Washington State High-Quality Aerial Imagery Program
Washington State’s Office of Chief Information Officer manages imagery of limited quality, requiring many state agencies, counties, cities, and Tribes to contract for stronger imagery independently at higher costs, while others lack access to these essential tools. A single statewide program would save taxpayer money while assuring equitable access by all levels of government from emergency management to DOT, Parks, WDFW, DNR and, to all small and large government units across the state.
In 2022 the legislature passed an aerial imagery study bill (HB 1629) directing that a report be produced for the 2024 legislative session. The study surveyed 435 users of aerial imagery from 34 counties, 61 municipalities, 16 special purpose districts, 6 school districts, 26 tribal governments and numerous state agencies. The study recommends the legislature proceed with funding and implementation of the High-quality Statewide Aerial Imagery Program.
Addressing Harassment of Elections Officials
(HB 1241) The last few years have put a sharp focus on the importance of safety for election workers. Election officials have received threats of violence which impacts the ability of local election offices to retain and recruit. This may lead to lack of experience in election procedures, which could threaten free and fair elections. County Auditors are dedicated to working with the legislature to continue strengthening laws protecting election officials. The legislature should send a clear message: harassment is unacceptable, threatens our democracy, and risks safety and peace of mind for election officials and their families.
Consistency in Standards for Voter Pamphlets
(HB 1272) Lack of uniform standards for state and local voters’ pamphlets causes confusion for candidates and campaigns. Legislative candidates whose districts cross county borders would benefit from consistent rules across counties. County Auditors and WACO members request legislation to relate consistent standards and practices across counties and at the state level ensuring accurate and relevant information in voters’ pamphlets.
Simplifying In-state Change of Addresses
Washington state has a fully connected statewide voter registration system, but current law assumes each county has a separate voter registration database, and as such creates unnecessary processing steps for election officials and unnecessary hurdles for voters. Minor changes in state law would streamline the process of updating voter registration records, making our voter rolls more accurate and voter participation easier. This proposal would allow voters to be transferred between counties using National Change of Address (NCOA) data maintained by the U.S. Post Office and/or Election Registration Information Center (ERIC) data. The cost savings to counties and reduced disincentive and hassle to voters would be substantial.
Better Alignment of Duties in Dependency Cases
(HB 1205) 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.
Support Services for DV Protection Orders
The process for filing a domestic violence protection order (DVPO) is difficult to understand by many victims in the midst of working with the system and may be experiencing trauma and confusion. The County Clerks support increasing support services and funding for victims navigating this difficult system.
PTSD Services for Medical Death Investigation and Pathology Staff
Current RCW defines certain mental health or disability conditions as an occupational disease for firefighters, law enforcement, and nurses. Every day, County Coroner and Medical Examiner investigation and pathology staff work on the very same cases that help trigger PTSD related conditions, yet these staff are not afforded the same occupational protections as their peers in the field.
Coroner/ME investigative and pathology staff must be able to access the same occupational services as their colleagues in the field to help prevent burn out, compounded mental health issues, and ongoing effects of PTSD.
Unclaimed Remains Holding Period
Current RCW tasks funeral homes with holding unclaimed remains for 90 days. While County Coroners and Medical Examiner offices follow the same guideline, it is unclear in statute if they are required to do so. Additionally, in the last decade and a half since this threshold has been reviewed technology changes has shortened the period of time needed to identify potential next of kin. Adequate storage space possess a problem for counties and funeral homes on contract with smaller counties; a problem greatly exacerbated during COVID. WACO and stakeholders support reducing the holding period to 30 days.
- Washington State High-Quality Aerial Imagery Program
- HB 1241 Addressing Harassment of Elections Officials (PDF)
- Simplifying In-state Change of Address
- HB 1205 Clerks Dependency Notifications (PDF)
- Support Services for Domestic Violence Protection Orders
- PTSD Services for Medical Death Investigation and Pathology Staff
- Unclaimed Remains Holding Period
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 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.