Legislative Advocacy

Day on the Hill - Day of Conversation January 31 2023 Event Banner
RSVP for WACO's Day on the Hill Tuesday, January 31, 2023!
 
Join us at the Washington State Legislative Building for a day of conversation with legislators. WACO's Day on the Hill aims to achieve a visual presence for WACO members, educate legislators about the roles of county elected officials, and encourage them to work with us on proposals. A light breakfast and boxed lunch will be provided for attendees. RSVP today!
  *Please note that members are responsible for their own hotel reservations for this event. If you are wanting to reserve a hotel room for this event here is a list of some nearby hotels: TownePlace Suites by Marriott, DoubleTree by Hilton, and Hilton Garden Inn Olympia.

Addressing Harassment of Elections Officials

Align the statutes regarding harassment and cyber harassment of election officials. In the 2022 session the legislature passed Engrossed Substitute Senate Bill 5628 regarding cyber harassment. That bill made it a class c felony to cyber harass election officials if the method of communication (of the threat) is electronic. This proposal makes it the same when the method of communicating a threat to an election official is not electronic (in-person stalking, or someone appearing at your door; or leaving paper notes, mailed letters, etc.)

Consistency in Standards for Voter Pamphlets

Lack of standards and guidelines for local voter pamphlets has led to inaccurate and disparaging descriptions of candidates and ballot measures and allowed undue influence from outside the jurisdiction affected. County Auditors seek legislation to create consistent standards and practices across counties for ensuring accurate and relevant information in pamphlets, to add content-based restrictions to candidate statements and arguments for and against ballot measures in state and local voters’ pamphlets, and to require appointed writers of statements to reside in jurisdiction.  

Better Alignment of Duties in the Dependency Cases

Nearly 30 years ago the state removed the responsibility for dependency and termination of parent-child relationship from counties to allow for greater coordination of services and standardization across the State of Washington. In doing so the state took over all but one aspect of dependency actions - publication notification. This created a system in which counties carry the cost of publication, and are now divorced of the actions which they are posting notice for; leading to opportunity for errors in notification in an otherwise unified dependency system.

County Clerks seek legislation better aligning dependency case announcements with the dependency process by directing the State to perform the publication of notice of uncontacted parents in dependency and parental rights termination matters in all courts, as it currently does in some counties by agreement.

Reinstating Overpayment Refund Threshold

2022 Uniform Unclaimed Property Act was a lengthy, major reform bill. Among its many provisions was an unintentional elimination of a $10 minimum threshold for refunding overpayments made to the court. This is problematic and costly because issuance of a refund check costs the Clerks office roughly $7, in addition to the labor cost related to issuance/tracking.

Study Statewide Forensic Pathologist Shortage

The nation currently is in the grips of a shortage of forensic pathologists. With fewer than 500 in the country, our counties struggle to find pathologists to complete the important autopsy work while ensuring that available pathologists do not exceed federal limits to the number of autopsies one can conduct in a year.

County Coroner/MEs seek legislation to direct the Washington Association of County Officials to conduct a study on the state’s forensic pathologist shortage, and develop potential policy initiatives that would attract and retain board certified Forensic Pathologists.

Address the WSP Toxicology Lab Backlog

The number of Coroner and Medical Examiner cases requiring toxicological analysis continues to grow each year. In addition, there is a higher need for analysis of all synthetic illicit drugs, which the WSP State Toxicology Lab does not have the equipment to test for. These requisitions are forwarded from the WSP State Toxicology Lab to a national toxicology lab (NMS) to process and then sent back to WSP tox lab for final review.

The average processing time for a case takes on average 90 days, which affects the ability for the Coroner and Medical Examiner Offices to determine the cause and manner of death. Law enforcement and the Prosecuting Attorney’s rely on the Coroner and Medical Examiner’s findings to assist in their work. This delay in results impacts the ability for a case to be successfully prosecuted. WACME would like to request that the WSP Toxicology Lab be provided the equipment and funding necessary to handle the caseload and improve the turnaround time for results.

Modernize the Process of Registered Warrants

A registered warrant is an order to pay issued by the Auditor to the Treasurer to give to the payee money from the County Treasury. Current RCW is outdated and cumbersome, reflecting paper-based, signature-dependent processes that have been replaced by electronic systems. In addition to amending the language to reflect updates in practice, the proposed legislation provides a means for issuing warrants where there are insufficient funds; and updates the language to provide for current practices and making the process less cumbersome.

2022 Handouts

Leg-Priorities-2022-image

Legislative Training Videos

Sustainable Policies, Sustainable Counties

Counties provide constitutionally and statutorily directed state services to all of Washington’s residents. The Washington Association of County Officials (WACO) is working to secure clear and sustainable policies to provide all 39 counties with the foundation to provide sustainable service levels to every Washingtonian.

Our elected county officials provide direct services to citizens in support of their health, safety and financial well-being. This difficult time with unprecedented challenges necessitates a redefinition of “continuity of services”. WACO has worked with our members to identify what it takes / will take – including resource and legal/regulatory supports – to ensure service during this and future crises.

WACO Policy Platform

Autonomy of Elected Officials and Offices 

WACO members are aware that the Washington State Constitution and RCW intend our roles are as independently elected officials to best ensure direct accountability to citizens. WACO supports maintaining the independent role of county elected officials.  We are committed to operating in a non-partisan manner, collaborating across party lines and serving all with equal respect and courtesy.   

Adequate Funding and Resources 

WACO members believe that capacity to provide good service is key to citizen confidence in government.  Proposed legislation affecting local elected officials and their offices must adequately and accurately consider the cost and administrative burden required to implement them well.  WACO urges legislators to partner with us as legislative proposals are developed so we can assist in identifying what’s needed for their successful implementation. WACO advocates for strengthening the state’s system for producing local government fiscal notes and reducing the passage of bills with indeterminate cost.  WACO advocates for adequate funding and resources for all new and existing services expected of us by the state. WACO supports establishing and maintaining strong partnerships with county legislative bodies, ensuring they are equipped with clear understanding of county elected official resource needs and join us in advocating for and securing them. 

Operational Integrity and Maintaining the Value of Internal Controls  

County elected officials believe in the value of maintaining internal controls throughout our departments using necessary policies and procedures to hold ourselves accountable to the public trust. Greater demand on our county elected official offices without commensurate funding, increases in remote workforce, and demand for increased remote access to services by citizens greatly challenges this.  WACO opposes legislation and policy that compromises the integrity of the service we provide and diminishes our ability to maintain internal controls.   

Courthouse Security and Safety  

County elected officials agree that safety and security of their offices and staff is at increased risk. They respect the fact that counties vary in what they feel are appropriate responses to this increased risk and reject a “one size fits all” approach to this issue. All agree that additional resources are necessary to adequately ensure safety and security, regardless of approach.   

WACO supports the establishment of model standards for counties to determine need for, and guide implementation of, appropriate security measures to ensure the safety of county elected official offices and staff. WACO advocates for adequate guidance and resources for counties to develop policies responsive to their differing needs and preferred approach, including rules related to the presence of firearms in and around county elected official offices and in field-based work. WACO further supports strong accountability for threats made against the safety of elected officials. 

Technology 

Technology has moved from a want to a need. But the reality is 68% of county elected officials reported in March 2020 that they lack adequate technology, particularly given the rising need for remote provision/access to services. County elected officials need up-to-date, secure technology to be able to carry out the responsibilities of their offices. 

WACO urges state and local legislative authorities to provide adequate technology resources for county elected official offices. County elected officials further support legislation and initiatives to provide affordable broadband and internet access provided equitably to citizens statewide to enable them to access services.

Safe and Equitable Access to Local Government Services 

County elected officials place a high value on excellence in customer service and believe that all citizens have the right to easily access local government services. COVID, technology limitations, geographic distance all necessitate expansion of traditional in-person courthouse services to include more online remote access.   

WACO advocates for legislation and collaboration among public entities aimed at ensuring state and local funds provide adequate, equitable citizen access to internet-based services as well as resources to safe and conveniently provide necessary in-person services.    

Recruiting and Retaining a Skilled and Effective Workforce for County Elected Officials  

County elected officials have seen their job applicant pools shrink as wages have failed to keep pace with the private sector. In addition, with overall less longevity and more turnover in the workforce, training and retraining for specialized positions has become a greater expense and more difficult to access.  In addition, as the demographics of our communities continue to diversify, county officials are committed to recruitment and hiring of staff that reflect the communities in which we live and serve. 

County elected officials advocate for competitive wages for their staff and collaboration and funding support for adequate and accessible training programs.  WACO further advocates for consideration of the workforce needs of our county elected officials’ offices in state-level workforce development initiatives and policies. This includes further development and incentives tied to diversifying the workforce and to specialized training in our postsecondary system.