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

Published on Friday, February 17, 2017

Legislative Bulletin – City Action Days Recap | Priority bills advance | Hot sheet

Hot topics

AWC priority public records bills advance. More

Business license and tax bills heard and SSB 5777 moves out of committee. More

Check out our hot sheet! This includes the most significant bills we support, oppose and are monitoring. More

From the Director

What 350+ city officials heard in Olympia More

Need to know

Budget & finance
Property tax bills changing the levy limit heard this week. More
Fiscal flexibility bills scheduled for hearing. More
Proposal to restore city liquor revenue moves out of committee. More
Lodging tax bill introduced. More

General government
Competing bills on emergency notices in multiple languages move forward. More

Housing
Two housing and homelessness priority bills pass first committee. The first increases fee that generates revenue to address homelessness, the second creates local option tools for affordable housing. More

Infrastructure
House committee considers proposals for local infrastructure funding. More work ahead to look at various proposals and identify a path forward. More
Bill that would change claims process on construction contracts still alive in the Senate. Amended version is still problematic for cities. More

Marijuana
Bill crafted to increase cities share of marijuana excise taxes. More

Open government
Bill that requires collective bargaining sessions to be open amended. More

Personnel
Occupational disease bill moves forward. More

Public safety & criminal justice
Deadly force bill moves forward with amendments. More

Things you can do

Participate in Town Hall Meetings. More

Media time

Understand the life of a bill and cut-off dates More

 


 

From the Director

What 350+ city officials heard in Olympia

During gatherings both on and off the Capitol campus, officials from 114 cities and towns heard some promising and not so promising news. Governor Inslee and numerous legislators from both parties and chambers shared their perspectives on what they consider key issues and their views on AWC’s priorities. The conversations were cordial, respectful, and frank.

There was general consensus that:

  • Little, if anything, gets settled unless they can reach agreement on adequately funding K-12 education;
  • Efforts to modernize the Public Records Act are headed in the right direction and as negotiations continue, legislation should keep moving forward;
  • Finding new ways to help fund local infrastructure remains critically important, but how to fund it continues to be a problem;
  • More housing is needed for a growing population and in particular, for those on our streets;
  • Mental health services need better focus and more funding; and
  • Elected officials at the local level are best situated to address local needs, but not all the right tools and resources are available to do so.

Less promising was any sense that the Governor and majorities in the House and Senate are close to agreement on key operating and capital budget decisions. Getting to an agreement is these key to making many of the other decisions noted above.

Now at the beginning of the 7th week of a 15-week session, it’s not abnormal for leaders to establish starting positions on how much revenue is needed and for what. While the Governor was first out with a budget in late 2016 (as required by law), it’s now the Senate’s turn to release their budget.  They are now constructing proposed operating and capital budgets that are unlikely to come out before the next scheduled state revenue forecast on March 16.

Attendees at our City Action Days clearly heard that the Senate budget is unlikely to include any new revenue while proposing cuts to city-shared revenues and services. Leadership in the House majority shared that their budget ideas require new revenues and most likely won’t include cuts to revenues and services that cities support and rely on. Where this all ends up by session’s end is unclear.

What is clear is that, on the policy front, many of the issues AWC is working on are moving along. Having 350+ officials in town meeting and talking about these issues with their legislators was extremely helpful and much appreciated. It’s also clear that continuing to advocate not only for policy bills, but for what’s needed in the budgets to keep cities strong, is something only a strong chorus of voices from home can help us achieve.

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Need to know

Budget & finance

 

City business license and tax bills heard in House and Senate, SSB 5777 moves out of committee

Both city business license and tax proposals HB 2005 and SB 5777 were heard in their respective committees last week. Both bills implement the recommendations of the 2016 task force to increase the number of cities in the state’s Business Licensing Service (BLS) and include a requirement that cities 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.

Thanks to Paul Roberts, AWC Immediate Past President and Everett councilmember, and Glen Lee, Seattle Finance Director, for testifying with Peter King, AWC CEO in the House Finance Committee on HB 2005. The panel expressed support for implementation of the task force recommendations and shared some concerns regarding 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.

Thanks as well to Mayor Patty Lent, Bremerton, who testified with AWC the next day in support of SB 5777 in the Senate Commerce, Labor & Sports Committee. 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. SSB 5777 moved out of committee later that day, with the expectation that there will be further changes to the bill language when the bill moves to the floor in the next few weeks.

Finally, thanks to Patrick Connor, NFIB, who provided the small business perspective to cities on these proposals as part of a panel discussion at the City Action Days conference last week.

We remain hopeful that we can work with the bill sponsors and stakeholders on potential amendments to ensure legislation moves forward implementing the task force recommendations while preserving local authority.

A fact sheet outlining the main provisions of the bills is available here.

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Property tax bills changing the levy limit heard this week

The Senate Local Government Committee took testimony on SB 5772 that would allow cities and counties to replace the 1 percent property tax limit with a new limit that would account for inflation and population increases. This is identical to the bill that was heard in the House Finance Committee last week (HB 1764).

A number of city elected officials provided testimony explaining why the current 1 percent cap is insufficient to meet growth and demand on city services. Thank you to all the local government leaders who took the time to come to Olympia and tell their stories about this revenue constraint.

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Fiscal flexibility bills scheduled for hearing

Two bills providing additional flexibility on local revenues will be heard this week:

HB 2006 is scheduled to be heard in the House Appropriations Committee at 1:30 pm on Monday, February 20. It 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 property tax levy lid lifts. It would also extend the $0.50 voter-approved local option county criminal justice levy to all counties by eliminating the language limiting it to counties with more than 90,000 population. The bill is set for hearing in the House Finance Committee at 8 am on Monday, February 20.

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Proposal to restore city liquor revenue moves out of committee

The House version of AWC’s priority liquor bill, SHB 1113, moved out of committee on February 9.

Over the past several years, cities, counties, and others have sought to remove the cap on liquor revenues and reinstate the traditional percentage based formula of liquor profit sharing.

SHB 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 additional per year beginning in 2019 through 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.

For more information see the fact sheet here.

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Lodging tax bill introduced

A lodging tax bill SB 5827 which would change the definition of tourist under the lodging tax statute was introduced last week. Under the bill tourist would be defined as those who stay in overnight accommodations, have traveled more than 50 miles, or have traveled from a different state or country. This change in definition could impact expenditures of lodging tax for tourism promotion, events, and tourism-related facilities. In addition, it prohibits any lodging tax recipient who fails to submit the required report on tourist activities as ineligible to receive additional distributions until the reports is submitted.

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General government

 

Competing bills on emergency notices in multiple languages move forward

There are bills in the House and Senate that require local governments to provide emergency notices to significant segments of non-English speaking populations. AWC is interested in receiving your input on how these bills could impact your city.

HB 1540 requires that, during an emergency, local governments must provide notices and information in languages understood by a significant segment of an affected area. A significant segment is defined as five percent or more of the residents of a city, town, or county.

SB 5046 requires that, during an emergency, local governments must share information in a manner determined to be most effective for communicating with significant segments of the community who speak a language other than English. Significant segment is defined as five percent or more of residents, or one thousand residents, whichever is fewer.

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Housing

 

Two housing and homelessness priority bills pass first committee

HB 1570 increases the document-recording fee (the largest source of revenue for homelessness assistance) and HB 1797 addresses local option tools for affordable housing. Both bills passed out the House Community Development, Housing and Tribal Affairs committee with substantial amendments.

HB 1570, sponsored by by Rep. Nicole Macri (D-Seattle) passed with only Democratic votes. It was amended to make the document recording fee increase a local option, where counties are authorized to levy a new additional fee of up $50 and keep 100 percent of funds. If the county declines or only uses a portion of that capacity, cities may opt into the remaining portion of that capacity after two years. There will be many continued conversations on the content of this bill as it moves forward.

HB 1797, sponsored by Rep. Joan McBride (D-Kirkland) passed out of committee unanimously. There was encouraging collaboration between the Democrats and Republicans to find a package of housing revenue options they could all support. Here are the three local option tools that were included in the bill as amended by the committee:

  1. Authority to use up to $1 million of local Real Estate Excise Tax (REET) revenues per year for affordable housing purposes for four years.
  2. Authority for a state and local sales tax rebate on the costs of construction of new affordable housing. The funds from the rebate would be used to supply necessary infrastructure for the affordable housing project or to directly subsidize the affordable housing project. The overall intent of the program is to incentivize construction of affordable housing projects that would not otherwise be built.
  3. Changing the optional 0.1 percent sales tax for affordable housing to be adopted directly by the council rather than requiring a vote of the people. This provision would only apply to King County and the cities within.

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Infrastructure

 

House committee considers proposals for local infrastructure funding

On Tuesday February 14, the House Capital Budget Committee held a public hearing on a number of bills related to basic infrastructure funding including HB 1677, the AWC priority bill to reform and rebuild the Public Works Trust Fund. A group of legislators have been assigned by the committee chair and ranking member to chart a path forward among several alternative approaches. We hope to work with those members to move a consensus bill forward to the next step of the process.

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Bill that would change claims process on construction contracts still alive in the Senate

On Thursday, February 16, the Senate Law and Justice Committee amended SB 5788. Sponsored by Sen. Sharon Brown (R-Kennewick) the bill is also known as the “Mike M. Johnson” bill in reference to a state Supreme Court case that was favorable to public owners.  This bill would undermine the decision in that case.

Through an amendment, the committee struck all the bill language and replaced it with language that requires a contractor to prove an owner is not prejudiced by the contractor’s failure to follow the claim notice provisions in a contract prior to obtaining an equitable adjustment for the claim to the contractor.

While we appreciate the sponsor and the committee chair’s attempt to craft language that works better for cities, our underlying issues with the bill remain. Notably, this new language does not solve cities’ fundamental concerns around a contractor’s ability to more easily get out of a contract. Cities need protection from untimely and unsubstantiated claims. The claim notification requirements of a construction contract are extremely important for both public and private owners of construction projects. Under the claim notification clause, owners get real time updates regarding extra costs and possible delays, allowing them to make real-time decisions about how to proceed and budget, which is extremely important on public works projects. Under this legislation, the predictability and transparency we currently enjoy would be gone, hurting cities, and ultimately, our citizens. This predictability would be further eroded by the litigious nature of the bill, as now a jury or judge will need to decide if a claim is warranted.

SB 5788 heads to the Senate Rules Committee. We will continue to work this bill and provide updates.

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Marijuana

 

Bill crafted to increase cities share of marijuana excise taxes

HB 2076 would increase the amount that would be distributed to cities and counties. The bill was introduced by Rep. Condotta (R – Wenatchee) and enjoys bi-partisan support. Marijuana excise tax is collected by the state and a portion is then distributed among various recipients, including cities and counties. Currently, the total amount distributed to local governments is capped at $15 million per year in fiscal years 2018 and 2019, and $20 million in years thereafter. The bill would increase the amount of the annual cap to $20 million in 2018, $30 million in 2019, and $40 million thereafter. AWC is supportive of this legislation and other measures to better share revenue from marijuana legalization.

You can check out how much the Liquor and Cannabis Board has allotted your city for fiscal year 2017 by clicking here.

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Open government

 

AWC priority public records bills advance

AWC’s priority public records bills, HB 1594 and HB 1595, were voted out of Committee on February 14.  The House State Government, Elections, & Information Technology Committee voted 8-1 to advance HB 1595 and 6-1-2 (two members voted “without recommendation”) on HB 1594. We are heartened by this action and continue to work with other stakeholder groups on potential amendments to further refine the language in the two bills.

HB 1594 has a fiscal impact and will likely be referred to the House Appropriations Committee where it will need to be acted on before the fiscal cut off deadline on February 24. HB 1595 will likely go to the House Rules Committee which will determine if it advances to the full House for a vote.

AWC would like to thank AWC Vice President Pat Johnson, Mayor of Buckley, Kirkland Mayor Amy Walen and Seattle Police Department Director of Transparency and Privacy Mary Perry for testifying on behalf of the bills during the hearing on February 10.

As a reminder here is what the bills include:

HB 1595

  • Amends the PRA to allow cities to charge a small fee for providing copies of electronic records.
  • Creates the ability for cities to deny overwhelming computer generated “bot” requests.
  • Prohibits overly broad requests for all of a city’s records.
  • Creates a way for cities to apply a service charge to exceptionally complex requests.

HB 1594

  • Requires training for records officers to address issues of retention, production and disclosure of electronic records.
  • Creates a grant program within the Office of the Secretary of State for local governments to improve their public record management systems.
  • Establishes a program within the Office of the Attorney General to consult with local governments on public records best practices.
  • Creates a study on the feasibility of establishing a statewide open records portal.
  • Provides for mediation between a city and a requestor when there is disagreement on a request.

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Bill that requires collective bargaining sessions to be open amended

SB 5545 as originally drafted would have required collective bargaining sessions to be open public meetings. However, the bill was amended as it moved out of the Senate Commerce, Labor & Sports Committee to lessen that requirement. The amended version allows bargaining sessions to remain closed but requires an agency to submit current proposals to the governing body of the public employer and make the proposals available to the public every two weeks until a final agreement is adopted.

AWC had opposed the requirement to conduct collective bargaining sessions in open public meetings. AWC will review the current proposal to determine the impact on cities.

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Personnel

 

Occupational disease bill moves forward

Rep. John Lovick’s (D-Everett) bill to increase occupational disease benefits to law enforcement officers and firefighters has advanced. HB 1655 would create a prima facie presumption for classifying post-traumatic stress disorder as an occupational disease for officers and firefighters. AWC does not support this costly expansion of occupational disease presumption, and has testified in opposition to the bill. The bill has been referred to the House Appropriations Committee.

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Public safety & criminal justice

 

Deadly force bill moves forward with amendments

SB 5073 was voted out of committee on Thursday with a vote of 5 yeas and 2 nays. The contentious bill was amended to include the compromise language that AWC and the Washington Association of Prosecuting Attorneys (WAPA) developed during a legislative taskforce this interim. The bill removes the malice requirement, retains the good faith standard, and further defines good faith.

The bill was also amended to increase funding for law enforcement training and includes a section that requires funding to be appropriated or the entire bill is null and void. AWC supports the amended version of this bill. Since the bill will have an impact on the state budget, it now moves to the Senate Ways and Means Committee.

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Thing you can do

 

Participate in Town Hall Meetings
The following Town Hall meetings are scheduled:
February 22: 28th District
February 23: 7th District
March 11: 2017 House Democratic Caucus Town Halls

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Media time


Understand the life of a bill and cut-off dates
Cut-off for policy bills to move from committee in the house of origin was Friday, February 17. Cut-off for fiscal bills is this Friday. Watch this video to understand the steps required for a bill to become law. More

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