Bills dealing with the termination of DNR leases and wineries aim at solving local problems
On Monday, the first day set aside solely for voting in the Senate chamber this year, the Senate approved two measures from Sen. Sharon Brown aimed at addressing statewide problems brought to the senator by Tri-Cities residents.
One would provide certainty to ranchers, farmers and others who lease lands from the state Department of Natural Resources.
“The land our farmers and ranchers lease from DNR is critical to their ability to operate. So when DNR terminated the leases of some local wheat farmers early, and with little notice, it left many feeling distraught and caught off guard,” explained Brown, R-Kennewick. “We must take steps to make sure that members of our agricultural community are not investing in expensive leases only to have them ripped away at the last minute.”
Substitute Senate Bill 5051, which passed unanimously, would require DNR to provide at least 180 days’ written notice and include documentation regarding the termination in any early-termination provision included in an agricultural or grazing state-land lease. It also makes it clear that “early termination” provisions are not required to be included in DNR leases.
By a vote of 48 to 1, the Senate also passed Substitute Senate Bill 5560 – Brown’s bill to create a special permit to sell wine through an auction and allow wine tastings at the auction.
“Currently the state Liquor and Cannabis Board must cobble together all the permits that are required for each winery participating in a charitable wine auction,” said Brown. “This requires hours of work on the part of the LCB. My bill would streamline the process, so the permits can be completed in several days instead of several months.”
Under the bill, the LCB would be authorized to issue a special permit allowing a nonprofit organization to sell wine through a private auction. The permit holder could conduct wine tastings at the auction, as long as the wine offered for tasting is the same as that being auctioned.
Josh McDonald, executive director of the Washington Wine Institute, supports the measure, which he says would provide a vital tool for charities in the Tri-Cities and across the state.
“Without this special permit, charity auctions have to go to each winery and have them individually apply for a permit – a process that can take many months. Under Senator Brown’s bill, the charity would hold the permit, and be able to complete it quickly. It’s an excellent way to streamline the process from the small business side and the LCB side. It’s a true win-win.
“In addition the money goes to great causes. Three million dollars last year alone went to the Seattle Children’s Hospital. [Wine auctions] also provided a lot of money for the WSU Viticulture and Enology program in Richland, which is helping to train our next generation of grape growers and wine makers,” McDonald added.
“This is a wonderful bill, and we are glad that Senator Brown has been a champion for it.”
Both bills now move to the House of Representatives for its consideration.