Legislative Committee Update 

By Esther Larsen and Yorik Stevens-Wajda, Legislative Committee Co-Chairs, and Michael Shaw, Chapter Lobbyist

2018 Legislative Session Update

The 2018 Legislature opened its 60-day short session on January 8. In preparation, the Legislative Committee (LC) of the Washington Chapter of the American Planning Association with input from chapter members developed the 2018 Legislative Priorities agenda which was approved by the Board of Directors at its December 8, 2017, meeting and serves as a guiding document for LC reviews of proposed legislation. 

The weekly noon phone calls of the LC began on Friday, January 12, and as of the writing of this article, the session was nearly half over with the first policy committee cut-off date of February 2, for bills to receive hearings and pass out of their committees of origin. 

All bills that were introduced but did not pass in the 2017 long session are carried over to the 2018 short session with many of the 2018 chapter legislative priorities remaining in play. The Legislature included funding for the Road Map project in the 2017 operating budget, so the focus for the Chapter has shifted from gathering seed funding to actually implementing the early stages of that project. Chapter members interested in contributing to the chapter’s input should contact Chapter President Rick Sepler

Included in the bills carried over from 2017 were those involving the legislative response to the Hirst v. Whatcom County State Supreme Court ruling and the state’s capital budget, the fate of which was linked to Hirst legislation. During week two of the session, the Legislature passed both bills, which were signed by the Governor. 

The capital budget, SB 6090, is essentially the same as HB 1075 from last year, containing funding for floodplains by design, local projects, school construction money, and legislative instruction on how to spend the Volkswagen diesel settlement monies. Its passage avoided the potential loss of millions in federal matching dollars.

Concerning the Hirst fix, the Legislature passed SB 6091, which will allow building permits to be issued with exempt wells. Certain watersheds must adopt Watershed Restoration and Enhancement plans. While this additional planning and process may seem cumbersome to local governments, counties and cities can again rely on Department of Ecology rules. As Senator Kevin Van De Wege said during Senate debate, “everybody is unhappy with it fairly equally,” which is generally the case with compromises.

Until a local plan is adopted, in Water Resource Inventory Areas (WRIAs) 1, 11, 22, 23, 49, 55 and 59, upon payment of a $500 fee, wells can draw up to 3,000 gallons per day. In WRIAs 7, 8, 9, 10, 12, 13, 14, and 15, upon payment of a $500 fee, wells can draw up to 950 gallons per day. $150 of the building permit fee stays with the local government while $350 of the fee will be used in the WRIA for WRE planning and projects. The bill expresses the intent to provide $300 million over 15 years for stream restoration and enhancement. There is a metering pilot in two WRIAs, Kittitas and Dungeness, already using the meter on new wells. The state will pay the cost of the meters.

With the approval of the Chapter Board, the LC moved forward for the chapter’s introduction of HB 2599, which took its inspiration from 2015’s HB 1802, which would allow local governments to optionally use some permit fee revenue to fund long-range planning work. Representative Joe Fitzgibbon, House Environment Committee Chair, along with others sponsored the bill. Hearings were held with support from the Washington State Department of Commerce, several cities and counties, Futurewise, and other stakeholders. Chapter Past President Paula Reeves provided excellent testimony, and the chapter provided a letter of support signed by President Rick Sepler. Although a conversation took place regarding an important new source of revenue for valuable planning work, the bill did not make it out of committee during this short session.

The LC has also discussed and/or reviewed a number of bills, many of which did not make it out of their committees of origin. Among some of the bills reviewed and being reviewed include: 

  • HB 2471 concerning marijuana cooperatives preemption with a recommendation to oppose due to the bill preempting local input/decisions. The bill did make it out of the House Committee on Commerce and Gaming on January 18 and was in House Rules at the time of the writing of this article. 
  • SB 6456 concerning protecting US military installations from incompatible development with discussion regarding concerns and ongoing review at the time this article was written.   
  • SB 6186 concerning reforming the Growth Management Act to provide infrastructure for unplanned growth in counties with a recommendation to oppose because it shifts planning from proactive to reactive, but only when the result is to favor and reward growth in unincorporated areas that has occurred contrary to plans that were adopted only a few years ago and due to additional concerns were the increased demands on planning for counties, regional transportation planning organizations, and transit agencies that did not appear to be justified by the value likely received—the bill did not make it out of committee.  
  • SB 6505 and its companion bill HB 2503 concerning zoning regulations relating to accessory dwelling units with a recommendation to not support but to note the concerns with one-size-fits-all and the lack of clarity regarding how 6 dwelling units/acre will be calculated—the bills did not make it out of committee.
  • SB 6077 concerning minimum density standards for comprehensive plans adopted by cities required to plan under the GMA. The Chapter’s letter regarding concerns with SB 6077 was provided to the Senate Local Government Committee; the bill did not make it out of committee.

A complete list of all bills reviewed with position recommendations as well as final outcomes will be provided in the next edition of the newsletter at the end of the 2018 session.

National APA Legislative Policy and Advocacy

The LC continues to coordinate with national APA on legislative policy and advocacy, including development and approval of policy guides for the organization’s advocacy efforts. APA amended and adopted a new policy guide on Healthy Communities at the 2017 Policy and Advocacy Conference, representing the position of APA and the Washington Chapter with the approval of Washington Chapter delegate Yorik Stevens-Wajda. Work is underway by APA’s Legislative and Policy Committee to develop new guides on the following topics: Housing, and Social Equity and Inclusive Growth. Chapter members interested in participating in the development and review of these policies for the Washington Chapter to provide input should review the process at https://planning.org/policy/guides/ and contact LC co-chairs Yorik Stevens-Wajda and Esther Larsen.

Additional coordination on legislative advocacy at the national level includes APA’s Planners’ Advocacy Network, which works to shape federal planning policy outcomes through targeted and timely engagement. The chapter is working with the national APA to develop a Planners’ Advocacy Network State Chair position, which would act as a coordinator and liaison for the chapter on national advocacy issues. A startup plan for this position will be submitted to the Chapter Board of Directors for discussion at its March 9, 2018, meeting, so stay tuned!  In the meantime, take a look at the 2018 APA Legislative Priorities and share your concerns with Washington’s congressional members—Senators Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell, as well as your representative in the House—via links set forth on the national APA website. 

LC Participation

Chapter members who have not joined the LC and who would like to sign up to participate in reviewing bills and making position recommendations should review the information regarding the LC’s work programs in the Welcome to the 2018 Legislative Session document and contact the LC co-chairs Yorik Stevens-Wajda and Esther Larsen

More information about the LC can also be found on the legislative committee website.

Return to the January/February issue of The Washington Planner