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Published on Tuesday, September 3, 2013

AWC retooling your priorities for 2014 legislative session

There’s a chance legislators will be back at the Capitol in late November to address new transportation revenue for state and local projects (see more here), but we know for certain they’ll be back in early January for what’s hoped to be a short 60-day session.

While it seems they just left Olympia, it’s time for us to check and update our legislative priority agenda so you can help us advocate for it from home before legislators return.

As a reminder, the current AWC legislative agenda was adopted by our Board late last fall for both the 2013 and 2014 legislative sessions. Our 76-member Legislative Committee met August 20 in SeaTac to start considering what issues remain or are “new.” Next they’ll reconvene on September 13 to prepare recommendations to our Board on what, if any, changes to our two-year priority agenda are needed. On September 27, the Board will review and adopt an update, and we will share it with cities across the state during AWC’s Regional Meetings in writing and other forums.

Our priority agenda is designed to focus our attention, but isn’t the full set of issues cities ask us to address. There are dozens of other issues on our current agenda and as a result of our recent request asking cities for new issues, more have been submitted for review and consideration. The Legislative Committee will continue to review them and develop updated positions to recommend for final Board approval in late November. More on that as the process unfolds.

Legislative Committee meeting highlights

We had a large and engaged turn-out at our kick-off Legislative Committee meeting on August 20 and greatly appreciate those whom were able to attend, as well as those whom called in for the subcommittee meetings in the afternoon.

We also very much appreciated hearing from and conversing with our guest speakers:

  • Senator Steve Litzow and Representative Chris Hurst who shared some straight talk on budget and I-502 (marijuana legalization) realities;
  • Washington Roundtable Vice President Neil Strege, Roundtable lobbyist Mike Groesch, and Transportation Improvement Board Executive Director Steve Gorcester who helped outline transportation needs around the state;
  • City lobbyist panelists Briahna Taylor, Doug Levy and Mark Brown for more straight talk and insights about how best to prepare for the 2014 session, and;
  • Committee members John Caulfield, Sean Guard and Derek Young for reporting on the work of our Ad-Hoc Committee on Municipal Finance – a group looking at possible short and longer term “fixes” to how cities raise and spend revenue.

There was a considerable amount of discussion and concern raised about the legislature continuing to retreat from helping support cities where most of our state’s residents and businesses live and flourish. Foremost in many members' minds was the legislature’s diversion of revenues away from funding any new infrastructure improvement loans through the once healthy Public Works Assistance Account (see more on that here). Also noted was the failure to restore full funding of shared liquor revenue with cities and the lack of attention to restoring the growth factor in liquor revenues which has been available for almost 80 years until eliminated in 2012. There was also a good initial discussion of the pros and cons of looking at changes in how cities are funded and the need to be sensitive to the wide variety of fiscal capacities of cities of all sizes around the state.

A final word

Our legislative team is pleased to welcome Regina Adams as our Legislative Assistant. Regina worked previously for the Olympia Master Builders and brings great skills and enthusiasm to our team. After a grueling six months of session and a relatively brief interim, your legislative team is gearing up for a busy fall and 2014!