Legislative Hot Sheet January 23-29, 2017
During the 2014 annual conference the WACO membership voted to support various legislative endeavors to allow counties to continue to provide the basic services that their citizens have come to expect. There was a realization by the WACO members that the current system of financing county government failed to keep pace with escalating costs and growing populations. WACO committed to partner with WSAC on modernizing how county government is financed.
A plan was developed to spend the 2016 session educating legislators and the public about the growing demands on county government and the stagnant revenues to fund those basic services. In the fall of 2015 and during the 2016 session we worked with WSAC to spread the word that counties funding needed to be addressed.
WACO and WSAC held several regional legislative briefings for our members and their local legislators to share our story. Many of you attended these meetings, and thank you for doing so. Throughout the 2016 session WACO members joined with WSAC to visit legislators to remind them that even though there wasn’t yet a bill, the counties needed a sustainable revenue source that they could count on for future budget years.
Again during the fall of 2016 we partnered with WSAC at the regional legislative briefings, which again were well attended by WACO and WSAC members. As I attended these meetings it was clear that some understood the counties’ financial challenges and seemed receptive to addressing it.
We have been an active member of a coalition of WSAC, WACO, AWC, and labor. The design is to build a consensus approach to county financial predictability and stability.
We have worked very closely with WSAC drafting the legislation for this session. It is a very simple approach: allow county revenues to keep pace with inflation and a growing population. The strategy is, as the legislature expands revenues to meet the demands of McCleary, that the counties would be able to ride those coattails to fiscal sustainability.
During session we will continue to share the FSI message. We have also made a financial contribution towards retaining a public relations firm to hone and market the FSI message to the legislature.
Today the House introduced HB 1764, a bill that proposes replacing the one percent property tax lid with a limit tied to cost drivers. The bill is sponsored by a bi-partisan group including: Representatives Kristine Lytton (D-Anacortes); Representative John Koster (R-Arlington); and Representatives Springer (D-Kirkland), Nealey (R-Walla Walla), Senn (D-Bellevue) and Harris (R-Vancouver).
With the introduction of this bill we will be active in voicing our support for reviving county revenues. Like the balance of our priority bills we’ll continue to keep you informed as events develop.
To date each of our priority bills have had a hearing in their policy committee in their house of origin. By close of week three we have had eleven hearings on our priority bills, with a number of them scheduled for executive hearings during the next week in the House. While only one bill is scheduled in the Senate for an executive hearing - we expect things to change rapidly with scheduling over the weekend and into next week.
Assessors: (HB 1309, SB 5188) The Assessors’ bill to remove land from the current property tax classification due to natural disasters had a hearing on January 24 in the Senate Committee on Local Government (link).
Auditors: (HB 1161, SB 5187) the Auditors' clean-up bill had a hearing on January 24 in the Senate Committee on Local Government (link).
(HB 1345) The Auditors' licensing fee bill had a hearing in the House Committee on Transportation January 25 at 3:30 pm (link). HB 1345 is scheduled for an executive hearing in the House Transportation Committee February 1.
Clerks: (HB 1396, SB 5327) The Clerks' modernizing and clarifying statutes relating to the County Clerk bill had a hearing in the Senate Committee on Law & Justice January 24 (link) and on the same day the House Judiciary Committee (link). HB 1396 is scheduled for an executive hearing in the House Judiciary Committee February 2.
Prosecutors: (HB 1355, SB 5278) The Prosecutors' Public Safety Review Board had a hearing January 25 in the House Committee on Judiciary (link). The Senate version of the bill had a January 24 hearing in the Senate Committee on Law & Justice (link). HB 1355 is scheduled for an executive hearing in the House Judiciary Committee February 2. SB 5278 is scheduled for an Executive Hearing in the Senate Law & Justice Committee February 1.
Treasurers: (HB 1283, SB 5189) The Treasurers’ anticipated tax bill had a hearing on January 24 in the Senate Committee on Local Government (link) and a House Finance Committee hearing on January 27 (link). HB 1283 is scheduled for an executive hearing in the House Finance Committee on both January 27and February 3.