January 11, 2016
LEAD: Legislative Education, Advocacy & Direction
2016 Edition 1

2016 Legislative Session Preview

The 2016 Legislative Session begins today, January 11. The regular session is scheduled to last for 60 days. Whether they will be able to finish on time is unknown.

The House and Senate are still narrowly split with the House Democrats having a 50 to 48 majority and the Senate Republicans holding a 25 to 24 advantage (Sen. Sheldon, a Democrat, caucuses with the Republicans so the margin is essentially 26 to 23). This session precedes the 2016 elections, which will cast a partisan shadow over this Legislature.  

This Legislature must address a variety of court mandates the largest of which concerns basic education funding (the McCleary decision), and several other court cases that found the State deficient in how it treats those with mental health issues. The State Supreme Court also ruled that Charter schools could not receive common school funding because their governing boards are not elected.   

While dealing with the ramifications of those court cases, the Legislature ironically finds itself dependent on the courts blocking I-1366. That Initiative would force a cut to the state sales tax on April 15 unless the Legislature places a constitutional amendment on the ballot regarding a super-majority legislative vote to raise taxes.

Awaiting the start of the 2016 session, various legislators have pre-filed, at last count, 55 new bills. 39 of these bills are House bills. These are in addition to those bills introduced during the 2015 session, which can still be acted on by the 2016 Legislature. Among those bills is House Bill 1802 on long-range planning costs. Sponsored by Representative Joe Fitzgibbon and scheduled for a hearing at 8 am on Wednesday, January 13, 2016, in House Local Government Committee, it would clarify the authority of jurisdictions in covering the cost of long-range planning as part of development review fees. It will be a clear tool for jurisdictions to fund long-range planning, which is key to the orderly development of communities and a priority of APA Washington.    

All these bills face the following deadlines (this is still a draft schedule and will not be official until formally adopted by the Legislature).

  • January 11 - Session starts.
  • February 5 - Last day for policy committees to act their policy bills.
  • February 9 - Last day for the fiscal committees to act on bills in house of origin.
  • February 17 - Last day to consider bills in house of origin.
  • February 26 - Last day for policy committees to act on bill from opposite chamber.
  • February 29 - Last day for fiscal committees to act on bills from opposite chamber.
  • March 4 - Last day to consider bills not in dispute.
  • March 10 - Last day of the regular session.

Questions?                                     
If you have any questions about the Chapters Legislative Committee (LC), please contact Yorik Stevens-Wajda or Esther Larsen, the LC Co-Chairs. 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
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