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Legislative Update from WRPA Lobbyist 01/25/2016

***SEE YOU ALL THURSDAY FOR WRPA/WWRC ADVOCACY DAY:  We look forward to seeing many of you Thursday in the hallways of Olympia for our second consecutive joint advocacy day with our colleagues from the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Coalition (WWRC).  Hopefully you’ve received background and talking points information from Brittany Jarnot of my office – if not, please let us know ASAP.  I will be starting all of you off Thursday at 8:15 a.m. sharp with a briefing at the Olympia Women’s Club. You’ll then have a chance to meet with your area legislators, hear from key players on the Capital Budget over the noon hour, and top the day off with a reception at the Governor’s Mansion (space limited, prior registration required).  Should be fun!***

While legislators introduced a slug of new bills and the Senate took a mostly party-line vote on a bill to remedy a Supreme Court decision on charter schools (SB 6194), the headline-makers of Week 2 did their thing outside the hallways of Olympia.

We saw a press conference on Monday regarding an Initiative being filed to raise the statewide minimum wage to $13.50 over a four-year period starting in 2017.  A few days later, the Secretary of State’s office formally certified for the fall ballot Initiative 732, which would establish a greenhouse gas emissions tax and reduce other taxes.  And, on Thursday, King County Superior Court Judge William Downing struck down Initiative 1366, ruling that the Tim Eyman-promoted measure was unconstitutional.

There will undoubtedly be an appeal to Judge Downing’s ruling on 1366, which would have required lawmakers to reduce the sales tax by 1 percent unless they sent voters a constitutional amendment for a 2/3rd approval for raising taxes.  Downing noted, “It is solely the province of the legislative branch of our representative government to ‘propose’ an amendment to the state constitution.  That process is derailed by the pressure-wielding mechanism in this initiative which exceeds the scope of initiative power.”

Here are links to KING-5 television and Seattle Times reports on the minimum wage initiative as well as the I-1366 decision, which triggered sighs of relief among legislative budget writers:

Back in the legislative arena, it was a mixed bag Week 2 for WRPA.  On the one hand, we had a very positive hearing on the priority WWRP review legislation we’ve been working on.  On the other hand, our “recreational immunity” bill hit a snag and problematic legislation on ‘crumb rubber’ has been scheduled for a hearing.  On a broader scale, local governments were happy to see Committees set hearings on both a liquor revenue restoration bill and a measure to reform the way Public Records Act disputes could be handled in the future.

Following is an overview of where we stand on 2016 priority items, and then a bullet-style rundown of other issues that impact us.  A list of some Week 3 hearings is at the end of this report (Pgs. 5-6) with recommendations on whether we should testify, sign in, or monitor bills in play.

WRPA Top Priorities

Support Updates & Refinements to WWRP While Preserving Structure, Integrity of Program

The Recreation and Conservation Office (RCO) request bills, SB 6227/HB 2509, are off to a good start.  The Senate bill, 6227, had a very positive hearing last Thursday in Senate Natural Resources and Parks.  The House Capital Budget Committee holds a Tuesday afternoon hearing on the 2509 companion bill.  We support this bill, which would greatly simplify the WWRP funding-allocation formula to a ’45-45-10’ approach that slightly increases overall funding for local parks and trails.  The legislation also would tilt a bit more Local Parks category funding to development projects, directing the Recreation and Conservation Funding Board to allocate no less than 40 percent, and no more than 50 percent, to acquisition (vs. the current 50/50 assumption).  Finally, the bill directs that state agency projects go through a similar local support and consistency set of tests – similar to what we with local parks projects must already do! 

Boating Facilities Program -- Appropriation in 2016 Supplemental Capital Budget

We’re very supportive of a $4.85 million allocation in the Governor’s proposed Fiscal Year 2016 Supplemental Capital Budget (SB 6201/HB 2380) for the BFP.  This funding in Sec. 3008 of the budget is not new money, but rather a proposal to expedite and put to use the first-year funding from the marine-fuel tax portion of the 11.9-cent gas tax the 2015 Legislature approved as part of the 16-year, $16.1 billion “Connecting Washington” transportation package.  Everything looks good on this one so far.  Last week the Governor’s Capital Budget coordinator Nona Snell told me she’s heard absolutely no negative feedback on this one.

Clarifying and Reinforcing Recreational Liability Immunity for Multi-Purpose Trails

We thank Senate Transportation Committee Chair Curtis King (R-Yakima/15th Dist.) for his prime-sponsorship of SB 6384, legislation to clarify the “recreational immunity” statute (RCW 4.24.210) in state law.  The 6384 legislation attempts to clarify that trails which are dual-purpose in nature, and may have transportation-related funds in their overall financing, should still remain ‘covered’ under recreational immunity laws.  However, due to some vocal opposition from bicycle groups and a complaint from them that they didn’t have adequate time to respond to a complicated piece of legislation, Senator King has said he will not hold a hearing on 6384.  Rather, he wants us to pursue a series of interim discussions with bicycle groups, trial lawyers, and others.  While the halt to any hearing on 6384 is disappointing, the chance to have some type of formal or semi-formal interim set of discussions may prove to be very helpful.  We are working on a possible budget proviso with Senate Caucus staff – stay tuned!

Governor’s “Healthiest Next Generation” Initiative

We have let all of you know that the Governor’s proposed Fiscal Year 2016 Operating Budget (SB 6246/HB 2376) includes $246,000 in ongoing funding and staffing support for the ‘HNG’ initiative.  The funds are in Sec. 219(15) of the budget.  Nothing new beyond that to report on this one.  While we strongly support the Healthiest Next Generation work, we have urged the Governor’s Office to give more consideration and attention to ‘built environment’ programs that keep people healthy and active, such as the Youth Athletic Facilities (YAF) portion of the Capital Budget and of course WWRP.

WRPA Support/Oppose Items

Support funding and policy initiatives to address growing mental health, human services, and homelessness issues in local communities:  The 2016 Session is quickly becoming known as one where we will see a series of proposals offered to authorize local option tools to address affordable housing.  Among these are HB 2544/SB 6239, HB 2395, HB 2397, all of which had Week 2 hearings.  2544/6239 is a Seattle-promoted bill to extend the multi-family housing property tax exemption program for new construction to preservation of existing affordable housing. There will likely be an amendment to these bills that will allow county legislative authorities to opt into this program for the county portion of the property tax. 2395 would assess a fee on developers who convert affordable housing into condominiums.  2397 would assess a fee on developers who are demolishing or “taking down” affordable housing units.  These two bills were heard in House Community Development on Monday, with cities and housing advocates in support and business and realtors in opposition. The Seattle bill, which focuses the property tax exemption on the local share only and is sponsored in the Senate by Floor Leader Joe Fain (R-Auburn/47th Dist.), seems to be best positioned for passage.

Provide Flexibility for Counties to Use Some Conservation Futures Proceeds Toward M&O

Last Tuesday, Senators moved SB 5614 closer to being re-activated for Senate Floor action.  The bill was moved to the Rules Committee “white sheet,” meaning the Committee can now advance it forward for Floor action.  We support 5614.

Protect funding for dedicated accounts within the Capital Budget

Nothing new to report coming out of Week 2.

Oppose legislation to prematurely place a moratorium on use of crumb-rubber materials for turf fields, but support efforts to further study whether the material presents measurable health risks

On Tuesday, the House Environment Committee will hold a 1:30 p.m. hearing on HB 2547 by Rep. Gerry Pollet (D-Seattle/46th Dist.).  2547 has some pretty slanted language in the intent section and has Section 3 provisions that essentially allow the Department of Ecology to veto the use of crumb-rubber for any fields project if a broad array of conditions are not met.  We have several other concerns with the bill, which we are told is being narrowed in substitute form.  I will be joined by Larry Otos on Tuesday in testimony against this bill as premature.  In the meantime, Sen. Maralyn Chase (D-Shoreline/32nd Dist.) has introduced 6540, a bill similar to 2547 which will show up on Monday’s Senate Introduction sheet.

”Big Tent” Outdoor Recreation Coalition – 4th Annual Rally Day, Wednesday, Feb. 3

The fourth version of the Big Tent’s Rally Day will be a week from Wednesday and will literally be held in a (heated) Big Tent on the Capital Campus grounds.  While the Rally Day will run from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., the program portion of the day is set for 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.  As previously noted, confirmed speakers include Governor Inslee, former Seattle Sounders goalkeeper Marcus Hahnemann, and Senators Kevin Ranker (D-Orcas Island/40th Dist.) and Andy Hill (R-Redmond/45th Dist.).  Also now confirmed is mountaineering legend Jim Whittaker.  Lastly, the Governor’s new outdoor recreation sector lead, Jon Snyder, will be part of the program, too.

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