January 2021 – The Session Begins

Legislative Committee Winter Update

The 2021 legislative session began on January 11 under a cloud of surging coronavirus, communities and individuals struggling to stay afloat, and a distressing amount of division and political strife. This was a difficult way to start a daunting session, which will see the need for urgent action on major issues collide with reduced capacity to legislate due to a largely-closed capitol building.

Majority leadership in the House and Senate instructed their members to limit their introduction of bills, stick to bills with solid support at the outset, and focus on pandemic response, economic recovery, racial equity, and climate change. Fortunately for us, these topics dovetail nicely with our draft legislative priorities, which are working their way to the chapter board for approval.

The draft 2021 legislative priorities build upon the 2020 APA-WA legislative priorities, with updates, clarifications, and a bit more emphasis on the topics that respondents to the comment form (still open) identified as priorities (climate, housing, equity, support for planning were on top).

Updating Washington’s Growth Planning Framework report released

The Updating Washington’s Growth Planning Framework report was completed and published just in time for the start of the 2021 session. The ambitious project, which was originally funded by the legislature before the pandemic interfered, sought broad agreement on legislative language that would implement a subset of the recommendations from the Road Map to Washington’s Future.

A task force of hard-working chapter members participated in the six-month effort, including dozens of meetings and detailed reviews of six working drafts of an omnibus bill (p 92-162 of the report) that ultimately contained 122 discrete changes to state law. The APA task force’s comment letter can be found on pages 178-182.

The legislative committee is now hard at work reviewing bills and budget proposals, submitting comments to the legislature, coordinating with peer organizations, fleshing out the chapter’s legislative positions and priorities, and keeping the chapter up to speed with developments in Olympia. Early points of focus include:

  • SB 5042, which would close a loophole regarding conversion of resource and rural lands (APA-WA wrote a letter in support)

  • HB 1099, which would incorporate climate mitigation into the comprehensive planning framework (APA-WA is supporting the concept and closely reviewing the details)

  • A bold and intriguing proposal for a state transportation package that emerged in late January

If you’re interested in learning about our state’s planning framework and helping to shape it by advancing good planning, read about the legislative committee’s work, send us your ideas for legislative advocacy at [email protected], or consider joining the committee to help make great communities happen for all.