of Revenue. This data is then used by the state to calculate the appropriate stumpage tax rates. Without this information, the taxes would not be based on real world conditions and could become unreflective of reality.
Perhaps the true value of the bill, however, is its role of being an example of the bipartisan cooperation that too often goes overlooked and underappreciated. It is sponsored by two first-year lawmakers: Snohomish County Democrat Rep. April Berg and Lewis County Republican Rep. Peter Abbarno.
In his speech on the House floor, Rep. Abbarno noted that the renewal of bipartisan cooperation embodied in the bill was what attracted his co-sponsorship. Both lawmakers hailing from different areas of the state, backgrounds, and political parties spoke of the importance of the timber industry to their districts and the state in general. They reached out across the proverbial aisle and found common values in supporting the forest industry, working together, and pursuing good government outcomes.
This is the true value of the bill. The date extension is just what the bill does in the statutes. But what it does for the state is serve as a platform for the sort of bipartisan cooperation that mostly goes unreported in the traditional and social medias.
Both Rep. Berg and Rep. Abbarno took a chance sponsoring this bill. They took a chance on advocating for the forest industry, and they took a chance on the power of bipartisan cooperation by reaching out to another first-year legislator from a different party and working together on commonly supported outcomes. These two new state leaders are offering an antidote to negative headlines and are quietly leading by example for the good of their constituents and the state in general.
HB 1055 passed the state House of Representatives with a unanimous vote on February 5th and is expected to be heard by the state Senate at 1:30 AM on Thursday, March 11th in the Senate Agriculture, Water, Natural Resources and Parks Committee. You can view the committee meeting by clicking here.