Two disaster response bills from Rep. Mike Volz, including one to facilitate the rebuilding process after a wildfire, receive hearings

Numerous wildfires damaged or destroyed properties throughout Washington in 2023. On Aug. 19, the governor declared a state of emergency throughout the state due to the wildfires.

On Tuesday, the Local Government Committee heard testimony on a bill from Rep. Mike Volzthat would give property owners more say in the reconstruction process after a wildfire. House Bill 1899 would require local governments, through June 30, 2025, to allow property owners to choose which building and energy codes are used in the reconstruction of their properties.

“The fires in Eastern Washington last summer were devastating. Not only did they put people’s lives in danger, but they forced thousands of individuals and families to evacuate their homes and leave everything behind,” said Volz, R-Spokane. “So many people lost their homes or businesses. Now they are trying to rebuild, but the current state building codes are complicating those efforts. These new codes could add tens of thousands of dollars to the reconstruction cost, which would prevent many people from being able to move forward.”

Under House Bill 1899, any building permit application for property damaged or destroyed by a wildfire during 2023, while an emergency proclamation from the governor was in effect, could be permitted and built in accordance with the state building code and energy codes that were in effect on Jan. 1, 2023.

Property owners could also choose to rebuild using the state’s current building and energy codes if they prefer.

“The new state building and energy codes are going to slow the process and add costs,” said Volz. “There is also some doubt as to whether insurance companies will cover these new charges. These code changes and insurance questions will only cause additional delays for those people who are simply trying to recover and get people back to a normal way of life.”

The policy would take effect immediately if passed and signed into law.

The State Government and Tribal Relations Committee held a public hearing on another one of Volz’s policies, House Bill 2283. This legislation would allow state employees to take shared leave when living in an area affected by an emergency or disaster. Employees would first have to use other types of leave before using shared leave.

Agency heads may permit an employee to receive shared leave in specified circumstances, including when the employee:

  • Suffers from an extraordinary or severe illness, injury, impairment, or physical or mental condition.
  • Has been called to service in the uniformed services, is a current member of the uniformed services, or a veteran and is receiving service-connected medical appointments or treatments.
  • Volunteers to assist a government agency or humanitarian relief effort in response to a state of emergency in the United States.

Covered employees would also include those employed by school districts and educational service districts.

“This bill is very simple. It doesn’t add or take away any leave, and it doesn’t cost any additional money. It just allows someone to share their leave with someone else in need,” said Volz. “This can make a huge difference to a person who is struggling with the aftermath of a disaster or emergency.”

Both bills are scheduled for a vote in their respective committees on Friday, Jan. 26.

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Washington State House Republican Communications
houserepublicans.wa.gov