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Published on Monday, February 11, 2013

Your voices matter whether in Olympia or from home

Everyone at AWC is looking forward to sharing time with you and seeing several hundred of you swarming the Capitol campus next week during our annual City Legislative Action Conference! Our legislative team is always energized when we have the opportunity to share what is going on in Olympia and hear what hundreds of city officials think about that during the conference. We have a great program of speakers, breakout sessions, and chances to interact with other city officials. For those of you not able to attend, we’ll be producing and posting lots of updated information soon after the conference, including video clips of key speakers. We encourage you to use this information to confer with your own legislators from wherever you are.

We kick off events by meeting with the AWC Board on Tuesday, when we’ll review progress on our legislative priorities and consider what, if any, changes are needed after discussing where they stand in Week 4 of the 15-week session. We remain focused on: maintaining key liquor and infrastructure revenues; actively promoting the need for new transportation funding – both from statewide and local option sources; and enhancing tools to help you save money like modest and reasonable changes in dealing with abusive public records requestors.

We’ll also remind the Board and those gathered for the conference that we spend more time than we’d like defending and explaining how cities operate, make decisions and spend local revenue. A current example is SSB 5013 which makes drastic changes to 70 years of how cities annex lands. Like you, legislators hear from constituents and want to be problem-solvers. Frequently, those problems relate to things constituents think cities, counties, or other local governments should do differently or better.

Noticeable so far this session, we’re learning – as they’re learning – how the new Senate Majority Coalition Caucus (23 Republicans/2 Democrats) operates and decides what to focus on. Senate Republicans haven’t been in a position to control and manage the flow of legislation since 2004. Now that they are back in charge, what bills bubble up to the surface and move to the floor for consideration isn’t as predictable as in the past – largely because the caucus leader Rodney Tom is a socially progressive and fiscally conservative senator from the heart of the Puget Sound region. He and his new 25-member majority have a narrow margin of error to maintain control, with 24 Democrats ready to pounce if the chance arises. For those interested in the art of politics, it’s worth watching as the session unfolds.

During our conference, we’re very pleased to have Governor Inslee as a keynote speaker and look forward to his remarks. He has been keeping a relatively low profile during the first few weeks of the session as he builds his cabinet and fills key staff positions. It appears that he’s listening and learning again about the ways of Olympia – a place where he served as a legislator back in the 1990s. He held a press conference very recently in which he indicated concerns about workers compensation bills that had passed the Senate, as well as bills being considered there on changes to hard-fought renewable energy system standards. He also spoke in support of expanding Medicaid, and we expect he will continue to express his views as the session progresses.

Finally, we continue to monitor what the other Washington is doing as the deadline to make budget decisions fast approaches or sequestration becomes a reality after March 1. Our AWC Federal Legislative Committee met by conference call this past week and is forwarding an updated set of priorities to the Board for their consideration on February 12. We’ll post it upon their approval.

I hope to see many of you at our City Legislative Action Conference on February 13 and 14 in Olympia. This is your opportunity to learn about the issues and raise a collective voice with our Legislature and new administration.

I hope you’re finding our new Bulletin format easy to navigate – please let us know what you like or don’t!