September 30, 2016
LEAD: Legislative Education, Advocacy & Direction
2016 Edition 1

LEAD Alert: 2017 Legislative Session Around the Corner, Momentum Builds for Review of State's Planning Framework

With about 100 days to go before the 2017 Washington State Legislature is called to order, the APA Washington Chapter Legislative Committee is getting warmed up for the session.

Our state's legislature runs in a two year cycle. Odd numbered years feature a long session with 120 days and the big task of developing a balanced budget for the succeeding two fiscal years. Even numbered years feature a short session of 90 days in which relatively minor modifications to the budget are adopted. Policy changes are a factor in all sessions.

This year's session is the long one, and all eyes will be on the legislature as it struggles with a difficult budget, complicated by the need to address funding for schools - the state's paramount obligation.

Policy issues important to the chapter are also expected to be on the agenda in 2017. Potential topics include continued discussion around siting schools in the rural area, industrial rezones along freight rail corridors, the floodplains by design program, and support and incentives for annexation of urban growth areas.

The chapter is particularly excited about discussions underway to set the table for a broad-based, structured assessment of the state's planning framework that may occur as early as 2017. The chapter has played a lead role so far in these efforts, which have a goal of addressing challenges within the state's planning framework and modernizing it for the future.

Call for Ideas for the Chapter's 2017 Legislative Platform

What should the chapter's priorities be for state legislative action during the 2017 session? The Legislative Committee is in the process of developing the chapter's 2017 Legislative Platform and we need your help.

The best ideas are timely, will be broadly supported by the chapter membership, have the potential to attract support in the legislature, and are relatively specific. Remember that requests of the legislature that involve significant amounts of new resources - money or work - will face stiff competition and a more difficult path.

The 2016 Legislative Platform drew significant inspiration from work done as part of the 10 Big Ideas initiative. The three top priority items for the chapter were supporting funding for planning work, supporting decisive action on climate change, and addressing equity and social justice issues. Each of those issues will still be important in 2017, but within a different context. How the state should act to combat climate change, a longstanding part of chapter and national APA policy, will depend heavily on the November result of I-732, which the chapter has endorsed.

Please submit your ideas to the legislative committee (email Yorik Stevens-Wajda, [email protected] or Esther Larsen, [email protected]) by the end of October. The Legislative Committee will discuss and consider the ideas and proposals for the chapter's 2017 Legislative Platform and produce a final draft in November. Board approval of the platform is expected in December, in time for the Legislative Committee and Chapter Lobbyist Michael Shaw to carry the message when the legislature convenes.

A Collaborative Road Map to Washington's Future

The chapter has been engaged for several months in discussions about a proposal for a comprehensive, evidence and policy-based evaluation of Washington's framework for managing growth. In June, the chapter's board of directors authorized up to a $10,000 investment in this project, which along with similar contributions from several stakeholder organizations, would fund initial situational assessment work by the respected and non-partisan Ruckleshaus Center with participation from the state's academic community.

The purpose and support for this proposed project was presented to the House Local Government Committee on Tuesday, September 20.  The Committee posed two questions to anyone who wished to testify:  what works or doesn't work for you concerning the Growth Management Act (GMA), and what are the pros and cons of the GMA?   The work session was scheduled to run from 10 am until 3 pm, and numerous folks took advantage of the opportunity.

The work session started with an overview of the GMA by Dave Andersen of the Department of Commerce. He did a concise presentation that covered planning prior to the GMA, the GMA's creation story, and the structure of the GMA - including GMA goals, requirements, and roles and procedures.

Darren Nichols of the Ruckelshaus Center and Joe Tovar, APA Washington Past President and UW affiliate faculty, followed with a presentation that spoke to the need for a comprehensive review not only of the GMA after two decades of piecemeal amendments, but the state's entire framework for planning, including other statutes, governance and finance. Those that followed included Futurewise's Bryce Yaden, Art Castle of the Building Industry Association of Washington, Carl Johanson of AWC, Laura Berg of WSAC and APA Washington Chapter President Paula Reeves. Many local government officials spoke such as Tacoma Deputy Mayor Ryan Melo, Issaquah Mayor Fred Butler, Thurston County Commissioner Sandra Romero, Stevens County Commissioner Wes McCart, and Kitsap County Commissioner Rob Gelder. A large contingent of school district officials voiced concern over siting school facilities, which they believe is made harder by the GMA hearing board's decisions. Lastly, several folks spoke regarding property rights and the GMA's impact on their rural communities.

At the end of the work session, Committee Chair, Representative Sherry Appleton, stated that the September 20 workshop had concerned perceived problems and attributes of the GMA. She intends to hold another work session on October 18 where she hopes to hear what solutions folks may offer.

The chapter will remain heavily engaged in this effort via the Legislative Committee. Expect to see more updates and opportunities to participate as work progresses and as this project evolves.

Call for Legislative Committee Members/Volunteers - New 2017-18 Basecamp Project

Your legislative committee needs you! Like the rest of the chapter's operations, the legislative committee runs on a precious (but luckily renewable) fuel called volunteer effort. Participation in the legislative committee is a rewarding experience that brings experience with the legislative process, exposure to policy issues and debates, new connections to your professional network, and the knowledge that you're helping to support the chapter mission of Making Great Communities Happen. With the 2017 legislative session approaching, now is the time to start getting involved. Being a member of the committee typically entails (1) participation in the development of each year's chapter legislative platform and legislative priorities, (2) weekly conference calls during the legislative session and a few in the run-up to get oriented and develop our strategy, (3) occaisional bill reviews during the session in your policy area of interest and expertise, (4) occaisionally drafting letters of support for or opposition to specific legislation in your area of interest, and (5) presenting the Chapter's position in person in Olympia as available and interested. That probably sounds like a lot of work, but in reality the committment is only an hour or two per week during the session and much less during the rest of the year.

To get involved, just send an email to either of the co-chairs, Esther Larsen ([email protected]) and Yorik Stevens-Wajda ([email protected]) and we'll get you set up on the committee's basecamp project and get you connected with the group.

National APA Legislative Advocacy Information

This year's APA Policy and Advocacy Conference in Washington D.C., was held a few weeks ago, which provides a good opoortunity to get the word out about all of the great resources, tools, and opportunities to get engaged at the national level. Josh Peters, chapter vice-president, represented our chapter at the Policy and Advocacy Conference, and you can read about his experience and take-aways in October's newsletter.

APA's advocacy webpage ( has all the info and links, including:

  • a communications guide to help planners develop and deliver an effective message
  • a series of policy guides, developed by working groups with broad engagement from membership and amended and adopted at national conferences by the Chapter Delegate Assembly, that establish APA's policies and principles on a variety of important topics
  • a slate of legislative priorities that APA will focus on each year for congressional action
  • a Planners' Advocacy Network that offers a voice in Washington, D.C. to all APA members by providing insight into the issues and connecting them with the appropriate legislators.

American Planning Association, Washington Chapter
[email protected]  206-682-7436