In a press conference on April 6, Governor Inslee expressed that supporting a Hirst fix is a low priority this legislative year, causing grave concern across the state -- especially in rural communities. (See video post here.) The Governor pointed to the McCleary decision, the school-funding case, as where legislators should focus their attention.
"They've got to focus on that. We can't let any other issues intrude on their ability to get the first job done, which is the McCleary decision. That's Hirst or anything else," Inslee said.
Inslee's stance has come across to rural leaders that a Hirst fix isn't important, causing alarm that the issue will remain unsolved and the future unclear for families that want to build a new home in rural towns and communities. Those that currently own property face reduced values -- in many cases, nearly worthless -- because of the uncertainty of getting approval to use a well as a source of a water. In many rural areas, wells are the sole source for a water supply because public water is not available, and has been legally used for decades prior to Hirst. The decision also impacts rural counties with limited tax bases because of decreased property values.
Without a Hirst fix this year, few options exist for rural residents and property owners, and counties are left struggling to find solutions to serve communities impacted by the decision.
So far, House Democrats have followed Inslee's lead. SB 5239, which originally passed the Senate and would "reset" the law to before the court ruling, didn't clear committee in the House. (See previous post.)
Governor Inslee and legislators are focused on funding for K-12 education, but they shouldn't forget about the importance of getting a Hirst fix passed this year. The lives of thousands of families in rural Washington and stability of communities across the state depend on it.