April 30, 2015
LEAD: Legislative Education, Advocacy & Direction
2015 Edition 6

End of the Session in Olympia

Wrapping Up the Regular Session

The 2015 regular legislative session ended two days early on April 24th.  During this time, the Legislature introduced 2,518 bills and passed 308 to Governor Inslee during the legislative process. Those bills that passed did not include the following:

Consequently, the first special session began this week on April 29th running for another 30 days. Leadership in the legislature reiterated throughout the regular session that any operating budget (OB) deal must take place before negotiating any other budget and must pass before transportation or capital budget and a transportation package. It is the first domino that must fall, yet the OB has been the toughest negotiation thus far.

                                   

 Bellevue’s Downtown Cranes and Construction

House and Senate

The House and Senate are neck and neck regarding the funds spent to satisfy the McCleary K-12 court mandate.  However, the House and Senate are still about $1 billion apart in their spending proposals.  The House budget proposal relies on $1.5 billion in new tax revenue; the Senate budget is based on shifting funds and cuts.  The House chides the Senate for its unsustainable cuts, meanwhile the Senate points out that the House hasn’t passed those tax bills upon which its spending depends. 

                                   

The New and Old, South Lake Union, Seattle

The posturing based on their divergent approaches is potentially why no agreement has been reached, nor does a quick resolution seem likely.  The next state revenue forecast is in June.   The negotiators could stall until then in hopes that an increase in revenue production could provide a path for both sides to declare victory: the House could acquire its spending level, and the Senate could avoid significant tax increases.  If they cannot arrive at an agreement by the end of June, the state government will face a shutdown.

Transportation

There is more optimism concerning a transportation funding package.  It has been over a decade since the Legislature passed an increase in the gas tax.  Since then, the state, counties, and cities have experienced bridge deterioration, auto congestion increases, no room to widen roads, and the population boom — particularly in King County.  There is broad support for another transportation package.

                                     

  Sound Transit Link

The House and Senate project lists are not dissimilar.  Both contain local options for transit and transportation investment districts.   Yet, the Senate proposal relies on exempting the projects from both the state and local sales tax, and a “poison pill” tied any imposition of low-carbon fuel standards – both of which are objected to by the House.   The House proposal relies on savings from “practical” design that the Senate deems too speculative.  While these are issues to be overcome, negotiators seem willing to compromise and there has been bi-partisan support in both chambers.

So What Bills Passed?

Concerning bills the Legislative Committee (LC) tracks for the Washington Chapter of the APA, there are 117 bills on the list.  Over the past 15 weeks of the regular session, only a handful of bills have survived the legislative process:

  • HB 1720 – health home improvements,
  • SB 5048 – referendum regarding water & sewer, and;
  • SB 5923 – deferral of impact fees. 
                                   

Warren G.Magnuson Park, Seattle

And Those That Didn’t Quite Make It…

A myriad of bills that would amend the Growth Management Act (2), the Shoreline Management Act (2) and local zoning authority failed to pass.  This is likely due to the tight majority/minority ratio in each chamber, and on account of each chamber being held by a different political party.   As expected, only the bills with large bipartisan consensus successfully passed, and there were only 308 of those.

Questions?                                     

If you have any questions about the Chapter’s Legislative Committee, please contact Josh Peters or Esther Larsen, the LC Co-Chairs. Have questions or ideas for this bulletin? Contact: Leila Willoughby-Oakes, LEAD Editor. A big thanks to Michael Shaw and all the members of the Legislative Committee for contributing their time, bill summaries, and discussion this regular session.

American Planning Association, Washington Chapter
office@washington-apa.org • 206-682-7436 • www.washington-apa.org