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Published on Friday, January 8, 2016

First week of legislative session begins with budget discussions and previews of several city hot-button issues

One hundred forty-seven legislators return to Olympia today amidst hope they can work in a bi-partisan way, address some key issues, and go home by March 10. During their first week, they’ll hear Gov. Jay Inslee’s annual State-of-the-State address, and both the House and Senate will hold hearings on his proposed supplemental budget.

By law, the Governor must present his ideas on keeping the two-year budget adopted last year in balance and also deal with projected shortfalls or increases in revenues. After hearing the Governor’s proposal, both chambers will begin crafting their own proposals for consideration later in the session. (AWC’s summary of city impacts in the Governor’s proposal is posted here.)

Work begins in earnest as hearings or work sessions are held in most of the 21 House and 16 Senate standing committees. All but a few of these committees will hear issues that impact cities. Every bill introduced last year that didn’t pass – and those introduced this year – are assigned to a policy or fiscal committee. Committee Chairs then decide which ones to bring forth and when.

In a short 60-day session, the deadlines to consider and move a bill forward are tight. As such, we’ll likely know by the first week of February which issues of interest to cities, other than budget modifications, are likely to be in play.

This week’s Legislative Bulletin contains information about hot button hearings on local control of marijuana facilities and use of police body-cameras. Work sessions are also scheduled on public records issues critical to cities and ways to help small businesses that could involve city taxing and licensing authorities.

We’re getting ready to host more than 300 city officials during our annual City Action Days conference on January 27 and 28. There is a great line up of workshops and a wide variety of legislative and other speakers. If you are not already planning to come, I urge you to register soon.

As the session unfolds, we’ll work to keep you informed of what you need to know in a variety of ways. Electronically, you’ll receive this weekly Legislative Bulletin every Monday morning, supplemented on Wednesdays with updates in the Capitol Calling section of AWC’s CityVoice. Occasionally, you may receive an Action Alert asking you to do something quickly to help move, or stop, a bill or budget item. For those using social media, especially Twitter, you’ll find us more active this year as we try to share important, and some light-hearted, information.

Please stay engaged and informed as we work to help keep cities strong!