LEG-COM NEWS for February 14, 2008

The 2008 Session of the Washington State Legislature convened at noon on Monday, January 14. Again this year, NWIFC will support your efforts to monitor and provide input on natural resource/environment-related bills and issues through the weekly publication of Leg-Com News. Here you will find brief articles intended to provide insight into the going’s on in the State Capitol, and all comments are welcome. Please let us know if you want to subscribe to this served, which is available to all NWIFC member tribes at no cost. Contact Suzanne Sund at (360) 438-1180, ext. 379, or at [email protected]. As always, we will greatly appreciate receiving any thoughts you might have on legislation, as well as requests for additional support on bills or any other legislative issue. For these purposes, please contact Steve Robinson at (360) 528-4347-office, (360) 951-2494-Cell or [email protected].

Note: This is a “short” 60-day Session, scheduled to end on March 14 (although there has already been significant discussion on “The Hill” about trying to wrap things up early. The first bill cutoff deadline is February 8. Between now and then you can expect hundreds of bills to be introduced, many of which should prove interesting. A copy of the Session Cutoff schedule is attached to the email version of this newsletter, and reminders of cutoffs will be provided during Session.

Once again, NWIFC will distribute Priority Bills Lists, intended to help keep tribes informed of specific bills being introduced. Note that hearings on many of these bills are already being conducted. Now is the time to contact your legislators to weigh-in on these bills. Remember that the fate of most is essentially decided before public hearings are held. See the end of this newsletter for the current Priority Bills List. As Session continues, our intent is to provide recommendations on the top priority bills, based on our analyses and on directions we receive from member tribes. If at any time there is unforeseen disagreement with any such position, please notify Steve Robinson immediately. (Thanks!)

Legislative Hot Sheets will also be issued to NWIFC member tribes each week, to help make it easier to identify hearings and work sessions key to tribal natural resource management and related issues. The Hot Sheet for this week has already been distributed to tribes.

Once again this year, NWIFC will host weekly “Fridays at 3” conference calls between tribes and the Department of Ecology. These will commence on January 25 (not this week, but next) and will continue as long as there is interest. Also, feel free to touch bases with Steve Robinson before or after that call for briefings sans DOE. If there is enough interest, additional conference calls will be scheduled as required. Note: State Representative Brian Blake, D-Aberdeen, Chairman of the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee, has requested an opportunity to “meet” with the tribes each week. Efforts are currently underway to determine the best way to achieve that.

Many tribes employ their own lobbyists, many of whom are geared toward issues other than natural resources and the environment. However, in many cases they also take an interest in natural resource-related issues. For the tribes to put their best, united, foot forward in the Legislature, it’s important to coordinate our efforts. If you haven’t already done so, please contact Steve Robinson to inform him of the name and contact information for such representatives. (Thanks!)

Attached to the email version of this newsletter, please find a link to the Olympian’s Legislative Special Section. This section includes some valuable tools, including a full roster of the members of the Legislature, a list of committees with membership, information on parking at the Legislature, a State Capitol map, etc. We hope you find this useful. We can also provide information about the passage of a bill, legislative leadership or anything else you request. A copy of “How A Bill Becomes A Law” is attached to the email version of this newsletter, fyi.

In addition to other information provided to legislators during Session, NWIFC always provides a lunch or dinner session intended to provide members of the Legislature some special background information about the tribes related to natural resource management. This year the approach is a little different. NWIFC is teaming up with Salmon Defense to present the new docu-drama “Shadow of the Salmon” in the interest of providing a primer/reminder to the state’s lawmakers about tribal perspectives on the environment. The film will show in House Hearing Room B of the John O’Brien Building, at noon on January 21 (Martin Luther King Day). All legislators, staffers and members of the Capitol Press Corps are being invited. All tribes are also encouraged to attend. Lunch will be provided.

One primary concern going into this year’s session stems from the flood damage in several Washington counties this past month. Already a few legislators have asked what’s more important—people or salmon. While there are obvious needs for relief, support and reconstruction related to the flood, there will be an ongoing need to be wary of those taking advantage of the “opportunity” to reduce protections for fish and wildlife habitat. One bill pertaining directly to such concerns is HB 2525, ” Allowing for the mitigation of flood damage without obtaining a permit.” This bill, sponsored by Rep. Kirk Pearson, R-Monroe, would among other things add a new chapter to RCW 77.55 which would exempt reparation activities in any area declared an emergency by the Governor from HPA permits. The Department of Fish and Wildlife would be permitted to “publish nonbinding best management practices related to mitigating flood damage in a manner most beneficial to fish life.”

The question we must concern ourselves with is whether such projects, e.g., dikes, dams, bridges, might go too far. Please view the bill here: HB 2525. Comments on this issue will be appreciated.

In another arena is SB 5938, “Providing a unified means for handling both Indian and non-Indian graves and cemeteries,” will apparently be heard on January 22 (watch for next week’s Legislative Hot Sheet for final confirmation of time and location). Some tribes are gearing up to testify on this important legislation already. More details to follow. (This bill really only gives requirements for reporting but that’s more than currently exists.)