WSAC/WACO Joint Conference Save the Date
Scott Blonien
Legislative Hot Sheet February 13 - 19, 2017

Today (Friday, February 17) is day 40 of the 2017 session; and the cut-off date for bills to be heard and moved out of the committee of origin.

I am pleased to announce that each of the WACO priority bills have cleared this first hurdle. At least one version of each of our initiatives has now moved to the appropriate rules or fiscal committees. This is yet another testament to the good work that the WACO legislative team and the affiliates’ members on the legislative committee.

The Auditor’s fee bill (HB-1345) is still in the House Transportation, which is its committee of origin. The cut-off date to move that bill out of that committee isn’t until this Friday, February 24th. Stay tuned.

On Thursday, the Senate Local Government Committee heard the FSI bill (SB 5772). The video of the hearing is linked below in our detailed report; and our powerful messages did not fall on deaf ears. While there are exceptions, I believe that most of the Senators have accepted the fact that the counties’ financial crisis is real and needs to be addressed.  I think the reluctance by some to support the bill is over concerns that their support may be interpreted, as they were responsible for raising taxes.

The hearing also gave us the chance to again use and test the social media side of our legislative communications plan. We have been tweeting from most of the legislative committee hearings, and the FSI hearing was no exception. I am happy to report that the “Twitterstorm” netted over 21 thousand impressions; which accounts for a 441% increase in traffic during the event. I can say with certainty that your stories and concerns are getting attention on the hill and beyond.

Your legislative team has done great work. As we look to the next cut-off, just a week away on February 24, we are busy working to move our bills out of all committees to prepare for a floor vote. The week of February 20 is a critical juncture in the session; it is where we will be able to determine whether our policy initiatives have legs to stand or have fallen along the wayside. We will be working on Monday to stay current with any legislative action that occurs.

One thing that we haven’t covered is a listing of bills that we are opposing and those we’ve successfully thwarted. We’ll cover those next week. The next big test for WACO is the budgets. We expect that every effort will be taken to siphon state/county shared revenues, and drain funding for some of the support the state provides to the counties. At that step, we expect a huge volume of significant events happening with great frequency.  We are truly blessed with a team who has the subject matter expertise and the stature on the hill to address those events as they happen.

We will need your help! In the coming week, you may be tapped to contact your local legislator. You are our best advocates, and you have the most weight in telling your story to your legislators.

Take care! Scott

P.S. Senate bill 5710 limits the assessment of penalties against a governmental agency when they neglect to provide public records but acted in good faith.  This bill was heard on Friday, February 17, at 8:00 AM before the Senate State Government Committee. There was a moment of levity during the hearing.  It starts at minute 29 of the hearing (Link to hearing).   

Priority Bills

Assessors: (HB 1309SB 5188) The Assessors’ bill to remove land from the current property tax classification bill had a Senate Ways & Means Committee hearing February 14 at 3:30 pm (link to video feed). The House bill is currently in the House Committee on Finance and is not affected by the first cut-off.
Auditors: (HB 1161, SB 5187) the Auditors' cleanup bill is currently in both the House and Senate Rules Committees.

(HB 1345) The Auditors' licensing fee bill is currently in the House Transportation Committee and is not affected by the first cut-off. There is a belief that the House is reluctant to take the ‘political heat’ for passing an increase until they have some indication that the Senate Transportation committee will move it if/when it lands there.

Clerks: (HB 1396SB 5327) Despite strong opposition, WACO and the Clerks continue to aggressively advocate for the Senate version of the bill, which is in the Rules Committee.

Coroners: (HB 1794SB 5612) The Coroners' bill concerning the death investigations account. Executive action was taken on the House Bill February 15. The Senate version of the bill received a Majority Do Pass recommendation and was referred to Senate Ways & Means.

FSI: (HB 1764SB 5772) Replacing the one percent property tax revenue limit with a limit tied to cost drivers had a February 16 hearing in the Senate Committee on Local Government at 1:30 pm (link to video feed). WACO President Tammie Ownbey, Pend Oreille County Clerk, testified remotely in support of the bill.  The committee arranged a video between the Senate hearing room and the community college in Newport. This opportunity is available only in the Senate, and is granted on a case-by-case basis. The House bill is currently in the House Committee on Finance and is not affected by the first cut-off.

Prosecutors: (HB 1355SB 5278) The Prosecutors' Public Safety Review Board bill. The House bill received a Majority Do Pass recommendation on the first substitute bill and is currently in the House Committee on Appropriations; you can watch the House Appropriations hearing from February 16 via TVW (link to video feed). The Senate version of the bill is currently in Ways & Means.
Treasurers: (HB 1283SB 5189) The Treasurers’ anticipated tax bill has crossed out of the House and into the Senate. The Senate version of the bill is currently in Rules Committee.

Our Progress Thus far

Other Bills of Interest

The following bills of interest were discussed by the Legislative Committee, who then voted to take a position on the bills. 

Support: (HB 1209, SB 5396) This bill allows counties more options in depositories by opening up the pool to credit unions. HB 1209 passed the House with 73 yeas and 24 nays. The Senate bill has not moved since its hearing - it is not affected by the first cut-off, as it is in a financial committee.

Support: (HB 1595) This bill concerns the costs associated with public records, allowing governments to collect a modest fee for electronic records gathered. The bipartisan bill, prime sponsored by Rep. Nealey, came about after extensive off-session discussions involving local and state governments, as well as stakeholder groups. The bill was exec'ed out of the House Committee on Stated Gov February 14.

Legislative Reception
WACO and WSAC staff and members mingle with legislators and staff during the February 15 legislative reception at Water Street Cafe.

Legislative Receptions

During session we are partnering with WSAC for four legislative receptions at the Water Street Café in Olympia. Please put these receptions on your calendars and give your local legislators a call to invite them to join us.

The remaining receptions are:

  • March 15, 6:00-8:00 PM, Water Street Café
  • April 5, 6:00-8:00 PM, Water Street Cafe
Legislative Website

Testifying at a Legislative Hearing

WSAC has posted a training video providing a broad overview on testifying at a legislative hearing; it is a great video for anyone looking to learn how to navigate the information (link).

County Revenue Video

How King County's Revenue Falls Behind Even as Property Taxes Go Up

King County has produced a fantastic video describing how their revenue falls behind even as property taxes go up (link). In the video Budget Director Dwight Dively explains the state's tax structure and the broken system of providing revenues for counties, even when property taxes increase and the economy is booming.

State House Bill Would Stop the Bleeding in King County Budget
(Courtesy of the Seattle Weekly)

King County’s budget has been bleeding out for more than a decade, largely thanks to a state law capping property tax increases by local governments at one percent per year, which is less than the rate of inflation. But a new bill that got its first hearing in the state legislature this morning could change that.


Editorial: Fighting for Truth, Justice and Public Records
(Courtesy of the The Herald)

Most cities, counties, state agencies and others can tell stories about their own vexatious requesters — though they probably use a different name for them — those who make overly broad or unreasonable requests for public records, sometimes in the hope that an agency’s inability to respond to the request in a timely fashion will result in a lucrative fine or settlement.


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