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

Published on Friday, January 13, 2017

Legislative Bulletin – 5G technology | AWC Budget Principles

Hot topics

Senate Committee holds second work session on rollout of small cell networks and 5G technology
Committee chair expresses intent to introduce legislation that could pre-empt current city authority over regulation of these wireless telecommunication facilities.More

Packed house for the Mayors Exchange
More than 90 mayors and city officials will gather on the Capitol Campus this Wednesday for an engaging daylong session to network and interact with invited legislators and partners on important city issues. To access the agenda and see who’s coming (under “Carpooling”) click here.

From the Director

Seven principles guide our work as we represent your state budget interests
Read AWC’s updated budget principles that guide our work as we advocate for cities and towns throughout the legislative session. We encourage you to also use these points when communicating with your own legislators. More

Need to know

Budget & finance
Proposal to restore city liquor revenue introduced with 60 percent of new revenue dedicated to public safety. More
AWC testifies that Governor’s proposed state budget is a mixed bag for city priorities. More

Environment & land use
Once again, a bill aimed at restricting the use of eminent domain is introduced. Cities need to express their concern to legislators. More
Bill aims to reduce overlap between SEPA and other state and local laws. More

Infrastructure
The UTC’s Dig Law clean-up bill gets hearing. More substantive Dig Law changes could be coming next year after input from a stakeholder-working group. More

Marijuana
Bill requires cities without bans to issue local marijuana licenses. More

Personnel
Proposal to fund and implement paid family and medical leave will be heard in House committee this week. More

Public safety & criminal justice
Civil asset forfeiture comes under scrutiny by House and Senate committees during first week of session. More

Transportation
Bill would increase maximum grant amounts for public-use airports from $250,000 to $750,000. More
Is your city eligible for Volkswagen settlement funds? The Governor proposed that some of Washington’s share of the settlement be spent on “projects for the acquisition, installation, operation, and maintenance of new light duty zero emission vehicle supply equipment and infrastructure.” More

Things you can do

Use your new Strong Cities Pocket Guide More

Get tips on how to use the Legislature’s website for bill information More

Media time

Cities 101 – Population growth More

 


 

From the Director

Seven principles guide our work as we represent your state budget interests

With so much attention on legislators finding agreement on both a biennial operating budget and a long-term plan to fund K-12 education, AWC’s Board of Directors recently updated the principles we use to guide how we assess and articulate city and town needs during this process.

Our aim is not to badger decision-makers with these principles, but to engage in a constructive dialogue throughout the session about the value and needs of our communities, and to reiterate that strong cities add fiscal value to the state.

This legislative session could last beyond 105 days and it is likely that few definitive budget decisions will be made until close to its end. We have used – and will continue to use – these principles in testimony and in discussions with legislators on both policy and fiscal proposals. We also encourage you to use these points when communicating with your own legislators.

AWC Budget Principles

For the state to thrive and grow, it must invest in strong cities and towns. AWC recognizes our partners in the State Legislature are burdened with their own difficult budget decisions, but they should not discount both the value and economic impact that healthy cities provide to Washington State as a whole.

Over the last few biennia, the state has balanced its budget at the expense of cities. While we understand the fiscal challenges the Legislature faces, we cannot accept that sweeping critical funds from their intended uses is in the best interest of our state. AWC supports the Legislature in securing sufficient revenue to fund state programs and obligations, and unilateral elimination or significant reduction of state funding to cities is not acceptable.

In development of the state budget, cities ask that the following be considered:

  • State revenues distributed to cities and towns are driven by decades of past decisions to deliver vital services to our citizens. Without those past decisions, other solutions and local authorities would have been explored. Cities continue to rely on these funds to support safe communities and strong infrastructure and seek the state’s ongoing commitment to fully fund shared revenues.
  • There should be no cuts in revenue distributions without cost relief, new councilmanic revenue authorities, or additional local options. If state support to cities is curtailed, the cuts in revenue should be in tandem with measures that provide cost relief to local jurisdictions - either through reduced mandates or responsibilities or expanded home rule authorities.
  • Given state and local fiscal conditions, new mandates (legislative, agency rules, or permits) that add costs and responsibilities are unacceptable unless new and sufficient resources accompany such mandates.
  • Sewer and water systems are in need of upgrades due to age, population growth, and new regulations. Basic infrastructure investment is the best economic development program the state has, and without assistance, many areas of the state will be left behind. The state needs to reinvest in local infrastructure programs. The dedicated funding mechanisms should be preserved.
  • The Municipal Research and Services Center (MRSC) already is funded by cities and counties through a portion our liquor revenue distributions. The current funding mechanism for this critical and effective source of information and ideas throughout the state should be preserved because this information creates more efficiency and cost savings, including implementation of the state’s laws and requirements.

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Need to know

Budget & finance

 

Proposal to restore city liquor revenue introduced in House

The House version of AWC’s priority liquor bill, HB 1113, was introduced this week with a bipartisan mix of more than 35 sponsors.

Shortly after the privatization of liquor sales, the Legislature capped the amount of liquor profits distributed to cities and counties at $49.4 million per year. Prior to that action, liquor profits were distributed 50 percent to the state, 40 percent to cities, and 10 percent to counties. Since enacting the cap, the state has retained nearly $200 million in liquor profits that traditionally would have been distributed to cities and counties. Over the past several years, cities, counties, and others have sought to remove this cap and reinstate the traditional percentage based formula of liquor profit sharing.

HB 1113 gradually increases the distribution to cities and counties, ultimately reinstating the traditional formula. Under the proposal, cities and counties would receive $49.4 million annually plus:

  • $2.5 million in FY 2019;
  • $5 million in FY 2020;
  • $7.5 million in FY 2021;
  • $10 million in FY 2022;
  • $12.5 million in FY 2023; and
  • $15 million in FY 2024.

In state fiscal year 2025, the bill would reinstate the traditional percentage based formula of 50/40/10. The proposal would require 60 percent of any liquor profits distributed to cities and counties in excess of $49.4 million to be used for public safety.

Next week we expect the Senate to introduce its own proposal to increase city and county liquor revenue.

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Hearings on Governor’s proposed state budget

Last week we summarized the potential impacts of the Governor’s proposed state budget on cities. This week, the House Appropriations and Senate Ways & Means committees considered the proposed budget and conducted public hearings. At both hearings, AWC testified that the proposal is a mixed bag when it comes to city priorities.

On the positive side, the proposal fully funds all shared revenues with cities and the Municipal Research and Services Center. It also provides additional funding for housing and homeless programs and eliminates the sunset on the fees that fund homelessness efforts.

On the negative side, the proposal permanently sweeps the remaining funds for the Public Works Trust Fund.

The proposal also funds some, but not all, of the additional classes needed at the Basic Law Enforcement Academy.

Now that the Governor’s proposal has been heard, we expect the focus to shift to policy bills until after the next state revenue forecast in March. Shortly after that forecast, the Senate Republicans are expected to release their proposal to fund state government and basic education for the next two years.

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Environment & land use

 

Bill prohibiting the use of eminent domain for economic development purposes surfaces anew

The Senate Law & Justice Committee will again hear a bill prohibiting the use of eminent domain for economic development purposes. A bill like this has been introduced every year for some time, and AWC usually leads the charge in opposing it because it restates an existing constitutional prohibition and would only serve to increase potential legal exposure for cities. It also greatly limits the ability for cities to use condemnation in blighted areas under our community renewal statute. This bill will be heard on January 17 and currently does not have a bill number. A draft is available here.

Last year the bill moved much further than expected. Cities who have concerns about this proposal would be well-suited to talk to your legislators early and often about this. Please let Carl Schroeder know if you have done this so we can follow up.

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Bill aims to reduce overlap between SEPA and other state and local laws

Representative Shea (R- Spokane Valley) has introduced HB 1013 which will be the subject of a public hearing on January 17. The bill makes a series of changes to the State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) aimed at reducing the overlap between SEPA and other laws and local regulations. This is a goal shared by AWC. We would like to know if you have concerns with any elements of this proposal and if so if there are ways to help address your concerns. Please share your feedback with Carl Schroeder.

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Infrastructure

 

Dig Law clean-up bill gets hearing

HB 1064, introduced by Rep. Jeff Morris (D-Mt. Vernon) at the request of the Utilities and Transportation Commission (UTC) “cleans up” the underground utility damage prevention act (aka “Dig Law”). The Dig Law governs safe excavation practices near underground utility facilities. All underground facility operators must subscribe to the state's one-number locator service, through which an excavator may notify utilities of excavation activities and request field-marking of underground facilities. Certain requirements under the Damage Prevention Act went into effect by January 1, 2013 and are set to expire December 31, 2020.

Of particular note, HB 1064 removes the 2020 expiration date for the Safety Committee created in 2013. Part of that committee’s role is to review complaints of alleged violations of the Dig Law, a process that seems to be working well. As such, AWC is supportive of this bill.

The UTC had originally proposed a series of more substantive changes to the Dig Law but decided to introduce this minor bill instead, and to engage in a stakeholder process to work on other changes. AWC as well as representatives from several individual cities and counties will be actively engaged in that stakeholder process which is likely to lead to legislation for the 2018 session.

HB 1064 had a public hearing in the House Technology and Economic Development Committee on January 12 and is scheduled for executive session on January 19.

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Marijuana

 

Bill requires cities without bans to issue local marijuana licenses

Rep. David Sawyer (D-Tacoma) and Chair of the House Commerce & Gaming Committee introduced a bill, HB 1099, related to local governments’ unofficial bans or moratoria on marijuana retail stores. The bill targets cities that do not expressly prohibit marijuana retailers but still reserve the right to refuse local business licenses/permits to state licensed retailers.

If a city without a ban or moratorium adopted by ordinance or resolution refuses to issue a local license/permit to a state licensed retail store, that the retailer would otherwise receive if they were engaged in a lawful business not related to marijuana sales, then the city would forfeit 70 percent of their liquor revenues. That city would also forfeit any revenue due from the state dedicated marijuana account. This penalty would continue until the city passes an express ban or moratorium by ordinance or the city issues a license/permit to the applicant.

HB 1099 is scheduled for hearing in the House Commerce & Gaming Committee on January 19 at 9 am.

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Personnel

 

Implementing the family and medical leave insurance program

This week the House Committee on Labor & Workplace Standards will hear HB 1116, implementing family and medical leave insurance. The bill modifies and funds the family leave insurance program adopted in 2007 but never implemented.

The original program would have provided paid family leave only for the birth or placement of a child. HB 1116 expands the program to cover leave for an employee or an employee’s family member with a serious health condition or leave for military service.

Employees would be eligible for up to 38 weeks of benefits in a year: 26 weeks for a family member's serious health condition, the birth or placement of a child, or military exigency leave, plus twelve weeks for an individual's serious health condition.

Employees earning 50percent or less of the state average weekly wage would be eligible for 90percent of the employee’s average weekly wage. Employees earning more than 50percent of the state average weekly wage would be eligible for 90percent of the employee’s average weekly wage up to 50percent of the state average weekly wage plus 50percent of their weekly wage that is over 50percent of the state average weekly wage.

During the first year of the program, the maximum weekly benefit amount would be $1,000. Beginning with the second year of the program, the maximum weekly benefit would be 90percent of the state average weekly wage, adjusted annually.

The program would be funded through an assessment on employee wages, and up to half of the premium could be deducted from employee pay. The initial premium would be 0.225percent of an employee’s wages (approximately $112 per year for an employee earning $50,000) and could increase as high as 0.6percent ($300 per year for an employee earning $50,000) depending on the balance of the family leave insurance account. If the account falls below a certain funding level, employers could be assessed a solvency surcharge.

Employers would be required to maintain health plan coverage while the employee is on paid family leave. Employers with eight or more employees must restore an employee’s position if the employee has been employed at least six months.

The bill would take effect on October 1, 2019.

An identical bill, SB 5032, has been introduced in the Senate, but no hearing is scheduled.

Another proposal to implement paid family leave, SB 5149, also has been introduced in the Senate. This bill provides different benefit levels and requires employee contributions to cover the full cost of the program. This bill has not yet been scheduled for a hearing either.

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Public safety & criminal justice

Civil asset forfeiture comes under scrutiny by House and Senate committees during first week of session

During the first week of session, both the House Judiciary and Senate Law & Justice Committees heard bills related to civil asset forfeiture.

Currently law enforcement agencies may pursue civil asset forfeiture in cases when the property itself is illegal, used to facilitate a crime, is the actual proceeds of a crime, or purchased from proceeds traceable to criminal activity. Forfeiture is permitted under numerous statutes, including in the case of drug crimes, human sex trafficking crimes, and felony crimes. The seizing agency must comply with specific statutory due process requirements, which operate separately from a criminal proceeding meaning that asset forfeiture can occur without a criminal conviction. Agencies that use this tool may keep the proceeds so long as they use them for law enforcement purposes and cannot supplant other funding sources. They are also required to report to the State Treasurer quarterly and remit 10 percent of the net proceeds of any forfeiture to the State.

These bills would create additional requirements and standards for civil asset forfeiture:

HB 1016 heard in the House Judiciary Committee would require a felony criminal conviction prior to forfeiture and that the property be “directly” related to the criminal activity. AWC, along with the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs (WASPC) and the Washington Association of Prosecuting Attorneys (WAPA), opposed these changes as they would make it nearly impossible to pursue asset forfeiture. In spite of our opposition, the bill is scheduled for executive action in the Judiciary Committee on January 19.

SB 5044 was heard in the Senate Law & Justice Committee and would increase the standard for forfeiture from a preponderance of the evidence to clear, cogent and convincing evidence. Again, AWC along with WASPC and WAPA opposed this increase to the burden of proof as unnecessary without clear evidence of a need for a change.

The Senate Law & Justice Committee also heard a draft bill that would increase the reporting requirements for jurisdictions that use asset forfeiture. AWC testified “other” on this draft proposal based on our uncertainty of the potential impacts and because agencies already report and it appears that little effort has been made to use the data currently reported to the state Treasurer. However, we support transparency in this process and are not entirely opposed to expanded reporting.

We encourage cities interested in this topic to contact members of these committees and express your concerns with the proposed changes.

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Telecommunications

Senate committee holds another work session on small cell networks

The Senate Energy, Environment & Telecommunications Committee held a second work session on the issue of deploying small cell telecommunications technology in the rights of way and on publicly owned facilities. This time, local government stakeholders provided their perspective on permitting, zoning, timelines and cost. A good discussion ensued about the challenges with adopting a law that would affect all communities across the state uniformly. There are many issues that arise around ownership of utility poles; adding new structures in the rights of way, safety and aesthetic concerns of attaching equipment to existing structures, timelines for permits, and so forth. Committee members asked many good questions.

In order for Washington State to be competitive in the future 5G market and to densify the existing 4G market, Chairman Ericksen (R-Ferndale) stated his goals to minimize or reduce barriers, adopt a fair and seamless process, and to eliminate excessive fees and regulations.

As reported last week, cities have been meeting regularly with Verizon to discuss this matter and AWC has agreed to meet again after this work session. For cities, a good goal would be to help cities update their codes to be ready for small cell deployment.

As the legislative session progresses, we want to make sure we communicate with cities expressing an interest in this issue. We will post regular updates in the Bulletin, provide periodic briefings to interested cities, and utilize a city work group to help guide discussions with the industry. Contact Victoria Lincoln or Dave Catterson at AWC for comments or questions.

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Transportation

 

Bill would increase grants for public-use airports

HB 1018 sponsored by Rep. Tom Dent (R-Moses Lake), would increase the allowable grant amount, from $250,000 to $750,000 that the Department of Transportation may provide for general aviation projects through the Airport Aid Grant Program. The program provides financial assistance to public-use airports in Washington.

HB 1018 had a public hearing in the House Transportation Committee on January 12 and is scheduled for executive session on January 18. AWC is supportive of this legislation.

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Is your city eligible for Volkswagen settlement funds?

In the fall of 2016, Volkswagen agreed to a $14.7 billion deal arising from its diesel emissions cheating scandal that rocked the nation and world in 2015. Volkswagen intentionally developed and incorporated computer programs for their cars to deceive US emissions monitors. Called a “consent decree,” the agreement between Volkswagen and the government represents the largest civil settlement worldwide ever with an automaker.

Of the $14.7 billion, Washington State will initially receive $103 million to reduce and eliminate diesel emissions and promote electric vehicle usage. Another $2 billion will be made available to states on a competitive basis to promote electric vehicle charging infrastructure, the development of zero-emissions ride-sharing fleets and other efforts to boost sales of cars that do not burn petroleum.

According to the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency, the list of eligible actions contained in the final consent decree includes projects that reduce emissions from:

  • Local freight trucks and port drayage trucks
  • School buses, shuttle buses, transit buses
  • Freight switcher locomotives
  • Ferries and tugs
  • Ocean-going vessels (by providing shore power at the dock)
  • Airport ground support equipment
  • Forklifts and port cargo-handling equipment
  • Light-duty vehicles (by providing electric vehicle charging equipment)

In his 2017-19 capital budget proposal, Governor Inslee appropriates $20 million to the Department of Ecology to begin this process. Of the $20 million, 15% is to be “spent upon projects for the acquisition, installation, operation, and maintenance of new light duty zero emission vehicle supply equipment and infrastructure.” He directs Ecology to work with DOT to select projects and distribute funding. However, this funding must still go through the 2017 legislative process.

The Puget Sound Clean Air Agency is seeking feedback for input and ideas. You can direct comments to Tania Park.

AWC will continue to monitor this issue and report on its progress.

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Things you can do

 

Use your new Strong Cities Pocket Guide
This legislative session will be lengthy and difficult. We all must work together to help legislators and the Governor recognize and embrace that the state’s success and cities’ and towns’ success are linked. We’ve updated our pocket guide for the legislative session to bring you tips and tools to communicate with legislators, media, and your constituents to achieve positive outcomes for cities and towns. Access the pocket guide online or contact Regina Adams to have one mailed.

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Get tips on how to use the Legislature’s website for bill information
The Legislature has made some significant improvements to the bill information pages. When you read an article in our Legislative Bulletin, we link bills to this page so you can get more in-depth information. More

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Media time


Cities 101 – Population growth
Washington's population is booming, and much of that growth is happening in cities. Watch this video to learn how many people are expected to move to Washington and what it means for cities as they budget, plan, and prepare for the growth. Share this video on your social media networks and remind #WAleg that 2/3 of the state’s population already live in #WAcities! More

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