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Published on Friday, December 14, 2012

AWC Board adopts 2013 legislative priorities and issue positions as a new Governor and Legislature prepare to come to Olympia

On December 7, AWC’s Board of Directors met and affirmed their decision made in September that the collective voice of cities will focus on three core themes this coming legislative session: ensure fiscal sustainability and flexibility, foster and invest in economic development and infrastructure, and enhance service provision. In addition, they reviewed and adopted positions on dozens of issues vetted by our Legislative Committee and deemed important for AWC to engage in during the session. AWC’s 2013 legislative priorities can be found here, and details about the remaining issues can be found here.

What is your city’s legislative agenda for 2013? Now is the time to outline your city-specific goals for the upcoming session. Please remember to share your legislative agenda with AWC once it is finalized.

Setting the stage for an interesting and challenging legislative session, Governor Gregoire is expected to release her last set of state budget proposals on December 18 for the upcoming 2013-2015 biennium – something she’s required to do by year’s end. The proposals she leaves for Governor-elect Inslee and legislators to consider (or not) must match expenditures with anticipated revenues. She may also release alternative budgets that include new revenue ideas to enhance K-12 education funding as ordered by the State Supreme Court, as well as ideas to fund the next package of state and local transportation needs. Look for more in the coming days on our website about her proposals and their impact on cities and go here for one legislator’s summary of the budget challenges ahead.

When legislators return to Olympia for a scheduled 105-day session on January 14, the 98-member House is set to begin work knowing that the Democrats are in charge, who serves on which committees, and what the leadership structure will be. The 49-member Senate hasn’t yet settled any of this – at least it seems so as far as a majority of 26 Democratic Senators are concerned. A coalition of all 23 Republican and two Democratic Senators has shaken up and reworked the leadership and committee structure in a manner not seen previously in Olympia. How this all will sort out isn’t yet clear, but we can expect that matters considered and moved out of the Senate will be dealt with differently than in the House.

Governor-elect Inslee has established a transition office in Olympia that is preparing for him to take office on January 16. He will inherit a complex web of agencies employing over 100,000 people and is hoping to establish himself as a leader with new ideas and fresh faces and perspectives at the helm. He and his staff are concentrating first on getting up to speed on the workings and issues within state agencies, as well as working to fill key staffing positions within his new administration. He has appointed a new Chief of Staff and asked 34 people from various walks of life to serve as advisors as he seeks to fill cabinet positions, build a staff, and turns his campaign agenda into legislative and executive action.

Tacoma Mayor Marilyn Strickland joins Clark County Commissioner Steve Stuart as the local government voices on this transition team. Mayor Strickland welcomes input from cities and encourages you to contact her with specific suggestions on how the Governor-elect and his team could enhance the way state government partners with cities in providing services and opportunities for your residents and businesses – in particular as it relates to the work group she’s on dealing with the work of the Department of Revenue. In addition, AWC has begun discussions with transition staff and is preparing some briefing materials for them about cities, how we partner with the state, and what our hot-button issues are looking ahead to the 2013 session. Please feel free to share your ideas with me – I’d appreciate hearing by year’s end.

AWC is also communicating with our Congressional delegation back in D.C. as they and the Obama administration seek to resolve budget issues. Of particular importance is retaining the tax-exempt status of municipal bonds – see here for more details.

As the year comes to a close, I want to thank the countless number of city officials who have advised, supported, and challenged our legislative team as we’ve have tried to represent your interests in Olympia and the “other” Washington. Thanks, too, to our Legislative Committee and the Board of Directors who keep us focused and grounded. Many on our team will be taking time off over the holidays to be with family and charge our batteries before what will surely be a grueling session. Our best wishes to everyone for a joyous holiday season and a Happy New Year!

Remember to hold the date for the 2013 City Legislative Action Conference in Olympia, coming up on February 13-14. Registration has opened, so save your spot now!