Legislative Advocacy

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.

Identifying a Statewide Aerial Imagery Solution

HB 1629 SB 5538 County Assessors increasingly rely on high-resolution aerial imagery to as an integral part of their valuation responsibilities. There are impediments for counties to acquire high quality aerial imagery, however, including cost of acquiring and managing the technology. Imagery is also often not timely updated, which is essential for accurate valuation that drives important decisions. Other state and local agencies are experiencing this same increased demand for aerial imagery and associated challenges related to public safety, economic development, natural resource management, and other key government functions. Creating a state-wide repository for high quality aerial imagery for distribution between state and local governments would result in lower cost to all users, better informed decisions, more frequently updating of imagery, and reduced waster from duplication of efforts. This legislation proposes a study of aerial imaging needs of state and local agencies statewide.

Converting Registered Land to Recorded Property

HB 1376 Torrens is an outdated, labor-intensive, system of land registration separate from standard recording systems. The system requires a judicial component that creates an unnecessarily confusing and time-consuming burden for applicants and county offices alike. Only five counties currently allow Torrens (King, Pierce, Snohomish, Island, and Kitsap). County Auditors seek to abolish Torrens in favor of modern methods of recording and preserving documents for maintaining title and preserving public record.

Voter Pamphlets

HB 1453 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.

Allow Counties to Raise Ex Parte Filing Fees

HB 1407  Due to increased ex parte filings since the Covid-19 outbreak, County Clerk offices are seeing significant increases in staffing time and resources. Much like online meetings, it is anticipated that this service will continue to be utilized at a higher rate than pre-pandemic levels. 

County Clerks are seeking legislation to permit a county’s legislative authority to raise the ex parte filing fee from $30 up to $50. Ex Parte filing requires County Clerks offices to gather signatures that under a normal filing the filing party would be required to procure. The ex parte system is commonly used by legal professionals, who appreciate the service as it saves their clients time and money. A fee increase for this service would not affect the general public since there are other options in most counties to have documents signed. The filing fee has not increased since 2009.

Study Statewide Forensic Pathologist Shortage

SB 5776 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.

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