WACD opposes HB 1910 which would require all conservation district elections to be held under the provisions of RCW 29A general election laws with election costs to be borne by the district. The consensus positions of the Joint Committee on Elections are not reflected in HB 1910. This bill removes local control of district elections.
- HB 1910 disregards the time spent by the Commission and conservation districts in the Joint Committee on Elections. The Committee met for many months and solicited input from numerous stakeholders before coming to their final recommendation. HB 1652 has the support of all 45 districts and the Washington State Conservation Commission, allowing for more local control over elections while providing critical election improvements.
- HB 1652 works to improve CD elections while considering the fiscal restraints. CDs do not have the authority to generate revenue; it is uncertain if any current funding sources for conservation districts would be eligible to be spent on such costs.
- The cost of conducting elections under Title 29A would be prohibitively expensive for conservation districts. Many conservation districts could not afford to be on the general ballot and still fulfill their statutory functions.
- HB 1910 would make CDs the only special purpose district without taxing authority required to operate their elections under Title 29A.
- HB 1910 includes an insufficient option for districts that cannot afford election costs under Title 29A to prevent their likely dissolution. As described in the bill, receiving a waiver from the Secretary of State would simply place another burden on conservation districts. The waiver assumes conservation districts can raise their own revenue and are not at the mercy of other government entities for funding essential services. The waiver does not define what would constitute burdens to conducting Title 29A elections that would be “disproportionate” to the anticipated benefits of increased voter turnout.
- Requiring all five conservation district supervisors on a local board to be elected also breaks the connection that each district has with the Washington State Conservation Commission, a body formed to provide oversight and guidance to Washington’s 45 conservation districts. Unlike all other special purpose districts, Washington’s conservation districts have a state-level agency that provides oversight and guidance as conservation districts develop programs, implement conservation actions, and operate their local district.