2018 Legislative Session Highlights

WRPA 2018 Week 1 Session of the Legislature

By Doug Levy, WRPA Lobbyist – 1/15/18

“Remember.  This will be a short, 60-day, modest Session.  Don’t expect much.”

Oops!  The many state lawmakers who delivered a variation of this speech to their local elected officials and to various stakeholders must not have gotten the memo.  The 2018 Session started off with a whirlwind of activity on budgets and on bills that have been stalled for years in a divided Legislature. By Friday, 840 new bills had been filed in Week 1 alone, and we were told that last Tuesday may have set an all-time record for the number of bills introduced in one day.

Part of this phenomena represents a determination by the new all-Democratic (albeit thin) majorities in the Senate and House to demonstrate they are prepared to govern and get things done.  Part of it represents a desire to get traction on and ultimate passage of bills involving the Voting Rights Act, “Breakfast after the bell,” gun control, and possibly even carbon tax measures that were not attainable when Republicans maintained a slim Senate majority.  And, part of it is the pent-up demand for progress on bills sought by constituencies such as organized labor and environmental organizations who sense a better opportunity to bring some of their priorities to fruition.

In Week 1, we saw some potential breakthroughs on the Capital Budget vis-à-vis Hirst bill logjam that has delayed some $4 billion in 2017-19 capital investments for nine months now.  Senators announced what was called either a “tentative agreement” or “agreement in principle” on the legislation to remedy the Hirst decision on exempt well drilling (SSB 6091), though it’s worth noting that the House has not announced a similar breakthrough and in fact will trot out its latest Hirst bill (HB 2740) this week. 

Elsewhere, much of the “play” in Week 1 which occurred and will re-occur revolved around the Operating Budget.  Whether majority Democrats will, can, or desire to find up to $1 billion in new K-12 spending to satisfy the latest McCleary ruling from the State Supreme Court is an open question.  One high-ranking Republican Senator expressed to us a willingness to partner on a couple hundred million dollars in extra investment on special education, but not the whole-enchilada $1 billion.  Even in this white-hot economy, legislators face immense pressures in funding necessary mental health investments and already are hearing from local governments about needs in Basic Law Enforcement Academy (BLEA) funding, public health, etc.

Week 1 was a hopeful one for WRPA, as the potential breakthrough on Hirst moves the Legislature closer to enactment of a 2017-19 Capital Budget with well over $100 million in parks and recreation-related investments.  Fingers crossed.

Following is my usual overview of where we are on WRPA top priorities and “support” or “oppose” measures, followed by a listing of some other bills of interest. A Week 2 hearings list is at the bottom of this report.


Top Priorities

Enact 2017-19 Capital Budget – Including Key Funding Targets for WWRP, YAF, ALEA
(Capital Budget) An $80 million funding level for the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program (WWRP) and $4.077 million for the Youth Athletic Facilities (YAF) are in SSB 6090 which passed out of Senate Ways & Means on Monday and nearly-identical ESHB 1075 that awaits House Floor action. This funding, combined with over $30 million in funding for the Boating Facilities Program ($17.166 million) and the Non-Highway Off-Road Vehicle Account ($13.195 million) marks an investment in outdoor recreation accounts that easily tops $100 million. One downer is a $1 million funding level for ALEA – see below.

Protect Funding for Dedicated Accounts within the Capital Budget
(Capital Budget) While the 2017-19 Capital Budgets do a very good job overall of preserving dedicated accounts for outdoor recreation, one notable exception is the Aquatic Lands Enhancement Account (ALEA).  The Governor had proposed a $5.3 million funding level for ALEA – with all but $1 million of that in bonds.  The Legislature diverted the bonds elsewhere, leaving the account with only $1 million.  I testified in Senate Ways & Means last Thursday to urge lawmakers to rectify this problem in the 2018 Supplemental Capital Budget (if legislators have time to do one), and sounded a similar theme in a meeting Monday with House Capital Budget Vice-Chair Beth Doglio (D-Olympia/22nd Dist.). The $1 million funds only one ALEA project and has the effect of “de-funding” several others, which is disappointing.

Future Initiative:  Funding/Financing Options to Address Parks and Recreation M&O
(Tax Policy Bill) This is an initiative that WRPA will start in 2018, but legislative proposals will not be brought to the Legislature until 2019.  My thanks to WRPA Legislative Chair Paul Simmons of Olympia, who has just sent out solicitation letters to pull together a Work Group on this issue.  If you are interested in taking part in the effort, please e-mail Paul at [email protected].


Oppose Legislation to Prematurely Place Regulatory Burdens on “Crumb Rubber” Fields
(Potential Policy Bill) Nothing to report and at this juncture we do not anticipate 2018 legislation.

“Big Tent” Outdoor Recreation Coalition
(Budgetary, Policy Items) WRPA has strongly supported the work of the Big Tent and is one of several dozen members of the coalition.  The Big Tent is not having a 2018 Rally Day, but was instrumental in the formation of a new “Outdoor Recreation Caucus” of legislators that will meet every Thursday morning to discuss outdoor-recreation-related issues, funding matters, etc.  It looks like Rep. Mike Chapman (D-Port Angeles/24th Dist.), will chair the Caucus, which had its kickoff meeting last Thursday.  All who are in and around Olympia at 7 a.m. on successive Thursday mornings are welcome to attend. Onward!

Support efforts to make the system of outdoor recreation passes simpler, more equitable, and more convenient
(Policy Bill/Bills) The Ruckelshaus Center, in consultation with state natural resource agencies, completed a report late last year recommending ways to simplify outdoor recreation passes and make them more convenient to obtain.  Governor Inslee’s proposed Operating Budget included a $50,000 proviso to more precisely cost out what it would take to move the pass-simplification efforts – which could include things such as a vehicle-registration-based, one-stop system – forward.  There is also a bill, HB 2652/SB 6128, that would incorporate several ‘low-hanging-fruit’ parts of the Ruckelshaus Center report, such as making Discover Pass free days and exemptions more uniform across agencies.  No hearing has been scheduled yet.

Advocate for Key “Healthy & Active Communities” Funding within the State Budget Process
(Capital, Transportation, Operating Budgets) As part of its ongoing “Healthy and Active Communities” initiative begun several years ago, WRPA works to ensure adequate funding for programs in state budgets that better enable kids and adults to get outdoors, live healthy lifestyles, and stay healthy.  These include public health and “No Child Left Inside” in the Operating Budget, several programs in the Transportation Budget (Safe Routes to Schools; Bicycle & Pedestrian Grants; “Complete Streets,” etc.) and of course WWRP, YAF and more in the Capital Budget.  This Session, most of the action around ‘new’ funding is in the still-to-be-enacted 2017-19 Capital Budget.

Support Efforts to Address Mental Health, Homelessness, Affordable Housing
(Operating Budget, Capital Budget, Policy Bills) WRPA is prepared to strongly support the $106.7 million Housing Trust Fund in the pending Capital Budget, as well as policy bills that would establish new funding or local options to address the state’s growing crisis in affordable housing.  If it’s possible, the docket of bills in affordable housing, mental health, and opioid abuse prevention is even longer in 2018 than it was in 2017!  Here are a few I can highlight:

  • ESHB 1570, making the $40 Document Recording Fee permanent in statute and authorizing counties to impose an additional surcharge of up to $50:  This legislation, which also includes data-gathering and reporting requirements, is due to be heard in House Appropriations on Thursday and moved out of Committee the next day.  We strongly support this legislation;

  • HB 2437, providing a new infusion of affordable housing capital and operating dollars through a .025 percent state sales tax credit:  Under this bill, due for a 3:30 p.m. hearing today in the House Finance Committee, counties may opt in to this program and may bond against the .025 percent revenues if they choose to utilize the state sales tax credit dollars.  King County has until July 1, 2021 to opt in, while other counties are given until July 1, 2020.  Individual cities may opt in if counties do not choose to access the state sales tax credit dollars.  We support this bill.

  • SHB 1797, local option authority for cities and counties to fund housing, homeless, and behavioral health facilities:  This bill prime-sponsored by Rep. Joan McBride (D-Kirkland/48th Dist.) is being readied for House Floor action, with a “Striking Amendment” to be offered by Rep. Andrew Barkis (R-Olympia/2nd Dist.).  The bill includes a 0.1 percent councilmanic sales tax authority for King County, with language to require the funds to be equitably distributed throughout the county and with an annual reporting/look-back requirement.  A state sales tax remittance program in the bill will be available to non-King County jurisdictions of 45,000 population or fewer.  We support this legislation, which could also be updated to provide other counties with potential access to the 0.1 percent councilmanic sales tax authority.

  • HB 2538, allowing cities to waive 100 percent of the impact fees associated with low-income housing developments:  This bill is due for a hearing Thursday afternoon in the House Community Development, Housing, and Tribal Relations Committee. 

  • SB 6150/HB 2489, Governor’s opioid disorder treatment and services package:  This bill had a hearing Monday in Senate Health Care.  6150/2489 is a broad-based bill covering everything from developmentof a statewide strategy to ways to encourage use of naloxone to direction that the state pursues Section 1115 Medicaid Waiver authority to apply pass-through Medicaid dollars toward the opioid crisis.

  • SB 6050/HB 2272, limiting opioid prescriptions to a seven-day supply:  We are aware that medical providers will likely oppose this bill requested by Attorney General Bob Ferguson. 

e-Establishing a Statewide Tourism Marketing Program

(Policy Bill) An amended version of 2SSB 5251 will be heard at 8 a.m. Thursday in the Senate Economic Development & International Trade Committee.  The amended version of 5251 would create a $1.5 million funding stream for tourism promotion in Fiscal Year 2019 and up to $5 million per biennium thereafter.  The formation of a tourism governing board and other provisions of the previously-pursued bills would remain.

Other Bills

 (If you have bills you wish me to add, or are interested in particular legislation impacting local parks and recreation, please contact me at [email protected])

  • SB 6097, addressing the talent gap in the Outdoor Recreation sector:  This bill by Senate Higher Education Chair Kevin Ranker (D-San Juan Islands/40th Dist.) is up for a hearing in his Committee at 8 a.m. this morning and I will sign WRPA in support.  The bill also calls upon state universities to look at potential degree or emphasis programs in promotion of the outdoor recreation sector.

  • HB 1177, HB 1180:  The 1177 measure provides holders of a State Parks Lifetime Veteran’s Disability Pass with the same access to recreation lanes one would receive from a Discover Pass.  1180 would enable residents with a 100 percent armed services disability rating to qualify for annual complimentary Discover Passes.  1177 is due to move out of the House Community Development, Housing, and Tribal Relations Committee today.

  • SB 5442/HB 1605:  This bill provides State Parks with more flexibility in using boating-safety funds and removes obsolete statutory language from Boater Education Card provisions of state law.

  • ESSB 5838:  It is unclear whether this legislation, prime-sponsored by now-departed State Senatory (and current congressional candidate) Dino Rossi, will gain traction in 2018.  The bill would establish a priority in future capital bonding capacity to address a $500 million+ maintenance backlog for State Parks capital facilities.

2018 Session—Week 2 List of Hearings & “Executive Sessions” —

Recommendations on Testify/Sign-In/Monitor for Public Hearings are in Italics

Monday, January 15, 2018
Senate Health & Long-Term Care, 10 a.m. – Hearing on SB 6150, concerning opioid use disorder treatment, prevention, and related services; and SB 6050, concerning restrictions on prescriptions for opiates; and SB 6028, concerning the prescription drug monitoring program. We MONITORED.
Senate Ways & Means, 3:30 p.m. – Possible Executive Session action on SB 6089, concerning Capital Budget bonds; and SB 6090, concerning the 2017-19 Capital Budget. These bills moved out of Ways & Means unanimously with only a few technical amendments.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018
Senate Higher Education, 8 a.m. – Hearing on SB 6097, creating a Task Force on the outdoor recreation industry. Sign in SUPPORT for WRPA.
House Community Development, Housing & Tribal Affairs, 10 a.m. – Hearing on HB 1987, concerning allowing affordable housing development on religious organization property; and HB 2480, providing local governments with local property tax exemption options to preserve affordable housing in single-family neighborhoods.  Possible executive session on HB 1177, supporting access to state recreation lands by disabled veterans; and HB 2382, promoting the use of surplus public property for public benefit.  MONITOR 1987, 2480 for now.
House Local Government, 10 a.m. – Hearing on HB 2674, requiring a public hearing before a local government may remove a recorded restrictive covenant from land owned by the local government; and HB 2521, concerning vacation of roads abutting bodies of water if the road is hazardous or creates a significant risk to public safety.  MONITOR.
Senate Local Government, 1:30 p.m. – Hearing on SB 6143, concerning unit-priced contracting by cities; and SB 6152, concerning vacation of roads abutting bodies of water if the road is hazardous or creates a significant risk to public safety. MONITOR – I’m aware that cities support 6143.
House Finance, 3:30 p.m. – Hearing on HB 2437, encouraging investments in affordable and supportive housing; and HB 2444, providing a real estate excise tax exemption for certain transfers of low-income housing.  MONITOR; local governments strongly supporting 2437.
House Capital Budget, 3:30 p.m. – Work session on Public Works Board and on recommendations concerning the Infrastructure Public Depository (“Infrastructure Bank”) Task Force study and report. MONITOR.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018
House Community Development, Housing & Tribal Affairs, 8 a.m. – Hearing on HB 2462, increasing access to the main street program. MONITOR.  FYI that many local communities with an established Main Street program will sign in OPPOSED, as this bill seeks to re-focus the program exclusively on rural areas and allow economic development organizations into the program to compete for limited funding.
House Appropriations, 3:30 p.m. – Hearing on ESHB 1570, concerning access to homeless housing and assistance.  MONITOR.  Many cities/counties will strongly support this document recording fee bill.

Thursday, January 18, 2018
Senate Economic Development & International Trade, 8 a.m. – Hearing on 2SSB 5251, concerning tourism marketing. Sign in SUPPORT for WRPA.
House Community Development, Housing & Tribal Affairs, 1:30 p.m. – Hearing on HB 2538, exempting impact fees for low-income housing development; and HB 2711, concerning the creation of housing opportunity zones by cities.  MONITOR.
House Appropriations, 3:30 p.m. – Possible Executive Session action on ESHB 1570 regarding document recording fees.  MONITOR.

Friday, January 19, 2018
House Finance, 8 a.m. – Possible Executive Session action on HB 2448, allowing local property tax exemptions to increase the availability of housing of developmentally disabled persons. MONITOR.
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