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

Published on Friday, January 20, 2017

Legislative Bulletin – Day 15 and many bills introduced | Priority bill would restore liquor revenue

Hot topics

AWC’s priority bill to restore city and county liquor revenue to be heard in House committee. More

Bill penalizes cities for restricting marijuana stores advances. More

FCC threatens to limit local land use authority on wireless siting. Comment deadline is March 8. NLC requests information on your siting process by January 27. More

From the Director

Inside advice from Legislators who’ve been in your shoes
Last week nearly 90 mayors, managers and administrators heard a bit of “straight talk” from legislators who once served as a local government elected official. While they reminded us of some basics, they also addressed valuable points about working as part of a nonpartisan council/commission, and that it can sometime take years to make large gains. More

Need to know

Budget & finance
All cities with lodging tax expenditures must report to JLARC by March 15. More

Economic development
Bill to promote tourism would divert funds from transportation account. AWC supports funding for a much-needed Tourism Authority that does not divert funds away from important local transportation needs. More
AWC supports bill that would allow Public Facilities Districts to invest in expansion, rehabilitation and improvement of regional centers. More

Environment & land use
A significant bill aimed at addressing affordable housing and homelessness would have significant implications for cities. We need your input and continued involvement. More
Bills aimed at addressing implications of Hirst case on water resource management to be subject of public hearing. More
Ecology proposes increase in barrel fee to support oil spill prevention activities including new efforts aimed at potential spills from oil trains. More
Bill attempts to overturn recent state Supreme Court decision on vesting of stormwater regulations. Does this proposed fix just create more problems? More

Marijuana
Multiple marijuana bills dropped in House and Senate. AWC’s position on each bill varies. More

Personnel
Hearings scheduled this week on new employee protections and workers’ compensation reform bills. More

Public safety & criminal justice
Bill would change civil asset forfeiture law and impact law enforcement efforts statewide. More

Transportation
At the beginning of long legislative sessions, AWC is invited to give presentations to House and Senate Transportation Committees on city transportation funding and needs. Presentations happened last week. More

Media time

Modernizing the Public Records Act More

 

Things you can do

Use our updated Strong Cities Pocket Guide to shape how your city advocates More

City officials are encouraged to attend town hall meetings More


 

From the Director

Inside advice from legislators who’ve been in your shoes

Meeting in the Capitol Building last week, nearly 90 mayors, managers and administrators from around the state were treated to a display of straight talk from their former peers. A senator and two representatives representing both political parties, each of whom previously served as elected local officials, offered insights and advice about how to engage constructively in the Olympia legislative process. Legislators reminded us of the basics – get to know our legislator before they come to town, share local priorities in a clear and concise way, and staying in touch throughout the year.

Additionally, they addressed these valuable points.

  • These legislators learned a great deal and valued their time “in the trenches” in city hall or the county courthouse. Those experiences of solving problems and making decisions that affect the lives of residents and businesses prepared them well for their new roles. It also reinforces their belief in the value of cities, what mayors and councilmembers face and are responsible for, and why it is so critical to nurture and sustain a strong city-state partnership.
  • Legislators acknowledged that this is going to be a long and contentious session and the number one job is to address the McCleary K-12 funding challenges. That does not mean other issues do not need attention or are not important, or that what appears to be early partisan posturing cannot be overcome.
  • Legislators discussed the differences working in the far less overtly partisan environment of local government as compared to Olympia. The same qualities that help local leaders succeed are valuable and needed more than ever, particularly because legislators are organized to work in partisan silos. It is critically important to listen, build relationships with peers, work towards win-win rather than “gotcha” outcomes, know how to count votes, understand when compromise is needed, and how not to personalize differences of opinion. It is also “ok” that on some issues, values matter most and differences may not get resolved easily or quickly.

Knowing that little of interest to cities will be addressed until the education-funding impasse can be resolved, our guests used the 2015 agreement on a new gas tax to illustrate how big issues can be fixed. Like the education funding problem, the need to invest more in our transportation systems was recognized long before it was addressed. It took several years of back and forth proposals and countless meetings of a small set of dedicated legislators from each caucus to construct a proposal that could pass. It also took divergent interests to rally for its passage and that the package had something for just about everyone.

Our guests felt there is hope for areas of agreement this session. It will take patience, determination and a willingness to compromise. They did not sugarcoat the difficulty of getting to agreement, nor the peril to things cities and others need if they fail.

They concluded by encouraging local officials to consider serving your community by running for the Legislature and that their experiences “in the trenches” is enabling them to work across the aisle and rotunda to get agreement on issues that matter.

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Need to know

Budget & finance

 

AWC priority liquor revenue bill to be heard in House

On Monday, January 23 at 3:30 pm, the House Appropriations Committee will hear AWC’s priority liquor revenue bill, HB 1113. As we wrote last week, this proposal would gradually increase the share of city and county liquor revenue, eventually reinstating the traditional percentage based sharing formula between cities, counties, and the state. AWC and individual cities will testify about the importance of this long-standing revenue source for funding city services, including public safety.

If your representative serves on the House Appropriations Committee, please call or email and ask for their support. A list of committee members is here.

In addition, a Senate bill to increase city and county liquor revenue was formally introduced last week. SB 5240, sponsored by Senator Mark Mullet (D-Issaquah) would provide additional liquor revenue to cities and counties for state fiscal years 2022 through 2025. The proposal has been referred to the Senate Ways and Means Committee but not yet scheduled to be heard.

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Economic development

 

Bill to promote tourism would divert funds from transportation account

HB 1123 establishes a Tourism Marketing Authority for the purpose of promoting tourism in Washington. Historically, the Washington State Department of Commerce ran a tourism office, but it was never funded adequately. In 2011, the State ceased funding any sort of tourism offices in Washington. Today we are the only state in the nation without a dedicated state-funded tourism office.

Tourism is the fourth largest economic sector in the State. Many of our cities, large and small, benefit immensely from tourism.

HB 1123 takes 0.1 percent of general sales taxes collected on retails sales of lodging, restaurants and rental cars for its Statewide Tourism Marketing Account. Deposits will be limited to $5 million per biennium and are subject to private matching funds prior to expenditure.

Cities support finding a dedicated source to promote tourism but we have concerns with the source of funding in this bill as currently written. The sales tax on rental cars is deposited into the multi-modal account which funds a number of transportation related projects and programs that cities benefit from including grants for bicycle and pedestrian projects, safe routes to schools and support for transit. We are working with the sponsors of this legislation to find a funding source for a much-needed Tourism Authority that does not divert funds away from important local transportation needs.

HB 1123 is scheduled for public hearing on January 25 in the House Community Development, Housing and Tribal Affairs Committee.

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Bill grants new authorities for public facilities districts

HB 1201 would allow a public facilities district to use local sales and use tax proceeds to repay bonds issued not only for construction, but also for the expansion, rehabilitation and improvement of regional centers. It would also extend the authorization for local sales and use taxes for regional centers and regional theaters from 25 years to up to 40 years, assuming bonds have not yet been retired.

HB 1201 had a public hearing in the House Finance Committee on February 17. AWC is supportive of this legislation and will continue to monitor its progress.

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Environment & land use

 

Major homelessness funding and GMA buildable lands bill up for hearing on January 26

A proposal we have been expecting and talking to proponents about for months has now been introduced and will be heard on January 26. SB 5254 contains many issues of importance to cities. This is a complicated bill and a complicated issue. We have been soliciting feedback from our members and we would like to hear from more of you. Please contact Carl Schroeder if you want to participate in our team that is working on this issue, or if you just want to share your ideas and feedback.

On the positive side, this bill extends the funding for homelessness services that is currently set to sunset in 2019 for eight more years. The funding comes from Document Recording Fees. Preserving and increasing these fees is an AWC priority this year as part of our strategy to address homelessness.

On the more challenging side, this bill proposes a series of changes and expansions of the buildable lands work required by some cities and counties. The feedback we have received so far is that the proposed changes are problematic because they represent significantly more data that may be too subjective and unmeasurable and could lead to a significant overstatement of needed land for development. There are also concerns that this analysis is heavily focused on single-family homes to the exclusion of multifamily which represents a significant portion of planned for capacity in many communities. The timelines are unreasonably short as well.

There are also problematic proposals that limit the ability of Regional Transportation Planning Organizations to manage their own affairs – an attempt to address the recent controversy over conditional approvals of some cities comprehensive plans by the Puget Sound Regional Council.

There are also significant changes to city responsibilities under the GMA housing element.

In many parts of the state significant housing and growth challenges are on the on the horizon. It is possible that there is a place for some attention to how our communities get ready for those challenges.

We are sorting through how to engage on this proposal in an attempt to find common ground on a smart and balanced approach. We would greatly appreciate thoughts on how to wrestle with these challenges and we encourage participation in our working group on this issue.

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Major water bills heard on Tuesday the 24

SB 5024 and SB 5239 present alternative approaches to the Hirst water case that has potentially profound implications on the management of water resources in the state. We are actively engaging with all parties to try to find a resolution to this issue that finds a responsible middle path to ensure that the state’s water management system is able to accommodate the pressures of today and the growth pressures we face tomorrow. Please contact Carl Schroeder if you would like to provide feedback or engage in our efforts.

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Funding proposal for state’s oil spill prevention activities

In recent years cities worked with the state to pass enhancements to oil spill prevention activities and equipment caches to respond to increased concerns about the transportation of oil by rail. This work was not permanently funded. Now the Oil Spill Prevention Account is facing a $4 million shortfall Without additional funding some programs that benefit cities would be put at risk including the advanced notice of transfer work, geographic response planning (pre-set strategies for responders to take action during a spill), and rail contingency response planning. HB 1210 would increase the per-barrel tax on the first possession of crude oil from 4 cents per barrel to 6.5 cents per barrel. The House Finance Committee will consider this measure on January 24 at 3:30. AWC will support this measure to provide funding for these activities.

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Significant vesting bill up for consideration

On January 24 at 1:30 the Senate Local Government Committee will hear SB 5212 which attempts to overturn the Snohomish County vs. PCHB case which held that stormwater development regulations do not “vest” because they are required by state law and are not adopted as a matter of local discretion. In attempt to address this the bill language is simply states that projects vest to “land use control ordinances enacted for the purpose of complying with state law.” We have initial concerns that this is overly broad and may invite more litigation.

We would welcome feedback on both the technical drafting question as well as to whether the policy is appropriate. Please share feedback with Carl Schroeder.

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Marijuana

 

Bill penalizes cities for restricting marijuana stores advances

HB 1099 passed out of the House Commerce & Gaming Committee on Thursday after a public hearing last Tuesday. During the hearing, AWC testified in opposition to the bill.

Under HB 1099, if a city without a ban or moratorium adopted by ordinance or resolution refuses to issue a local license/permit to a state licensed marijuana 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.

The bill is broadly written so a city with adopted zoning restrictions specific to marijuana retail stores could also trigger the penalties called for in the bill. Additionally, the bill was further amended in committee to specifically include cities that have adopted limits on the number of retailers that are less that the limits established by the Liquor and Cannabis Board (LCB) in being subject to the penalties.

AWC encourages cities to let your legislators know that HB 1099 unduly penalizes cities for adopting reasonable restrictions on the siting of marijuana retailers.

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Multiple marijuana bills dropped in House and Senate

There have been a lot of marijuana bills introduced. Here are just a few of particular interest to cities.

SB 5282 would authorize local governments to adopt an ordinance prohibiting marijuana retailers within an alcohol impact area. AWC believes cities already have the authority to do this and will be testifying to that fact.

HB 1092 would authorize home grow operations. The bill would allow possession of up to 6 marijuana plants and twenty-four ounces of usable marijuana for twenty-one year olds and larger, aggregate limits for households.

HB 1065 would reduce penalties for possession of marijuana. Currently, possessing more marijuana than is legally permitted is punishable as a class C felony. This bill would reduce most of those penalties to a misdemeanor. AWC is supportive of this legislation.

HB 1260 would allow a person convicted of a misdemeanor marijuana offense to apply for a vacation of the conviction from their record. The person would have to be twenty-one or older at the time of the offense.

SB 5284 would require that marijuana businesses are majority owned by state residents. The bill would also put limits on retail marketing such as directly or indirectly targeting youth and prohibiting some outdoor advertisements. Cities may also adopt rules that are more restrictive on the advertising restrictions contained in the bill.

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Personnel

 

Hearings scheduled this week on new employee protections and workers’ compensation reform bills

During this third week of session, House and Senate committees are scheduled to hear a number of personnel bills.

The House Labor & Workplace Standards Committee is scheduled to hear:

  • The Employee Anti-Retaliation Act, HB 1301, which would establish a new cause of action against an employer who violates wage and hour rights and establishes penalties. The Department of Labor & Industries would be responsible for accepting and investigating complaints.
  • A “ban the box” bill, HB 1298, which would prohibit employers from asking about criminal history on employment applications or prior to determining an applicant is qualified for a position. The prohibition would not apply to positions that work unsupervised with children or vulnerable persons, law enforcement, or criminal justice agencies, or other positions where there is a federal requirement to consider an applicant’s criminal history.
  • New employment protections for medical marijuana patients, HB 1094, which would prohibit employment discrimination against medical marijuana patients, including a positive drug test. The protections do not apply if an employee uses, possesses, or is impaired by marijuana in the workplace or if it would cause an employer to lose a monetary or licensing-related benefit under federal law.

The Senate Commerce, Labor, and Sports Committee will hear two proposals addressing workers compensation issues. Neither bill has been formally introduced, but drafts have been made available through the committee.

  • The first bill would require an employer’s written approval for any third-party settlement if the cost will be included in the employer’s experience factor.
  • The second bill is being promoted by a number of employers and would enact a number of changes to the workers’ compensation system, including:
    • Allowing self-insured employers to handle their own claims;
    • Clarifying how recovery is handled in third-party legal actions;
    • Ensuring occupational disease claims arise out of and in the course of work; and
    • Lowering the age for settlement of non-medical claims.

AWC will follow all of these proposals and keep you updated.

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Public safety & criminal justice

Bill would change civil asset forfeiture law and impact law enforcement efforts statewide

Civil asset forfeiture allows law enforcement agencies to take possession of property when the property itself is illegal, was used to facilitate a crime, is proceeds from a crime, or was purchased with proceeds traceable to criminal activity. State law allows for forfeiture in numerous areas but most forfeiture is related to drug crimes.

Rep. Taylor’s (R-Sunnyside) HB 1016 would require a felony conviction prior to forfeiture and limit the property that may be forfeited to property that a court finds is directly involved in or derived from a felony offense. The bill was heard in the House Judiciary Committee on January 11.

AWC believes that asset forfeiture is a necessary law enforcement tool that helps take the profit out of crime. Also, criminal investigations and prosecutions do not always cleanly terminate with a court decision; suspects often abscond or take a plea deal. AWC is continuing to work with lawmakers to find suitable language. Click here to see a list of agencies with proceeds from drug crime-related asset forfeiture related.

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Telecommunications

FCC threatens to limit local land use authority on wireless siting

We have been reporting on the efforts of Verizon’s effort to introduce legislation in our state legislature that could potentially lead to loss of local control.  There’s also a threat at the federal level.

Late last month, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) issued a public notice seeking comment on two topics that could shape the future of city control over their rights-of-way. The FCC's Wireless Bureau requested public comment on how to streamline the deployment of small wireless facilities, primarily through potential changes to local land-use ordinances, and comment generally on a petition filed by infrastructure company Mobilitie regarding local government rules and procedures.

The public notice raises several major concerns for cities. The first is that the FCC wishes to use this proceeding to reexamine the facts of the decisions made in its 2009 and 2014 rulemakings on local wireless facilities siting, questioning whether the evidence presented by local governments during those proceedings is still valid. Specifically, the notice questions the amount of time needed by local governments to process wireless siting applications for small-cell facilities, particularly when submitted in large quantities. The notice requests feedback on streamlining local regulations when similar applications are submitted as batches. The notice also questions the amount and structure of fees charged by local governments for applications and access to rights-of-way.

The National League of Cities successfully filed a joint motion for an extension of the comment period. The revised comment deadline is now March 8, 2017, with a reply comment deadline of April 7, 2017.

NLC will comment on this notice, in collaboration with other local government groups and state municipal leagues, and is calling on cities nationwide to help craft our response. Click here to provide important data on your city's wireless facility siting process by January 27 and to request a comment template for your city to use in providing your own comment.

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Transportation

 

House and Senate Transportation Committees hear from AWC

The second week of session brought with it work sessions in both the House and Senate Transportation Committees where local governments had opportunities to address the members.

AWC Lobbyist Jane Wall provided a brief introduction to cities, and gave an overview of our transportation needs and some of the emerging issues we are facing including fish passage barrier removal and impacts of at-grade rail crossings. To view Jane’s presentation see here.

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Media time


Modernizing the Public Records Act
Local governments work hard to comply with the Public Records Act (PRA), a key component of open, transparent government. We must protect the law and modernize it to keep up with changing technology. Find out what legislators need to know and how you can help. More

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Things you can do

 

Use our updated Strong Cities Pocket Guide to shape how your city advocates
Throughout the legislative session, it is critical that city officials consistently communicate with legislators and tell them that strong cities are essential to a great state. We gave mayors attending last week’s Mayors Exchange five ideas about how they can use our newest pocket guide to inspire their city’s advocacy efforts – but any elected official can follow these steps and champion city issues. More

Need copies of the pocket guide? Access it online or contact Regina Adams to have them mailed to your city.

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City officials are encouraged to attend town hall meetings
Your legislators may be holding town hall meetings soon. Look for information on your legislators’ websites.

On Sunday, January 29, Sen. Reuven Carlyle (D-Seattle), and Reps. Gael Tarleton (D-Seattle), Noel Frame (D-Greenwood) will hold a town hall meeting at Ballard High School from 1:30 – 3 pm. More

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