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As first special session ends, city priority issues linger

Olympia, WA – As legislators closed the 30-day special session, many city priority issues remained unresolved.

The Association of Washington Cities (AWC) is an Olympia-based organization that advocates on behalf of Washington’s 281 cities and towns. The association announced today that many of its legislative priorities are still in flux.

“We appreciate the fact that, so far, the things cities care about are still under consideration,” said Francis Benjamin, AWC President and City of Pullman Councilmember. “However, we’re concerned that our issues could be overlooked as legislators work to overcome their differences.”

This year’s city action agenda included securing a sufficient share of the new marijuana taxes to help address city impacts, keeping state shared revenues intact, retaining a reliable source of funding for infrastructure, and enacting a comprehensive transportation package that addresses city needs.

“These are the things we need in order for cities to thrive,” said Dave Williams, AWC’s Director of Government Relations. “City services are vital to residents, businesses, and visitors, where the majority of Washingtonians live, learn, work, and play.”

Last week, the Economic and Revenue Forecast Council released their quarterly revenue forecast, and estimated revenue collections for the next two-year state budget have increased. “We are pleased legislators have more funds than initially anticipated to address state priorities,” said Paul Roberts, AWC Vice President and City of Everett councilmember. “Cities are where the majority of the state’s economic activity occurs, and our cities must be strong for the state to thrive and keep generating these revenues.”

One vehicle for meeting city needs is HB 2156, a bill promoting fiscal sustainability for cities and counties. The bill is sponsored by Representatives Chris Reykdal (D-Tumwater), Reuven Carlyle (D-Seattle), and Steve Tharinger (D-Dungeness). The bill would restore city liquor revenue sharing and address a number of other city and county issues.

Cities celebrated that the Governor signed one priority bill into law, SB 5052. This bill eliminates collective gardens and creates a new regulatory scheme for medical marijuana that better aligns with sales of recreational marijuana, yet still ensures legitimate patient access. Cities would like to see the legislature finish work on the marijuana market reform bill, HB 2136, which provides revenue sharing to cities.