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Published on Friday, July 12, 2013

Another busy session

It was another busy session in the environment and land use arenas. In an otherwise difficult budget year, one bright spot was a major new investment in helping cities manage stormwater problems and the creation of a more effective and stable long term stormwater funding program. For the second year running, a major environmental reform bill that AWC was heavily involved in passed in the late stages of session. All session long cities fought a bill that would have mandated that cities defer collection of impact fees. That struggle ended with Governor Jay Inslee’s veto of the bill – his only full veto that was not for technical reasons. On top of all that, the legislature also significantly reduced a major unfunded mandate that would have required municipal fleet conversion to renewable fuels, restored options to fund municipal fire hydrants that had been eliminated by a Supreme Court case, created new authority for cities to fund upfront environmental review and reinforced tools for the funding of utility infrastructure.

Some final thoughts on the major issues we worked on this year are below, as is a chart detailing the final outcome of all of the bills we highlighted in the Bulletin.


We came into the session with two priorities around stormwater: increasing the state’s investment in this critical issue and creating a more stable and effective state stormwater funding program. We reported in November on the start of our work with the state and other stakeholders on implementing these priorities and are pleased to report that the legislature made great progress on both fronts. The $100 million in new investments in stormwater is double what the state has put into stormwater grants in any other budget. Perhaps even more importantly, these funds will largely be distributed through a new competitive program that for the first time will be open to a whole range of projects that address stormwater impacts from existing development, and will for the first time be ranked based on water quality impact and cost effectiveness. This is in contrast to previous state investments that have mostly focused on low impact development projects as the primary tool for retrofits.

Finally, this investment also includes a significant $15 million set aside for all cities subject to an NPDES municipal stormwater permit to perform project pre-design and design to get projects ready to apply to the grant program. This will ensure that every permitted community has an opportunity to compete in the competitive program. There was a lot of support in the legislature on this new approach, and we are optimistic that it will put us on good footing moving forward for future funding. The Department of Ecology is working to quickly get the planning money into city hands and you should be on the lookout for a letter from them in the next several weeks. AWC will also publicize the availability of those funds.

Dedicated environmental funding (MTCA)

Another session-long priority for AWC was the prevention of Model Toxics Control Account (MTCA) dollars being swept into the general fund. MTCA dollars fund many things that are important to cities including toxic site cleanups, the state’s stormwater investments and solid waste support. These funds have historically been a primary target for the legislature when they face large general fund shortfalls.

We worked with a large coalition spanning local governments and the business and the environmental communities to convince the legislature of the need to retain these funds for their intended purposes.

Our coalition was largely successful at preserving these funds, and part of the reason for that was a MTCA reform bill from Sen. Doug Ericksen that in some ways had the effect of recommitting the legislature to the core uses of the fund. This bill was very controversial at times even between the groups who were working together to support these activities. AWC supported the bill because it made a number of changes that benefited cities and we felt that being open to reforming these programs was necessary to preserving them. In the end the bill passed very late in special session with large bi-partisan majorities despite never having a hearing in the House. There is no doubt that we will need to continue to work on these issues moving forward.

Impact fees

Cities have been fighting proposals to mandate the deferral of collection of impact fees for many years now. Across many topic areas we historically work collaboratively and successfully with the building and development community both in Olympia and in the cities across the state. However, this issue is one that we just don’t see eye to eye on. Despite the strong opposition of cities, counties, schools, fire protection and park advocates, both the House and Senate passed HB 1652 mandating this deferral, preempting local flexibility and control, and putting a significant strain on local education funding needed to address the impacts of growth. We appreciate the leadership that Governor Inslee showed when issued his first and only substantive veto on this bill. This issue is not going to go away and we will continue to reach out to the various parties to try to find a mutually agreeable resolution.

Utility and SEPA latecomer agreements

HB 1717 was a good example of the collaborative relationship cities generally have with the building community in Olympia. We entered the session with a priority of establishing authority for cities to recover the costs of upfront SEPA review in order to provide off-the-shelf environmental permitting for certain types of development we are encouraging. The business community had worked with us on this proposal last year but we couldn’t quite get it across the finish line along with the other SEPA reforms we secured in the 2012 session. This year we were asked to help the development community achieve better certainty around recovery of costs they were investing in utility infrastructure that future developments benefit from. With a lot of work from cities and negotiations with the development community, we were able to agree to a new structure where cities will help recover reimbursements through latecomer agreements from those later developments, with a series of protections for cities and clear authority to recover our costs.

Fire hydrant fix

AWC participated in a very large coalition including cities, counties, PUDS, fire districts, fire commissioners, water sewer districts and more to seek restoration of authority to recover costs for fire hydrant operations and maintenance through utility rates. Many cities had recovered costs this way until a Supreme Court ruling disallowed that and created a new general fund obligation. We were pleased that HB 1512 received the full support of the Legislature and Governor.

Fleet conversion

We were also successful at blunting one of the largest unfunded mandate facing down local governments – the fleet conversion requirement that would have required 100% of a local governments vehicles to run on alternative fuels or electricity by 2018. We were able to convince the legislature, as reflected in SB 5099, to modify this requirement to allow local governments to exempt our emergency vehicles, clarify that we did not need to replace equipment that was not past its useful life and did not need to break warranties. We also secured a more significant role at the rulemaking where the details will be decided on this law. Given that many cities were already making purchasing decisions that could have been impacted by this mandate, we’re grateful that the legislature acted with haste on this issue.

BillTracker AWC priority Bill # Descriptive title Final status
    SHB 1074 Extending submission timeline for qualifying final plats Law; Effective 7/28/2013
    ESHB 1245 Derelict and abandoned vessels in state waters Law; Effective 7/28/2013
Other significant issue SHB 1512 Clarifying authority for water purveyors to recover costs for fire suppression water facilities (fire hydrants, etc.) Law; Effective 7/28/2013
Other significant issue ESHB 1717 Latecomer fees for upfront environmental review and utility infrastructure Law; Effective 7/28/2013 and 7/01/2014
Other significant issue ESB 5099 Clarifying alternative fuel requirements for publicly owned vehicles Law; Effective 7/28/2013
    2E2SSB 5296 Reform of Model Toxics Control Act (MTCA) Law; Effective 7/01/2013
    ESSB 5324 Mosquito control for stormwater facilities Law; Effective 7/28/2013
    HB 1052 Concerning local government selection of appropriate sewer systems in urban areas. Failed
    HB 1053 Notice requirements for zoning changes Failed
    HB 1224 GMA opt-out for counties with populations under 20,000 Failed
    HB 1235/SB 5441 Prioritizing state investments in storm water control to meet municipal permit obligations Failed
    HB 1239 Expansion of water-sewer district authority to include permitting and inspections Failed
    HB 1310 Local regulation of retail carryout bags Failed
    ESHB 1401 Addressing the timing of penalties under the Growth Management Act Failed
    HB 1408/SB 5304 Providing cities with local options to permit digital outdoor advertising signs along state highways Failed
    HB 1434 Requiring additional community involvement in environmental decision making Failed
    E2SHB 1563 Disposition of surplus property for the development of affordable housing Failed
Strongly defend against ESHB 1652 Mandatory deferral of impact fee collection Failed
    HB 1809 Enhanced SEPA requirements for cultural resources Failed
Strongly defend against SB 5013 Requiring a vote of the people before all annexations Failed
    SB 5014 Restricting the use of eminent domain Failed
    ESB 5121 Defining cities’ ability to regulate hobby vehicle restoration Failed
    SB 5314 Public schools as essential public facilities under the GMA Failed
    ESB 5378 Requiring six years between substantial amendments to State Building Code Failed
    SB 5805 Expediting projects of statewide significance for economic development and transportation Failed