WSAC/WACO Joint Conference Save the Date
Scott Blonien
Legislative Hot Sheet January 9-15, 2017

Greetings WACO members. We have just finished up the first full week of the legislative session, today is day eight of the 2017 legislative session. From here until the first cut-off date (February 17) we will be very busy with hearings and meetings. The first cut-off is the date when bills must clear the policy committee in their house of origin.
Before I tell you about the past week’s activities, and what to expect this week, I would like to take a moment to tell you what to expect in our weekly report – which you are currently reading. Each week in the Legislative Hot Sheet I will be sharing with you our progress on WACO's priority legislation, bills of potential impact to your office and affiliate, important hearings on the horizon, and much more. We want the Legislative Hot Sheet to be a fount of information, so we will also be including weekly news pieces that may affect your office.
Week One

The first week of session was primarily devoted to work sessions designed to acquaint new and returning members with the operation and subject matter jurisdiction of the various committees. Some time was dedicated for updates on several major topics that the committees were tracking from the last session and updates on various subject specific work groups. I would like to update you on the progress of two of these workgroups: the public records workgroup and the school funding workgroup.
The public records workgroup met several times over the summer of 2016, and they delivered their results last week. There were four consensus recommendations.

  1. The creation of a government public records portal where commonly requested documents (meeting agendas and minutes, contracts, etc.) could be posted for public browsing and use.
  2. A proposal to allow the agencies to charge a modest fee for producing electronic records.
  3. A proposal for an alternative dispute resolution process to afford folks the opportunity to resolve public records issues without having to resort to a judicial proceeding. 
  4. A recommendation for limited funding to be awarded to local government agencies to update their document management systems to facilitate providing requested documents. 

It’s unclear whether any of these will result in legislation but we’ll continue to track newly introduced bills.
The school funding workgroup’s objective was each caucus would develop a proposal to address the financial demands of McCleary. Only Democrats offered a proposal; Republicans wanted more time to discuss this with the members of their caucus. I’m not sure what the next steps will be, but it is apparent that the two sides started and remain miles apart.
Priority Bills

Assessors: The Assessors’ bill to remove land from the current property tax classification due to natural disasters has been dropped in both houses (HB 1309 and SB 5188). The bill aligns “timber and forest lands” with the provisions of  “open space and agricultural lands” concerning the removal of the compensating tax due to natural disaster. SB 5188 was referred to the Senate Local Government committee, HB 1309 has not yet been referred to a committee in the House.
Auditors: HB 1161, the Auditors' clean-up bill, was introduced and is scheduled for a hearing before the House Local Government Committee January 17 at 10:00 am in JLOB hearing room D. Its companion bill SB 5187 has been introduced as well.
Treasurers: The Treasurers’ anticipated tax bill has also been dropped in the House (HB 1283) and Senate (SB 5189). In the House it was referred to the Finance Committee and in the Senate to the Local Government Committee. 

Legislative Receptions

During session we are joining WSAC for 4 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.

They are:

  • January 18, 6:00-8:00 PM, Water Street Café
  • February 15, 6:00-8:00 PM, Water Street Café
  • March 15, 6:00-8:00 PM, Water Street Café
  • April 5, 6:00-8:00 PM, Water Street Cafe
57 Seconds

Legislative Lingo in Under 57 Seconds

Senator Joe Fain has produced a great, short, YouTube video describing legislative lingo in under 57 seconds. The video, which is part one of a promised two part series, is well worth the watch.

WACO's New Legislative Consultant: Brynn Brady

Beginning December 15, WACO began contracting additional lobbying services with Brynn Brady. Brynn came highly recommended to us.
Prior to working as a contractor, Brynn spent five years in the Pierce County Government Relations office as a Government Relations Coordinator, as well as its Interim Director from July 2012-November 2012. Prior to working the Government Relations office, Brynn served as the Long Range Senior Planner for the Pierce County Planning and Land Services.
Brynn brings a strong understanding of county government, as well as proven success on the hill. She will be providing an additional strong voice for advocacy during the 2017 session.

Fiscal Sustainability Article

The following Crosscut article details some of the struggles and impacts the property tax cap or limit factor has caused in local communities around the state. The article discusses a proposed change of the statutory limit factor (currently 1% annually) to a limit based on inflation and population growth, not to exceed 5%. The proposed increase would not be automatic and would still require local approval like the current practice.


County Administrator Salary Dispute Can Proceed to Trial, Judge Says

(Article courtesy of: Methow Valley News)

The judge hearing the lawsuit brought against Okanogan County by Superior Court administrator Dennis Rabidou, who contends that the county commissioners interfered with payment of his full salary, has rejected the county’s request to dismiss the case, allowing Rabidou’s lawsuit to proceed.


Ruling Paves Way for Open Bargaining

(Article courtesy of: The Spokesman-Review)

Lincoln County commissioners figured they had to be transparent if they expected its conservative electorate to approve a tax increase to pay for more sheriff’s deputies.

They figured right.

In September, they announced that collective bargaining sessions with employee unions would be open to the public. In November, 58 percent of county voters passed the three-tenths of 1 percent sales-tax increase.


How the Hirst Decision Will Affect Development Plans

On October 6, 2016, the Washington Supreme Court ruled against Whatcom County in the case Whatcom County v. Hirst, Futurewise, et. al (“Hirst”). The impact of this decision is that now counties in the state of Washington must make water adequacy decisions as a part of underlying land use approvals. Previously, they were authorized to accept permit-exempt water appropriations as a basis for development approval without actually evaluating water availability or how the new development could impact water supply.


State Supreme Court Rules Against Mielke's Recall Petition

(Article courtesy of: The Columbian)

The state Supreme Court ruled against former county Councilor Tom Mielke Thursday, saying that his petitions to recall a majority of the council cannot move forward because they do not meet necessary legal or factual requirements. 


Spokane Judges Have a New Tool to Decide Whether the Right People are in Jail

(Article courtesy of: The Spokesmen-Review)

Judges in Spokane County will soon have an easier time deciding whether to send people to jail before trial.

The city and county court systems are rolling out a new risk assessment tool designed to free up space in the aging jail by making sure people aren’t held there simply because they’re too poor to pay a low-cost bond.


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