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Published on Friday, February 13, 2015

Status report coming into cutoff week

In the environmental and land use arenas it has been a busy five weeks of session. As we approach the policy committee cutoff, the deadline before which policy bills must leave their first committee or else they are dead, we wanted to provide a quick snapshot of where the bills we’ve discussed so far stand. Remember, nothing is really dead until the legislature leaves town, but this is the best information we have as of right now.

Septic to sewer conversions: The bills (HB 1102, SB 5055) proposing to require cities to pay for all costs associated with mandated sewer connections when septic systems fail in certain circumstances has been put down. They have been replaced by bills, HB 2010 and SB 5871 requiring cities to offer an appeal process for homeowners caught in these rare circumstances. AWC has been negotiating with the proponents and all sides have agreed on these replacement bills. They have been heard and moved out of policy committee.

Water/sewer district referendum bills: SB 5048 and HB 1417 have both passed out of committee over AWC objections. AWC and involved cities have asked for four amendments, and interestingly both chamber have adopted a different suite of those amendments.

  • Requiring the vote on the referendum to be voted on only by citizens living in the area proposed for the assumption, as opposed to the entire water/sewer district as in the original bill. The Senate committee adopted this amendment.
  • Setting the signature threshold to 15% of the registered voters in the area, as opposed to 10% of the voters in the last election as in the original bill. The House adopted this amendment.
  • Setting the timeline to connect signatures at 30 days (instead of 90). The House adopted this amendment.
  • Excluding mutually agreed upon assumptions from this referendum process. The Senate adopted this amendment, we expect the House to do so on the floor.

The Senate also adopted two additional changes not asked for by cities, one requiring a voter pamphlet be prepared and another subjecting assumption ordinances adopted on or after January 1, 2014 to the referendum process.

Authorizing local governments to opt into judicial review of GMA appeals. HB 1158 has been heard but so far has not been scheduled for action in the House Local Government committee.

What we have often referred to as the “Tiny Home” bill, HB 1123 would eliminate state building code minimum room sizes has moved from committee. We expected an agreed upon amendment to retain the minimum room size but eliminate the ability of jurisdictions to set minimum building sizes to be accepted. The bill moved without that amendment and we are working with the sponsor to offer it on the floor.

Eminent domain bills that would preclude the use of eminent domain for economic development purposes, SB 5188 and SB 5363, have both passed out of committee over AWC objections. Our concern is that these uses are already prohibited and these bills introduce new confusion to an already settled area of law.

Water infrastructure bill, SB 5628 dealing with a major investment of water infrastructure across three major categories of supply, flooding and stormwater has been heard but remains in committee. This proposal is exempt from the cutoffs as a budget proposal and won’t likely move for some time.

The Governor’s toxic reduction proposal, HB 1472, addressing non-point pollutants before they enter the environment (and our sewer and stormwater systems) has been heard in the House, and we expect it will move before the cutoff.

OFM’s annexation process bills, HB 1250 and SB 5138 have been heard in committee’s in both houses. The bill has been amended and passed from the Senate committee and is scheduled to move from the House committee next week.

Several bills that were heard this week remain available for committee action and action is expected including Latecomer Fees (HB 1911) expedited bridge permitting (HB 1851) and unfortunately the impact fee deferral bill (HB 1709).