2019 Session Preview and Legislative Recruitment

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

The 2019 legislative session is shaping up to be an active one for issues of interest to planners in the state. With the legislature having finally addressed much of the dominating issues of state funding for K-12 education and how counties and the state regulate rural well-building, the door will be more open than in recent years for consideration of policy bills. Please consider volunteering with the legislative committee to help keep chapter members informed and to help advocate for an improved planning framework at the state level.

2019 Session Preview

The 2019 legislative session starts on January 14th. This is a 105-day session when the Legislature must pass the next biennial budgets.  As of this writing, the House and Senate are still organizing their committee memberships, with much of the uncertainty due to the numerous retirements of many veteran legislators. Senate Majority Leader, Sharon Nelson retired, and the Senate Democratic Caucus has selected Sen. Andy Billig to replace her.  In the House, numerous committee chairs did not seek re-election including the Transportation Committee Chair, Judy Clibborn, the Finance Chair, Kristine Lytton, and the Early Learning & Human Services Chair, Ruth Kagi. Recently, the long-time Speaker of the House, Frank Chopp, announced he will step down after the 2019 session. We’ll know more shortly after this newsletter is published – so look for LEAD alerts (news flashes from the legislative committee delivered by email to chapter members during the session) for updates.

The election created a turnover as well. The Democratic majorities in both the House and Senate increased. The House Democrats picked up 7 new members (2 in the 5th District; 1 in the 10th District; 1 in the 28th District; 1 in the 42nd District, 1 in the 44th District and 1 in the 47th District) while the Senate Democrats increased their majority by 3 members (26th, 30th, and 47th Districts). There was a change in the 32nd District Senate seat as Democrat Jesse Salomon beat incumbent Democrat Maralyn Chase. 

The 2019 session is likely to be dominated by such issues as behavioral health, fish passage (culvert replacement), and tax reform. There is also talk of a new transportation funding package, and homelessness and affordable housing will be a major concern – the chapter will look to play a stronger role in this area based on what the legislative committee heard from chapter members through this summer’s legislative agenda survey.

Sen. Palumbo from the 1st District is discussing a housing density bill, as are others, and some are convinced that the Legislature must address the McCleary/K-12 fix and the new teacher pay contracts.   Regarding land use issues, many are still waiting on the Ruckelshaus Center’s “Road Map to Washington’s Future” before promoting growth management reform, although the House Local Government committee has already held a working session on annexation-related issues.  The final Road Map report is due to the Legislature by June 30, 2019 – after the session ends.

The Governor had just released his biennial budget proposals (and their accompanying policy bills) as of this writing. The legislative committee will be looking into this and will keep the chapter informed via LEAD alerts. Afterward many associated with the legislative process will retreat to family vacations and holiday plans before moving to Olympia for the start of the session. The Legislature’s website has started listing pre-filed bills, and the chapter’s Legislative Committee will begin its weekly telephone conference calls in early January.

First APA State Legislative Summit in Austin, TX

The national office put together a wonderful two-day summit in mid-December on state legislative efforts, with a goal of discussing common issues and sharing best practices in person, and better-equipping chapters to advocate for APA’s priorities at the state level. After all, as Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis famously suggested in 1932, the states have an important role as laboratories of democracy.

The summit was attended by national policy & advocacy staff as well as legislative committee chairs, chapter presidents, or other designees from about 20 chapters, including Washington. Attendees discussed each of their states’ major policy problems and solutions with a focus on housing, which reflects the significance of that policy area on a national level and APAs recent focus on developing solutions through Planning Home; heard from the Texas chapter about the story of Austin, which seems to share a lot of characteristics with Seattle, like significant growth pressures, a booming tech industry, and concerns about gentrification and displacement; received training on the power of storytelling as a communication method, coalition building, and engaging chapter members at the grassroots level; and met with Texas State Representative Richard Peña Raymond on the issues facing Texas and tips on how to advocate to legislators (it’s easy he said… just give ‘em a call!). All in all, it was a very informative and collaborative event and your Legislative Committee Co-Chairs look forward to helping the committee put the tips and tools into action.

Join the Legislative Committee!

The legislative committee is always looking for chapter members who are interested in helping the chapter membership stay on top of state legislation and advocate for planning to make great communities happen. The committee starts each biennium somewhat fresh, so there is no better time to get involved and help shape the chapter’s advocacy efforts. Check out the committee’s website for more information and let Esther ([email protected]) or Yorik ([email protected]) know when you’re ready to get engaged and help our state thrive.

Return to the November/December issue of The Washington Planner