Senate approves Muzzall’s bill to expand unemployment for district workers

Today, the state Senate approved legislation sponsored by state Senator Ron Muzzall, R-Oak Harbor, aimed at helping dislocated workers in the 10th District. The bipartisan measure, Senate Bill 5621, would redefine dislocated workers for the purposes of unemployment insurance for the specific purpose of helping now jobless residents when the state denied renewing a longstanding aquaculture lease in late 2022.

“Regulation is sometimes necessary. Sometimes its effects are downright cruel,” said Muzzall, the leading Republican on the Senate’s agriculture committee. “Our district has seen the unfortunate closure of an important industry because of regulatory actions by the state. The impacts on the families who work in that industry are real.”

The state has been targeting the net pen industry for closure for years, but the policy has not been without criticism, drawing legal challenges by the industry. Commissioner of Public Lands, Hilary Franz heralded an end to the practice of commercial net pen fish farming in Washington during a news conference in 2022, arguing that the practice interferes with the recovery of native fish populations.

“While there is disagreement over the value of certain types of fish farming in Washington waters, the people who work in these operations are our neighbors and deserve our help,” Muzzall added.

The legislation, which was approved unanimously, is a targeted approach aimed at helping the nearly 40 employees at Cooke Aquaculture facilities in Skagit Bay. It now heads to the House of Representatives for consideration.