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

Published on Monday, February 5, 2018

City issues and issues of concern at the halfway point

We are halfway through the legislative session and past an important legislative cutoff deadline.

AWC’s goals for the short 60-day legislative session are to:

  • Advance city legislative priorities; and
  • Ensure that cities aren’t burdened by new costly mandates or constrained on how they make decisions and spend local revenues.

February 2 was the deadline to advance policy bills for further consideration. Many bills of concern to cities failed to move forward, while several key ones continued to make progress. The February 6 deadline to advance bills with a state fiscal impact will likely further narrow the list of bills that can help or hinder meeting our goals listed above.

We are making some progress on providing tools and avoiding some mandates, but we continue to fight some uphill battles to protect cities from new costly mandates and stop intrusions into how local decisions are made.

The good news

As reported in this week’s series of Bulletin articles, most of AWC’s proactive bills that seek housing and human service tools are under consideration, or are up for further consideration. We hope that the House will move key bills to the floor for votes, which will move them over to the Senate. A smattering of bills didn’t advance that would have mandated minimum residential zoning densities or impeded the ability of cities to annex and extend utilities.

We are making progress on protecting city interests and authority when it comes to welcoming new cellular technology – when and if it’s ready to come to your community. Efforts by the industry to replicate preemption of local regulatory authorities (which has occurred in many other states around the country) have so far failed to interest decision-makers in our state. House and Senate bills moving forward maintain local control, while encouraging preparations for this new technology. Efforts to expand high-speed broadband access to all parts of the state continue, but will be costly and likely move forward in small steps over time.

Of concern

We continue to work with our county partners seeking to obtain funding for state-mandated indigent defense costs. While our ideas are under consideration, budget writers appear reluctant to commit to significant initial investments or longer-term obligations to fund these services. We’re also witnessing legislative interest in passing bills that would extend workers’ compensation benefits for local firefighters, investigators, and law enforcement personnel that will be costly for local governments, but not burden the state. Similarly, bills are advancing that would expand city tort responsibilities in wrongful death cases that could be very costly and litigious.

Finally, we continue to offer ideas on how to improve the voting rights legislation moving swiftly forward. We know a bill will pass providing new legal means to challenge whether a city’s system of choosing council candidates provides access to minority residents. How challenges can be brought (whether only by a resident voter, or any person), how courts view any city remedy, and what size city this applies to – are all items still under consideration. We will know more about how our recommendations are being considered when the bill comes up for a vote in the House State Government, Elections & Information Technology Committee on February 7.

Add your voice at critical times

Senators and Representatives have until Valentine’s Day to vote on bills in their respective chambers to either advance or stop them from being considered in the opposite one. If you believe that there’s a bill on their plate that either helps or hinders what you’re trying to achieve in your city, a phone call – not an email – can and does make a difference. It takes just a few minutes, but can make a real difference. Check out our online Legislative Directory for their office number.