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Published on Friday, March 15, 2013

City priorities update

An extended vetting process last fall led to the development of AWC’s legislative priorities. Many of these priorities are directly linked to what does or doesn’t get funded in the state’s budget, while some focus on maintaining or altering state policies. Here’s an overview of where we stand with regard to these priorities as we head into the next phase of session.

Let’s start with the budget. The Senate will be first to reveal a detailed budget, sometime later this month or soon after April 1.

  • We are meeting with and sharing AWC fiscal priorities with legislators and key staff. While we don’t yet know where cuts or eliminations impacting cities will occur, we do know they’ll be proposed.
  • Budget writers are waiting until the official March 20 release of the updated state revenue forecast before finalizing and releasing proposals. We expect the forecast will include increased demands on state services and additional fiscal impacts from the federal budget sequestration.
  • You can play a key role to help lessen cuts by connecting with your legislators now about the importance of continued sharing of liquor revenues, funding for programs like sales-tax streamlining mitigation, the Public Works Trust Fund and other programs or shared revenues that are important to your community. Remember, there are many voices demanding that cuts be made or clamoring for their programs to be left alone – your voice needs to be heard often and clearly.
  • We’ll be sharing more details as they become available. Look for more information in the March 20 electronic edition of AWC’s CityVoice and next week’s Legislative Bulletin.

Now that the House and Senate have each decided which of their policy bills will or won’t advance for consideration by the opposite chamber, we have a clearer picture of which AWC policy issues remain “alive” and which appear “dead” (see more details within this Bulletin). Examples include:

  • The House showed strong support for continuing to allow cities flexibility in use of locally collected lodging taxes (ESHB 1253). The bill now moves to the Senate, where we expect continued opposition.
  • The Senate sent two business-backed bills to the House that, in our opinion, infringe upon local authorities in setting and managing local business licensing fees (ESSB 5656) and establish unnecessary impediments to the 40 cities that impose a local business and occupation tax (E2SSB 5688). We’ll urge the House to take a different approach.
  • Neither the House nor the Senate has acted yet on proposals to fund a new comprehensive transportation package, nor on proposals for additional options to provide local transportation funds to address road maintenance and congestion issues. We remain engaged and hopeful they will address transportation, but recognize this is an end-of-session issue.
  • Our coalition of public entities failed in efforts to modestly address ways to curb abusive public records requests (SHB 1128). Although confident we had the votes to pass the bill in the House, leadership made the decision not to bring it up for a vote.
  • The Senate wisely chose not to advance a bill that would have significantly changed how cities annex lands (SSB 5013), and the House never considered such a proposal.
  • In cities that receive water from other than a city-owned utility, there is hope for clarification of how to pay for fire hydrants as both House (SHB 1512) and Senate (SB 5606) bills move forward.
  • We’re keeping an eye out for potential new unfunded mandates and, so far, haven’t found any. We’re also hopeful that at least one cost-savings bill (SSB 5099), clarifying how cities respond to a mandate to use alternative fuel sources in your fleets, will continue to advance in the House after getting overwhelming support in the Senate.

A number of other bills of concern that AWC has been tracking failed to move forward. As is often the case, the list of bills available to vote on is longer than time permits and many bills just “die” on the calendar. Remember, even if a bill didn’t advance this year, it remains “alive” for possible consideration during the second year of a biennial legislative session. Therefore, we may see them resurrected next year.

Thanks to the many city officials who’ve helped us advance or stop bills of interest this year. Your active and thoughtful communications really do make a difference!