Washington Recreation & Park Association – 2017 Legislative Agenda
Enhance WWRP Funding in 2015-17 Capital Budget
(Capital Budget) WRPA will work in partnership with the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Coalition (WWRC) and other stakeholders to promote a $120 million funding level for the Washington Wildlife & Recreation Program (WWRP) in the 2017-19 Capital Budget. The $120 million funding level has been recommended by the Recreation and Conservation Funding Board (RCFB). WRPA appreciates the fact that the WWRP has been updated and revised by the Legislature and that the program utilizes a de-politicized, competitive process to rank projects on their merits. The Local Parks, Trails, and Water Access categories of the WWRP are particularly critical ones for local parks and recreation agencies.
Maximize Competitive Grant Funding for the Youth Athletic Facilities (YAF) Program
(Capital Budget) WRPA will lead a coalition effort to seek a $12 million funding level for YAF in the 2017-19 Capital Budget. The RCFB has recommended the $12 million level to the Governor’s Office – to be achieved through a scored and ranked round of projects from Spring 2016 and a supplemental grant round in 2017/18 that will be ‘sized’ in part by a “Letter of Intent” process. The YAF is the only program within the Capital Budget that focuses on helping local parks and recreation agencies address athletic field needs for youth and adults in their communities. The Legislature has done a good job of re-establishing the YAF in the 2013-15 Capital Budget and funding it at a $10 million level in 2015-17.
Advocate for Key “Healthy & Active Communities” Funding within the State Budget Process
(Capital, Transportation, Operating Budgets) As part of its ongoing “Healthy and Active Communities” initiative begun several years ago, the WRPA will work to ensure adequate funding of grant programs and budgetary items that help youth and adults to live active and healthy lifestyles; that enhance public health; and that combat a growing obesity trend in Washington and across the country. Key budgetary items WRPA will support include:
- Public Health District and “Healthiest Next Generation” funding -- Operating Budget;
- Bicycle and Pedestrian Grant, Safe Routes to Schools, and “Complete Streets” funding in the Transportation Budget;
- Dedicated accounts and grant programs in the Capital Budget such as WWRP, YAF, the Aquatic Lands Enhancement Account (ALEA), the Non-Highway Off-Road Vehicle Account (NOVA), and the Boating Facilities Program (BFP).
Allow cities/counties to utilize national background check data-bases to screen prospective employees working with youth & vulnerable adults – as Park Districts already are able to
(Policy Bill) As a way to better ensure the safety of children and vulnerable adults, WRPA will lead an effort to broaden existing statutory authority for cities and counties to use national fingerprint-based background checks under state law. In pursuing this authority, WRPA also will seek flexible and consistent language for cities, counties, Metropolitan Park Districts (MPDs), and Park Districts – as well as language that ensures local agencies have the alternative option to use private-vendor background checks if they so desire. National fingerprint-based background checks are already authorized in state law for prospective Parks District employees that work around youth and vulnerable adults, for utilizing for-hire vehicle drivers, and for prospective employees being screened by the Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS), law enforcement, and schools.
Protect Funding for Dedicated Accounts within the Capital Budget
(Capital Budget) WRPA urges the Legislature to refrain from diverting funding from dedicated accounts in the Capital Budget that are designed specifically to address outdoor recreation activities. These include the aforementioned WWRP, YAF, BFP, ALEA, and NOVA accounts, as well as pass-through federal-funding accounts such as the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). The WRPA asks the Legislature to keep as top-of-mind a recent report done for the State of Washington showing that the outdoor recreation sector generates nearly $22 billion a year in economic activity for the state, as well as nearly 200,000 jobs.
Protect Funding for Washington State Parks
(Operating Budget) WRPA understands the Legislature will have significant K-12 education funding obligations within the 2017-19 Operating Budget, especially given deadlines to comply with the McCleary decision. That said, WRPA urges the Legislature not to dilute Operating Budget funds for Washington State Parks, which has worked hard to maximize non-general-fund revenue sources and partnerships and remains one of the premier state parks systems in the U.S.
Oppose Legislation to Prematurely Place Regulatory Burdens on “Crumb Rubber” Fields
(Policy Bill) WRPA, joined by a coalition of interests representing schools, Public Health, recyclers, and others, is prepared to oppose legislation that prematurely imposes new regulatory regimes for the use of crumb-rubber infill on synthetic playing fields. WRPA makes the safety of children a top priority and is actively engaged in tracking major federal and State of California studies that are evaluating the health risks of crumb-rubber. To date, however, all major studies and analyses, including those done by states such as Connecticut and Massachusetts, have shown no elevated health risk from crumb-rubber materials.
Support Efforts to Address Mental Health, Homelessness, Affordable Housing
(Operating Budget, Capital Budget, Policy Bills) WRPA will strongly support efforts led by cities and counties, the Low-Income Housing Alliance, and others, to ensure the Legislature provides appropriate funding and authority for local governments to address growing mental health, homelessness, and affordable housing crises in their communities. Areas of support will include the following:
- Housing Trust Fund (advocates are requesting a $200 million level);
- “1115 Medicaid Waiver” provisions in the Operating Budget ensuring that federal dollars received under this program can be used toward supportive housing;
- Extending and increasing a Document Recording Fee for homelessness prevention services within counties.
Re-Establishing a Statewide Tourism Marketing Program
(Policy Bill) WRPA is prepared to support 2017 legislation that would re-establish and finance a statewide tourism marketing program. Any such program, however, should put a major emphasis on the use of funding toward outdoor-recreation-related activities that are a major tourist draw for our state.
“Big Tent” Outdoor Recreation Coalition
(Budgetary, Policy Items) WRPA strongly supports the continued work of the “Big Tent” Outdoor Recreation Coalition, an umbrella organization comprised of several dozen outdoor retailers, non-profits, and others that seek to ensure Washington State recognizes and maximizes the economic, societal, tourism, and health benefits of outdoor recreation.