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Published on Friday, March 13, 2015

Mid-session status report – are legislators helping cities?

The session that started out with a lot of optimism and good messaging about preserving the partnership between the state and cities is not yet yielding tangible results. We’re continuing to work to change this and need your help from home to zero-in on action, not just talk.

  • Liquor revenue sharing: We have not yet been able to secure hearings on HB 1517/SB 5896 to maintain and restore growth in liquor revenue sharing. Yet we are heartened that this might change in the House after more than half its members (equal numbers of Democrats and Republicans) signed and sent a letter to their budget leaders earlier this week. The letter stated, “We are united in our belief that it is time to help our local government partners by lifting the cap on city and county liquor profits sharing.”
  • Marijuana: Proposals to share marijuana revenues are becoming so small you need a magnifying glass to see them for most cities, yet there seems to be widespread agreement – just no action – that some amount of sharing is needed and justified.
  • Public Works Trust Fund: Most legislators tell us they don’t support continued drains on the Public Works Assistance Account to help balance their budget, but we’ve seen no proof yet that they’re serious.
  • Transportation: The bright spot of the session so far was the Senate’s passage of the transportation package. However, it included a provision passed at the last minute that eliminates local sales and use taxes associated with state transportation projects.

Good opportunities to change the dialogue are running out, as several of the key discussions are about to go behind closed doors. Budget leadership will begin to make the many difficult decisions to bring the session to a close.

This weekend's town hall meetings are one of our last best opportunities to publicly impress upon your legislators the need to help your cities. If there are none being held in your area or if you can’t attend, look for other ways to convey your needs and the importance of action. AWC’s Operation Strong Cities Pocket Guide – 2015 Legislative Session Edition contains numerous tips and suggestions and the Take Action portion of this week’s Bulletin includes ways you can help from home.

As the number of bills under active consideration in the Legislature narrows, our focus does as well. Many of our 2015 priorities are linked to the budget decisions legislators will be making over the coming weeks. We continue to work in cooperation with county interests to promote our common agendas and will be meeting jointly with legislative leaders in the coming weeks to press for action. We can’t succeed this year without legislators continuing to hear from you at home. You are the best messenger when it comes down to explaining the needs of your community and how they would be harmed if these trends continue. Balancing the budget on the backs of cities has real consequences.