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Published on Monday, December 12, 2016

How might a closely divided Legislature help or hinder AWC’s 2017 agenda?

As legislators prepare to start their session on January 9, they come back to several looming challenges in addition to K-12 education funding. There are at least 19 new faces and perspectives arriving, and the partisan divide is narrow on one hand and potentially wider than before on another. On the surface, the 2017-18 Legislature might look much like the last one. There are again 50 Democrats and 48 Republicans in the House and, basically, 25 Republicans and 24 Democrats in the Senate. Leadership teams appear the same and there was no change in Governor.

Look a little closer and you’ll see that there are 17 new House members (nine Republicans and eight Democrats) and eight new Senators (four Democrats and four Republicans). Of the former, six gave up their House seats to run for seats vacated by retiring Senators. Lastly, there remain three Senate seats that will be vacated and refilled because sitting Senators Jayapal, Habib, and Roach each won other positions (Congress, Lt. Governor, and County Council). It’s likely they will be replaced by a House member so we could see three more new replacement faces in the House.

Why might this matter for things cities and towns care about?

In a partisan environment close majorities often mean it’s difficult to pass controversial bills. That’s generally good unless what you want and need is controversial, and some of AWC’s priorities might be deemed as such. Many of the ideas being generated to accomplish the goal of a balanced state budget will likely make it difficult to pay for items on everyone’s wish lists. If recent history repeats itself, we could find key programs and funding cities care about on the short list chopping block.

As session begins, we’ll get a glimpse at whether the House and Senate caucuses and the Governor are ready, willing, and able to look for common ground. Will there be an early agreement on K-12 education funding? Will there be proclamations of “no new taxes”? What will each caucus seek and might coalitions like a bi-partisan moderate middle emerge?

Your AWC team will be working with each caucus and the Governor’s office to find ways they can each help us and learn how we can help them. We’ll continue to promote and assist those who are and want to be local government Champions. We ask that each of you find an issue or issues that matter to your community and get engaged. We need all hands on deck and appreciate your help and attention.

Some quick reminders:

  • Beginning Monday, January 9 and until session ends, you’ll receive a weekly Legislative Bulletin e-mailed to you with some new formatting we hope will make it easier and more efficient for you to follow.
  • Dozens of Mayors are scheduled to come to Olympia for a day on the “hill” on Wednesday, January 18. If not already registered, there’s more information here.
  • We’re already planning the program for this year’s City Action Days conference, February 15-16. This year, more than any in the recent past, your presence and voices are needed to remind legislators why a great state can’t be sustained and thrive without strong cities. Registration is open!