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Welcome to AWC’s online library of Legislative Bulletin and CityVoice news articles and other updates.

Published on Friday, January 6, 2017

Legislative Bulletin – 2017 legislative session begins today!

Hot topics

2017 City Legislative Priorities
Although AWC’s Government Relations Team will engage on your behalf on hundreds of issues over the legislative session, our focus will be on five city priorities. Check out our 2017 legislative priorities and corresponding issue briefs. More

Still no agreement about how to fund basic education
As session begins, Education Funding Task Force cannot reach agreement. More

From the Director

The 2017 legislative session is underway.
What you can expect, where you can get the latest updates, and how you can help advocate for city priorities. More

What you need to know

Budget & finance
Governor’s proposed state budget impacts cities. Did you miss AWC’s analysis? More
Final report released by task force on local tax & licensing simplification represents a significant compromise on the part of cities. Cities and businesses reach compromise with several recommendations. More

Environment & land use
New school siting bill that takes a whole new approach to school citing will receive a public hearing. More
Bills aimed at addressing the impacts of recent Supreme Court decisions on water management begin to emerge with opportunities for cities to transition classifications and fix the limitation of mitigation. More

AWC is cooperating with other stakeholders on a multi-faceted housing, homelessness and accountability agenda. More

AWC is working on a new strategy to refresh the city-state infrastructure partnership with a centerpiece of updating and retooling the Public Works Trust Fund for the next 30 years. More

Studies conclude merging the LEOFF 1 pension system with TRS 1 pension mergers possible. More
New public employer overtime guide released. More

Public safety & criminal justice
AWC supports a bill proposing a statewide pharmaceutical take-back program to be developed and maintained by drug manufacturers. More

We’re likely to see legislation that could pre-empt current city authority to regulate small cell networks. More

Take action

Register for City Action Days More

Share your city’s legislative agenda with the media More

Media time

The legislative session is finally here! More



From the Director

Over at least the next 15 weeks, we will keep you informed and at crucial times, will ask for your help

The 105-day 2017 legislative session is now underway. Over the coming weeks, legislators and Governor Inslee will consider, debate, and ultimately decide how to invest in our collective future. It promises to be a game-changer session as a very closely divided Legislature grapples with key education funding decisions that will impact our communities for years to come. Quality K-12 education is a key to the success and vitality of our 281 cities and towns. Yet so too are safe streets, infrastructure, and services that work efficiently and that are affordable for citizens and businesses.

Budget and policy decisions made this session will either maintain or alter how the state views and supports its partnership with local government. At stake are both historic shared revenues and investments in infrastructure – both capital and human.

For the 84th consecutive year, AWC is prepared to engage and represent city interests during the legislative session. Our legislative priorities are set, and we will provide updates on their status each Monday morning in this Legislative Bulletin. Also look for mid-week updates in our CityVoice newsletter. We’ll report on the many issues others feel are important that may impact cities. These items are ones we spend much of our time responding to. Many of these require us to politely, yet firmly, suggest that the issue is best addressed at the local level and legislation isn’t appropriate.

Legislative sessions have schedules and rhythm, and it’s helpful to anticipate them. Issues and ideas are considered and debated in both the House and Senate, and for them to move forward, need to pass both chambers in identical form. This takes time, and leadership sets a schedule on what needs to happen by when.

  • This first week will mostly involve setting the stage. New legislators get their bearings, committees organize themselves, and hearings are held – several of which are highlighted within this week’s Legislative Bulletin. There are ceremonial activities such as the Governor’s State of the State address and a gala Inaugural Ball during which partisanship takes a night off. Things get a bit more serious towards week’s end after preliminary discussions of what the Governor has proposed funding, or not, and how he’d suggest paying for it.
  • We’ve provided a calendar of key events and legislative deadlines, so you can have a sense of when things might happen and your opportunities to impact decisions.
  • Our weekly communications can help you know what’s happening, and every so often, you may receive an Action Alert or a phone call asking for time-sensitive contact with your legislator. We issue these sparingly and only when we really need your engagement and attention.

Conventional wisdom assumes this session will go beyond the 105th day on Sunday, April 23. We are hoping that’s not the case and will do everything we can to help them make needed decisions on time.

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What you need to know

Budget & finance


Still no agreement about how to fund basic education

As legislators return to Olympia this week, their primary objective is to pass a two-year state operating budget that fully funds basic education. To help facilitate a bipartisan solution, the 2016 Legislature established a nine-member Education Funding Task Force comprised of eight legislators, from both chambers and both parties, and a representative of the Governor’s office.

The task force began meeting last April and has been looking at several areas of school funding, including salaries, recruitment and retention, K-3 class sizes, and the use of local school levies. The task force was given a January 9, 2017, deadline to adopt recommendations for the full Legislature to consider.

While the hope was that the task force would develop a bipartisan solution for funding public schools, Democrat and Republican caucuses released separate recommendations at a meeting last week. The Democrats propose investing an additional $7.3 billion in basic education over the next two biennia. The Republicans issued a set of guiding principles for funding basic education. The committee will meet again this week to formally adopt recommendations and take public comment, but there is no longer an expectation of bipartisan recommendations.

This means the 2017 legislative session begins without agreement and many different ideas about how to achieve the Legislature’s number one priority of funding basic education this year.

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Final report released by task force on local tax & licensing simplification

Over the past several months, we’ve been writing about the task force on local tax and licensing simplification created by the Legislature in 2016. On December 30, the task force released its final report.

The report details the following recommendations:

  • Licensing: The state’s Business Licensing Service (BLS) will be the primary, but not exclusive, entry point for businesses to obtain general business licenses.
  • Local business licensing nexus: Cities, with input from business associations, will develop and adopt a mandatory model definition of engaging in business that includes a de minimis standard or occasional sales exemption.
  • Allocation and apportionment of service income: A work group of cities with a B&O tax and businesses will be formed to draft changes to the apportionment of service income under RCW 35.102.130.
  • Data sharing: The task force recommends the Legislature appropriate funding for an independent feasibility study to be conducted that will evaluate ways to create a more seamless and simplified experience for businesses to apply for a business license between BLS and the city tax and licensing portal, FileLocal.

The task force’s city representatives continue to work with the business representatives on legislation that can be jointly promoted this session.

More information about the task force is available here.

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Environment & land use


Water bills begin to surface

Recent Supreme Court decisions have thrown our state’s water management system into disarray. There is pressure on the legislature to find solutions and bills have already begun to emerge. On January 12 at 8 am the Senate Agriculture, Water, Trade and Economic Development committee will hear the first set of water bills.

One interesting proposal supported by AWC would facilitate the securing of water by the City of Spokane Valley (SB 5005) by authorizing the transition of the classification of certain agricultural water rights into municipal rights. Another bill up for hearing (SB 5003) is an attempt to create a fix to the problem created by the Foster vs. City of Yelm decision that profoundly limited the applicability of mitigation as a tool to secure access to water. We are supportive of the need for action and will be engaging through the session to address this issue. Comments welcome to Carl Schroeder on these or any other water matter this session.

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School siting conversation begins anew

Despite coming close to agreement at the end of the last legislative session, school districts promoting expanded opportunities to cite schools outside of urban growth areas have introduced a bill (HB 1017) which takes a whole new approach. Please take a fresh look and contact Carl Schroeder to share your thoughts or concerns. The bill is scheduled for a public hearing on January 12 at 8 am. Feedback provided before that time would be most appreciated.

Elements of the proposal include:

  • Applies statewide.
  • Cities must “prioritize the siting of schools and school facilities”. It is unclear what this means in practice.
  • Schools and school facilities shall be permitted uses in all zones and additionally may not be required to be sited on industrial zones and resource lands.
  • School facilities sited in the rural area must “consider” infrastructure and service impacts on affected cities. Previous versions had included language about “fully considered and mitigated”.
  • Growth Management Hearings Boards are prohibited from hearing petitions relating to the siting of school facilities in accordance with this act.

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Studies conclude pension mergers possible

During the 2016 session, the Senate considered a bill to merge the LEOFF 1 (Law Enforcement Officers’ and Fire Fighters’) and TRS 1 (Teachers’ Retirement System) pensions systems. While the bill did not advance, the final budget directed the Select Committee on Pension Policy (SCPP) to study a possible LEOFF 1 and TRS 1 merger and to update a 2011 study on a potential LEOFF 1 and LEOFF 2 systems merger.

Both studies were released last month. The reports make no recommendations, but both conclude that it would be possible to merge the LEOFF 1 system with either the TRS 1 or LEOFF 2 systems in a way that should withstand legal challenge and be approved by the Internal Revenue Service. LEOFF 1 retiree groups have said they will challenge any proposed merger in court. Any merger would also be subject to IRS approval, which would take a minimum of six months.

AWC has not taken a position on merging pensions systems. However, AWC has developed a list of policy issues cities would need addressed should a merger be proposed. One of those policy positions is that should a merger occur that would withdraw any of the surplus funds out of LEOFF 1, then cities should get a proportionate share of those surplus funds to help offset our medical benefit cost obligations for LEOFF 1 retirees.

At this time no formal merger proposals have been released. AWC will continue to monitor this process closely.

The LEOFF Plan 1 and TRS Plan 1 Merger Study is available here.

The updated LEOFF 1/LEOFF 2 Merger Study is available here.

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Public safety & criminal justice

Statewide pharmaceutical take-back program proposed

Rep. Peterson (D – Seattle) has dropped HB 1047 to prevent the abuse and misuse of pharmaceuticals. The goal of the legislation is to provide a way to dispose of old medicines in order to prevent addiction, poisonings, and pollution. Supporters of the bill cite the epidemic of prescription opioid abuse and the related heroin epidemic as reasons for creating the program.

The proposed program would create a “take-back system” which would allow for the safe collection and disposal of unused, unwanted, and expired medicines. It would be the responsibility of drug manufactures are required to create and maintain the program with oversight from the state Department of Health. The bill also requires the program to develop an outreach campaign to inform the public of how to properly store and dispose of drugs.

The bill would also not preempt local pharmaceutical programs that are already working up to the standard set in the bill. AWC is working with a consortium of stakeholders supporting this legislation.

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Legislation expected on regulation of small cell networks

AWC staff and representatives from a number of cities have held several meetings with Verizon in response to Verizon’s expressed intent to introduce legislation aimed at facilitating the rollout of small cell networks and 5G wireless technology. Verizon has said they would like to address issues related to land use regulations and access to rights-of-way, costs and fees charged by local governments and the need for streamlined permitting processes. All of these issues are important to cities and potentially controversial as legislation could result in pre-emption of current city authority. The aim of the meetings has been to discuss these issues and to try to find common ground.

Cities recognize that new wireless technology and facilities are coming. At least three cities have already adopted new ordinances in response (Kirkland, Kenmore and Spokane). Another group of more than 20 cities is working together, examining and discussing regulatory options to get themselves ready for the rollout of new small cell facilities. In AWC’s opinion, this is the right approach and legislation that preempts city authority is not necessary. At this point we believe Verizon intends to push forward with legislation nevertheless. We may learn more at a work session on 5G wireless technology in the Senate Energy, Environment & Telecommunications committee on January 11 at 8 am.

This could be an issue that we’ll need to engage on for all of the 2017 legislative session. Stay tuned. If you would like more information or would like to be part of our work group on the issue please contact Victoria Lincoln or Dave Catterson.

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Take action


Register for City Action Days!  
February 15-16 | Olympia
Held annually during the legislative session, City Action Days is AWC's two-day legislative conference that brings city and town officials to Olympia to address legislators with a single, unified voice. Engage in the state’s policy and budget development process, understand how the legislative process works, learn about AWC’s priorities, and hear from legislative leaders. This is one conference city and town officials can't afford to miss. Register now!

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Share your city’s legislative agenda with the media
It’s important that communities throughout the state understand what your city is asking of state legislators. One of the best ways to do this is by sharing it with local media. Some cities have already reached out to their media. Check out these articles.
Cities pinpoint priorities for legislators (Camas)
Everett relying on Olympia for funding to address social issues
Waitsburg Sets Legislative Priorities

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Media time

The legislative session is finally here!
Watch this short video of AWC Vice President Pat Johnson to find out four things you can do to make sure the session is successful for cities and towns.

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