House Democrats tip their hand on Hirst

Jul 28, 2017

With two days to go in the Legislature’s third overtime session, I thought we had a good shot at wrapping things up on a positive note.

Senate and House negotiators had verbally agreed on a final capital budget, and House Democrats had received another offer that would permanently solve the situation caused by the Hirst court case. They were going to share it with their “stakeholders” and get back to us the next morning.

The answer wasn’t just a no. House Democrats (and the governor’s office) responded by cranking up the PR machine behind the verbal agreement on the new capital budget and a rehashed proposal to delay a permanent Hirst solution.

The overtime’s final chance at approving a Hirst-capital budget combo came a day later, on the evening of July 20. House Democrats didn’t take it. Despite claiming on their website that “fighting for working families” and “building a Washington that works for everyone” are among their values, they literally fled from the Capitol rather than vote on legislation to help working families build.

While 28 Republican and Democrat senators have supported the Senate’s solution four times, the House has yet to vote on a Hirst bill. Not even the proposals to delay a proper fix.

That’s a consistent slap in the face to the families in all 39 counties who can’t build because of Hirst, the local lenders and construction workers and others involved in the homebuilding industry, and the local governments that benefit from construction activity.


According to the Everett Herald, Democrats say they want to protect existing water rights held by municipalities, farmers and tribes. Yet the Association of Washington Cities, the Washington State Association of Counties and the Washington State Farm Bureau clearly favor the Senate’s position.

In the course of rejecting every alternative extended their way, House Democrats finally showed enough of their cards to reveal the answer.

Water is required for development. But according to Senator Judy Warnick, our lead Hirst negotiator, Democrats want special interests to be able to dictate if water can be used – and thus if development may occur – in Washington.

As much as House Democrats and editorial writers might want to minimize the Hirst situation, it clearly goes beyond the ability of families to build homes in places where wells are the only available source of water. As the state association of counties put it, “the Senate would not agree to give away a state authority or obligation to another entity or sovereign government.”

Our state still needs a permanent Hirst fix and a new capital budget. Senator Warnick is still talking with one of the House Democrats. At least there’s no more mystery about who is on which side.