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

Published on Friday, February 10, 2017

Legislative Bulletin – PWTF | Business license bills | Public records bills

Hot topics

House and Senate set to hear business license and tax simplification bills HB 2005 and SB 5777 this week. More

AWC priority public records bills heard in committee on Friday. More

From the Director

Policy bills face a key deadline this Friday More

Need to know

Budget & finance
Local officials express support for property tax limits linked to inflation and population growth. More
Variety of bills introduced with impacts on city finances. More

Economic development
Bills raise cap on tax credit allowing for greater participation in Main Street Program. More
AWC supports bill that would give expanded authority to Parking and Business Improvement Areas. More

Environment & land use
AWC co-hosts lunch with legislators to discuss funding for removal of fish-blocking culverts. More
Bills seeking to address the water management challenges resulting from the recent Hirst and Foster Supreme Court cases continue to get a lot of attention. A number of bills had public hearings and one has moved out of committee. More

Federal
AWC Federal Priorities under review in advance of NLC’s March conference. More

Housing
Committees in both houses consider bills aimed at addressing affordable housing and homelessness challenges. There’s still work to do to find common ground. More
Bills seek to remedy issues related to abandoned and foreclosed homes. Cities are most concerned with vacant homes that are a source of blight and pose safety hazards. More

Open government
Bill would cap public record penalties in certain cases. More

Public safety & criminal justice
Bill would authorize the use of automated license plate readers. More
Legislation directs state to develop emergency plans for oil train accidents. More

Telecommunications
Cities testify against small cell pre-emption bills. Senate bill moves out of committee. Cities continue to meet with bill proponents. More

Transportation
Bill seeks authority to set speed limits for trains carrying hazardous flammable materials. More

Take action

Glimmer of hope for the Public Works Trust Fund? Your voices needed! More

Remind your legislators what state shared revenues mean to your city More

Media time

Homelessness and housing story map More

 


 

From the Director

Policy bills face a key deadline this Friday

Legislators have until week’s end to consider and move bills out of policy committees or the fate of those left behind diminish greatly. The good news is that most of AWC’s Priority policy bills have been heard, or will be by the end of the week. Those that include fiscal impacts to the state have another week to move from one of the fiscal committees and legislators have set a deadline of March 8 at 5 pm to act on bills leadership in each chamber advances to the floor for up or down consideration. Bills that clear one chamber by then are eligible to be considered by the other chamber and a new set of deadlines apply.

Hundreds of bills are introduced during a session and many never receive a hearing. AWC scrubs bill introductions to assess which may have city impacts and then communicates our impressions to bill sponsors and other interests. We spend more time on bills receiving hearings and report on key ones in our Legislative Bulletin.

As the process winnows out the ones moving forward, just getting out of committee does not insure action. Each chamber maintains a Rules Committee that with leadership guidance narrows the crop of potential bills even further. Bills placed on the calendar for floor action are those most likely to move forward.

This past week included crowded hearings on Public Records and local option fiscal bills we strongly support. We also witnessed committee passage, with strong bipartisan support, of a bill to gradually restore growth in shared liquor revenue. There continue to be work sessions and hearings on infrastructure funding ideas and various approaches to improving the stock of affordable housing and shelters for the ever-increasing numbers of homeless.

On Wednesday and Thursday of this week we’ll have close to 400 city officials in town to hear from the Governor, key legislators and other interests about bills we like and a few we don’t. We will continue to bring up concerns about the diversion of state-shared revenues and the importance of re-booting the fiscal partnership needed to maintain and enhance strong cities.

If you are not able to join us, please be on the lookout for the occasional action alert you may receive during some of these key decision points in session. We use action alerts sparingly and urge you to act the day you receive it. If you wait longer than that, it could be too late.

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Need to know

Budget & finance

 

Business license and tax bills to be heard in House and Senate – HB 2005, SB 5777

Two bills HB 2005 and SB 5777 were introduced in the last week that reflect several recommendations of the 2016 task force on local business tax and licensing simplification final report. Both bills implement the recommendations to increase the number of cities in the state’s Business Licensing Service (BLS), and include requiring cities to develop and implement a licensing threshold. The bills also create a work group of cities with a B&O tax and businesses to draft changes to the apportionment of service income under RCW 35.102.130.

HB 2005 is scheduled for public hearing at 3:30 pm on Tuesday, February 14 in the House Finance Committee. SB 5777 is scheduled for a hearing the next day at 1:30 on Wednesday, February 15 in the Senate Commerce, Labor & Sports Committee.

Cities participating on the task force have been supportive of the recommendations and appreciate that HB 2005 implements a number of them. We have some concerns with provisions mandating participation in BLS, prohibiting additional cities to join FileLocal for licensing after July 1, 2017, and lack of partnership in BLS administration of local licenses. SB 5777 includes a different approach to requiring cities to administer their licenses through BLS, including additional flexibility for cities to determine when joining BLS would cause hardship and allowing cities to choose to participate in FileLocal. Panels of cities will testify at both hearings to share these comments and we look forward to working with bill sponsors to ensure legislation moves forward.

More information about the task force is available here.

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Local officials express overwhelming support for new limits on property tax increases

Last Friday, the House Finance Committee heard AWC’s priority bill to link annual property tax increases to inflation and population growth, HB 1764. Numerous local officials representing cities, counties, police, and fire testified in support of the bill.

Substantial testimony was presented on the difficulty of cities and counties to maintain services, especially public safety, when costs exceed the one percent allowable increase for property taxes. Sheriffs and police chiefs spoke to their inability to have adequate law enforcement coverage 24 hours per day with some shifts having no officers at all. In addition, some jails are understaffed and unable to accept inmates around the clock, and prosecutors cannot keep up with the number of arrests. As public safety costs increase, local revenue is being redirected from other services, such as roads, bridges, and parks.

Legislators asked why jurisdictions did not just seek voter approval to increase levies, and supporters aptly explained why that was costly and inefficient, especially when local officials are already accountable to voters.

In order for the bill to continue moving through the legislative process, the committee must pass it by Friday, February 24.

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Bills impacting city finances introduced

As the sixth week of session begins, there is an increase in the number of bills related to local government finances. Some have been scheduled for committee hearings while others need to be heard by the fiscal committee deadline of Friday, February 24.

On Tuesday, February 14, the House Local Government Committee will hear the following two proposals:

  • HB 1992 would allow county treasurers to retain a portion of the taxes collected on behalf of other jurisdictions to pay for their administrative costs. AWC opposed a similar proposal last year, which would have allowed counties to retain 1% of all property taxes collected.
  • HB 2011 would require the Washington State Institute for Public Policy to complete a study of the comparative constitutional and statutory obligations and revenue capacity of various local government entities, including cities and counties. The study would be funded with $250,000 from the liquor revolving account.

Three other proposals have been introduced but not yet scheduled to be heard:

  • HB 2006 would remove the non-supplant language from city and county criminal justice assistance account distributions and the mental health sales tax. Currently, every city receives a portion of more than $35 million per biennium in criminal justice assistance, and one city levies the mental health sales tax.
  • HB 2041 would remove the non-supplant language on levy lid lifts. It would also extend the county criminal justice levy to all counties. Currently, only counties under 90,000 population may impose this levy.
  • HB 2012 would eliminate the streamlined sales tax mitigation program and redistribute an equivalent amount of funding to cities and counties for indigent defense. Beginning July 1, 2017, counties would receive $23.2 million for indigent defense, and cities would get $2.3 million. The distributions would be adjusted annually by the state’s fiscal growth factor, and all funds must supplement, not supplant, existing indigent defense programs.
    While supporting additional funding for indigent defense, AWC opposes elimination of the streamlined sales tax mitigation program. The program is the result of an agreement between the state and local governments to mitigate the shift in revenue resulting from taxing sales based on destination. Under this program, 50 cities receive approximately $13 million in mitigation payments, and counties and transit agencies share the remaining $10 million.

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Economic development

 

Bills would allow for greater participation in Main Street Program

HB 1343/SB 5135 would increase the tax credit limit for the Main Street tax incentive program from $1.5 million to $5 million.

The Main Street Program was created in 2005 to provide assistance for local comprehensive downtown or neighborhood commercial district revitalization initiatives. The Program is operated by the Department of Archeology and Historic Preservation who provides initial site evaluations by technical specialists, training for local programs and staff, as well as design and implementation assistance to local governments and organizations for revitalization programs. The Department also may provide financial assistance for initial start-up costs for a local program.

The tax incentive program is administered by the Department of Revenue (DOR) and allows persons making contributions to a designated local Main Street program, or generally to the Main Street Trust Fund Account, to claim a tax credit on the state business & occupation tax or public utility tax.

Under HB 1348/SB 5135 the DOR allocates the total amount of statewide tax credits equally among all local programs and the Trust Fund. Allocations may exceed the $100,000 limit on tax credits for a local program, but a person must make a qualifying contribution to a local program, or the Trust Fund, by November 15 of the year that the DOR approved the contribution, or the tax credit is forfeited.

AWC is supportive of this legislation as the current $1.5 million cap is limiting the effectiveness of this program. Raising the cap would allow for participation by more cities and more businesses.

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Bills would allow for greater participation in Main Street Program

HB 1823 grants new authorities to the parking and business improvement area program (PBIA). Under current statute, business improvement areas are designed to “aid the general economic development and revitalization, and facilitate merchant and business cooperation. A PBIA is an area within a county, city or town that has the authority to levy special assessments on the business and multifamily residential or mixed-use projects within the geographic boundaries of the areas that are specially benefited by the activities of the PBIA”

HB 1823 grants new authorities. These include, allowing them to:

  • Acquire and/or operate parking facilities;
  • Develop and implement plans to improve the appearance and character of the district;
  • Sponsor or promote public events and entertainment;
  • Provide economic development services for the district;
  • Support business activities in the district;
  • Provide maintenance and security for the district;
  • Provide transportation services; and
  • Provide assistance to the public about local services.

In addition to these new authorities, the bill renames the program to “business improvement districts (BID).

HB 1823 had a public hearing in the House Local Government Committee on January 9 and is scheduled for executive session on February 15. AWC is supportive of this legislation.

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Environment & land use

 

AWC co-hosts lunch with legislators to discuss funding for removal of fish-blocking culverts

AWC collaborated with the Washington State Association of Counties to hold a brown bag lunch for legislators this week to discuss the work we have been doing to create a statewide strategic approach to replacing fish blocking culverts and to fund a program to help local governments. We were encouraged by the turnout by legislators and their continued recognition that it makes sense to find a way to fund local government culvert replacements so that fish can actually benefit from the investments in corrections for state owned culverts. It does not make sense to pay billions of dollars to fix state-owned culverts if the fish just encounter a locally owned culvert right up stream.

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Critical water bills get hearing and one bill advances

Bills seeking to address the challenges resulting from the recent Hirst and Foster Supreme Court cases continue to get a lot of attention. The bill preferred by local governments and the development community, HB 1885 was heard in the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee. On the same day, a bill preferred by the environmental community and the tribes, HB 1918, was also heard. There was a packed room full of testimony on all sides. We will be working with committee members to keep HB 1885 moving but recognize that elements of both approaches are probably necessary to get a bill to the finish line.

Meanwhile, the Senate Agriculture, Water, Trade & Economic development committee moved SB 5239, which is the Senate Republican approach to the problem. As the committee moved the bill they added language that addresses the Foster case, which we greatly appreciate. AWC is supportive of this bill as written, but we recognize that it will likely need additional amendments to keep moving. The vote in the committee was largely party line with all Republicans voting for the bill, all Democrats but one voting against, and one Democrat voting to advance the bill without recommendation. Even more bills on this subject are being introduced and we are encouraged by the level of attention this issue is getting.

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Federal

 

AWC Federal Priorities under review

With the passage of time and changes in Washington D.C., it is again time to review the priorities. Our Federal Committee met on February 3, 2017 by conference call. The Committee was asked to provide ideas to forward to the AWC Board and changes, if any at this time, will be considered during its next meeting. In the meantime, we continue to use our 2016 Federal Priorities.

In mid-March, dozens of city officials will be going to Washington D.C. for the National League of Cities annual conference. Look for continued information about potential refinements to these priorities in advance of this conference and our interaction with the Administration and our congressional delegation.

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Housing

 

Affordable housing and homelessness bills in play

As of February 10, HB 1570 (Increasing homelessness funding) and HB 1797 (Generating new local option revenue sources for affordable housing) were in negotiations and still in the House Community Development and Housing Committee. We are encouraged that talks are underway to see if those bills can be passed out of committee with bi-partisan votes. We appreciate the interest from legislators of both parties in finding ways to address these critical needs.

On the Senate side, interested parties have begun specific discussions about whether there is common ground on some of the more controversial provisions of SB 5254. We expect that the bill will come out of the Senate Local Government Committee as a work in progress, and we are encouraged by early conversations with the proponents of the GMA buildable lands elements of that bill that there should be common ground that can be reached.

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Bills seek to remedy issues related to abandoned and foreclosed homes

HB 2057/SB 5797 tasks the Housing Finance Commission with creating a process where “entities,” such as cities, counties or servicers, can apply to obtain a certificate of abandonment for properties that meet the definition of abandoned.

These bills come out of work throughout the past interim to address homes that have been abandoned in communities, or homes that are in foreclosure and stand vacant. They are currently drafted to be intentionally vague, as the stakeholders continue to work on language that works for all interested parties. Legislators, cities, counties, homeowner advocates, banks and others have been at the table negotiating language.

From a city perspective, we are most concerned with vacant homes in our communities that are a source of blight and pose serious safety hazards. Under current law, cities have little authority to address these properties when citizens call to complain. When homes are in the midst of the foreclosure process, and are vacant, it is difficult to determine who the responsible party is for home upkeep. Cities are caught in the middle and have little recourse to address the safety and blight issues. Cities, and other entities, need a mechanism to establish whether a home is truly abandoned and whether we can access the home to ensure it is secure.

Detailed amendment language is expected in the coming days before the first public hearing on these bills. Both bills are scheduled for public hearing on February 14, HB 2057 in the House Judiciary Committee, and SB 5797 in Senate Financial Institutions and Insurance.

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Infrastructure

 

Glimmer of hope for the Public Works Trust Fund? Your voices needed!

AWC was invited to participate in a work session on local infrastructure in front of Senate Ways & Means Committee on Thursday Febraury 9, with AWC board member and Public Works Board member KC Kuykendall presenting for the Public Works Board and Carl Schroeder presenting for AWC. We were encouraged by the level of interest and engagement from committee members. Securing state funding for local infrastructure is still a steep uphill battle and cities who care about maintaining some semblance of the Public Works Trust Fund (PWTF) need to be in regular communication with their legislators. One theme that seems to be resonating with legislators is that the loan repayment dollars can either be a one-time shot in the arm to the Operating Budget, or a permanent base to rebuild a smarter and more effective infrastructure funding program.

The House Capital Budget Committee will have a public hearing on a number of infrastructure bills on Tuesday February 14 including the AWC’s reform proposal, HB 1677. If you would like to share your needs with the committee, this is a great opportunity. Please contact Carl Schroeder so we can help with talking points or coordination.

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Open government

 

AWC priority public records bills heard in committee on Friday

AWC’s priority public records bills, HB 1594 and HB 1595, were heard in the House State Government, Elections, & Information Technology Committee on Friday, February 10. The hearing covered the stakeholder process leading up to the development of the bills as well as testimony from supporters and opposition. You can watch the entire hearing here. The bills must be voted out of committee by the policy committee cut-off date of February 17.

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Bill would cap public record penalties in certain cases

SB 5710 sponsored by Sen. Patty Kuderer (D-Kirkland) is a proposal from the City of Kirkland that would cap penalties in certain public records cases. The bill is scheduled for public hearing in the Senate State Government Committee on Friday, February 17. That is the cutoff day to take action on policy bills. The bill would need to be heard and voted out of the committee on the same day to be able to advance. The bill faces strong opposition from the public records requester community.

SB 5710 would cap penalties at $5,000 in cases where the judge found that the agency acted in good faith. The bills indicates that good faith could include but is not limited to the following:

  • A lack of clarity in the request;
  • The agency's prompt response or legitimate follow-up inquiry for clarification;
  • The agency's honest, timely, and strict compliance with all statutory procedural requirements and exceptions;
  • Proper training and supervision of the agency's personnel;
  • The reasonableness of any explanation for noncompliance by the agency;
  • The helpfulness of the agency to the requestor;
  • The supplemental and unprompted provision by an agency of responsive records that had inadvertently not been provided previously; and
  • The existence of agency systems to track and retrieve public records.

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Public safety & criminal justice

 

Bill would authorize the use of automated license plate readers

Rep. Sherry Appleton (D-Bainbridge Island) is sponsoring a HB 1909 to allow automated license plate reading systems in numerous situations. In all of the scenarios, any collected data must be disposed of within a day. The bill would provide for the use of systems in the follow circumstances:

  • By a law enforcement agency or parking enforcement agency for locating vehicles on a watch list. A watch list may only contain license plate data on stolen vehicles, vehicles associated with Amber Alerts, vehicles associated with felony warrants, and vehicles associated with individuals for whom there is probable cause to believe they have committed a felony.
  • By a parking enforcement agency for enforcing time restrictions on parking spaces.
  • By a transportation agency for providing real time traffic information to the public; and
  • By an agency (including cities and towns) for controlling access to secured areas.

The bill would also requires any agency using such a system to annually report on the system’s use, including: the number of license plates scanned, the sources of watch list information, the number of false-positive matches, the number of matches that resulted in arrest, and the number of stolen vehicles recovered.

The Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs (WASPC) is opposed to this bill. HB 1909 will be heard on February 16, at 3:30 pm, in the House Transportation Committee.

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Legislation directs state to develop emergency plans for oil train accidents

Rep. Christine Kilduff (D-University Place) has developed HB 1698 that would require the state’s Department of Health to prepare emergency preparedness guidance for oil train accidents. The bill recognizes that oil train traffic has been increasing in Washington and, with it, an increasing risk of spills, fires, and other hazards.

The bill would require the Department to identify methods of notifying residents about oil train accidents, create information on the health risks associated with oil spills, and create guidance on what to do during an oil spill emergency. The Department would be required to implement a public outreach campaign no later than January 1, 2020.

AWC supports the bill. It will be heard in the House Public Safety Committee on February 13 at 1:30 pm.

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Telecommunications

 

Cities testify against small cell pre-emption bills but the work continues

As reported last week, identical bills were heard in the House and Senate that would preempt city authority to manage their rights of way, impose new permit timelines and mandate a cost formula for charging for pole attachments.

In a rare set of circumstances, each bill was given a hearing at the same time slot on the same day. City panelists moved quickly between each hearing room and managed to provide testimony in opposition to the bills as planned. HB 1921, sponsored by Rep. Jeff Morris (D-Mount Vernon), remains in committee and is not yet scheduled for a vote. If it does not pass out of the committee by Friday, February 17 it will be considered dead for this session.

SB 5711 is sponsored by Sen. Doug Ericksen (R-Ferndale) who is the Chair of the Energy, Environment & Technology Committee where the bill was heard. Shortly after testimony, the senate bill was brought up for executive action and passed out of the committee on a 5-3 vote. Sen. Ericksen has stated that it is his intention to address concerns raised in the hearing and wants to continue to move the bill.

For many reasons, cities have concerns about these sweeping preemption bills. However, in an effort to determine if there is common ground, stakeholders and the telecommunications industry will participate in a series of discussions over the next two weeks. City representatives include folks representing planning and permitting, legal, and utility interests. Watch the Legislative Bulletin for updates or contact Victoria Lincoln or Dave Catterson at AWC.

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Transportation

 

Bill seeks authority to set speed limits for trains carrying hazardous flammable materials

HB 1498/SB 5098 would authorize the Utilities and Transportation Commission (UTC) and first class cities to seek a preemption waiver from the United States Department of Transportation for a speed limit reduction for high-hazard flammable trains in certain circumstances. It would also grant first class cities the authority to request that the UTC exercise its authority in the regulation of rail speed limits on the city's behalf.

HB 1498 had a public hearing in the House Transportation Committee on February 2. SB 5098 is scheduled for public hearing in the Senate Transportation Committee on February 15. AWC supports this legislation and will continue to monitor its progress.

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Take action

 

Glimmer of hope for the Public Works Trust Fund? Your voices needed!
Legislators are receptive to our message but it is still a very steep uphill battle to secure state funding for local infrastructure. More

Remind your legislators what state shared revenues mean to your city
Today marks the beginning of the sixth week of session, and state budget proposals are under development. Budget writers are looking to find money wherever they can. Now is a good time to remind your legislators what state shared revenues mean to your city. Check out your city’s estimated portion of state shared revenues, absent any cuts, here.

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Media time


Homelessness and housing story map
Cities throughout the state are searching for local and statewide solutions to address increasing homeless populations, housing shortages, and a strained mental and behavioral health system. This story map profiles seven cities’ experiences. More

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