Wilson revives freight rail jobs bill, Senate passes compromise

After the governor vetoed a critical freight rail jobs bill from the House, he found a capable negotiator in Sen. Lynda Wilson to revive it. The vetoed bill was a companion measure to Wilson’s Senate Bill 5517, which passed in the Senate Tuesday with the compromises negotiated with the governor’s office.

Because of the importance of cattle herding on the land affected by the bill, the governor now refers to the legislation as the “Rowdy Yates Bill” after the classic western Rawhide character played by Clint Eastwood. The bill is projected to allow for hundreds and potentially thousands of new jobs.

“It was a big setback to have this strongly-supported legislation vetoed, but we didn’t give up hope that we could make it work this year,” said Wilson, R-Vancouver. “After the governor’s office reached out to me looking for someone to work with, we were able to identify a solution that could put us across the finish line this time. It’s a rare opportunity to get a second shot at passing a bill after it’s been vetoed and I’m relieved that it’s still alive.”

“I’m honored that the governor recognized my ability to fight for Clark County jobs in an effective way,” Wilson added.

Senate Bill 5517 would allow for certain lands adjacent to railroads to be developed for freight rail dependent uses. This includes buildings and other infrastructure that are used in the fabrication, processing, storage, and transport of goods, which makes use of an adjacent short line railroad. Coal, crude oil and liquefied natural gas uses are excluded.

The vetoed House bill, HB 1504, allowed this development in multiple counties across Washington. The compromise version limits the development to Clark County, but Wilson hopes success in Clark will prove it can work in other counties.

“We hope this can be the first step in bringing good jobs to more rural counties across the state,” said Wilson. “This is a unique opportunity for Clark County to capitalize on our existing freight rail infrastructure and show how it can be done in other parts of the state. We still have to keep pushing to finish the job, but this is a huge deal to keep this opportunity alive for Clark County.”

Currently, only 78 acres are zoned for freight rail use in Clark County and developers have approached local leadership with needs for hundreds more acres, projected to create thousands more jobs.