Washington State Beekeepers Association

Keeping the Bee in Business

February Legislative Update by Tim Hiatt

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The new legislative session is open and meeting virtually. I’m glad we achieved liability protection last year, this time round such bills would be considered “minor” and might not get a hearing.

So far, our main concern is Senate Bill 5253, details here. The bill represents what the legislature wanted to include as directions for action from the results of last year’s Pollinator Health Task Force, that report is here. There’s not a lot here that will improve bee research or habitat, but there’s not much that will hurt us as beekeepers, either. Mainly the proposals are things that can be done with not a lot of money (which makes sense given our state’s fiscal situation). Consensus and compromise often water down great ideas, and that’s true this time too. We had other good ideas that didn’t make the cut because we didn’t have enough votes for them to make the final list. Read the bill details above to see all the proposals.

Of interest to beekeepers the bill:
  • directs Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA) to create guidelines for landowners, growers, pesticide applicators, and beekeepers to better communicate to prevent poisoning
  • directs WSDA to report annually to the noxious weed control board about pollinator health issues and the economic and environmental effects of weed control
  • directs WSDA to survey registered beekeepers to see if the apiary program should be expanded to include apiary inspections or registration of apiary locations with a central database
  • directs WSDA to develop guidelines on allowing honey bees on state lands so that impacts to native pollinators are minimized
  • directs WSDA to update and improve pesticide users’ awareness and education of avoiding poisoning bees and other pollinators
  • require state building project landscaping to include at least 25% pollinator habitat
  • directs Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife to include pollinator-friendly techniques in restoring salmon and other waterway habitats
  • directs the Washington State Conservation Commission to include pollinator habitat as a priority for conservation grant recipients
  • directs the State Department of Revenue to include pollinator habitat as eligible for the Open Space Land reduced tax credit
  • Last, but not least, the bill would renew the task force for another three years to come up with more recommendations and advise the legislature on implementing the pollinator actions
We are still early in the process. The bill’s content could change before the end of the session, and it remains to be seen if there is enough time for it to advance. There are about 850 bills in process this session with all meetings being virtual, when last biennium there were a total of 3,773, and bills are moving more slowly this session.

As always, I’m grateful to you beekeepers who help put our issues in front of the legislature. Without you, WASBA’s legislative efforts wouldn’t go anywhere. So Thank You!