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Legislative Update from WRPA Lobbyist: 02/17/2016

Week 5 in Olympia was quieter and less hyper-partisan than the week before it, though not without some outbursts.

Governor Inslee held a press conference on Monday where he sharply criticized Senators for de-confirming and ousting Transportation Secretary Lynn Peterson. 

The Governor called it a blatantly political move, while Senate Republicans defended it as an action to restore accountability and trust with the public.  One Senate Floor vote which helped restore some sense of bi-partisanship came last Wednesday, when Republican Senators Joe Fain (R-Auburn/47th Dist.), Andy Hill (R-Redmond/45th Dist.) and Steve Litzow (R-Mercer Island/41st Dist.) joined 22 Democrats to defeat, by a 25-24 vote, SB 6443 by Sen. Doug Ericksen (R-Ferndale/42nd Dist.).  6443 would have repealed a recent Human Rights Commission rule on trans-gender use of bathrooms and locker facilities.

While partisan temperatures cooled just a bit, both Senators and House Members spent much of their week dealing with bills on the Floor Calendar.  This upcoming Wednesday represents a cutoff deadline for bills to pass their “house of origin.”  Additionally, we are told that a week from Monday, Feb. 22, is when we may well see the House’s version of a 2016 Supplemental Operating Budget,with Supplemental Capital and Transportation budgets following closely behind.

Underneath the high-profile stuff, we in WRPA had a pretty good Week 5, chiefly fueled by the continued rapid progression of the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program (WWRP) reform bill.

Following is an overview of where we stand on 2016 WRPA priority and support issues, and then a bullet-style rundown of other issues that impact us.  A list of a few Week 6 hearings is at the end of this report (Page 4).

WRPA Top Priorities:

Support Updates/Refinements to WWRP While Preserving Structure, Integrity of Program (SSB 6227/SHB 2509)

After passing unanimously out of the Senate, SSB 6227 has been scheduled for a Friday morning hearing in the House Capital Budget Committee.  2509 remains in Rules and House Capital Budget Chair Steve Tharinger (D-Dungeness/24th Dist.) confirmed with me last Friday that the Senate bill will be the ‘vehicle.’  We expect the House to add some of its amendment language to SB 6227, including a more limited “emergency clause” than the Senate bill.  For WRPA purposes, key pieces of the underlying bills involve a much-simplified allocation formula (“45/45/10”) that would put slightly more WWRP money into the local parks and trails categories; a working assumption of 60 percent development in the Local Parks category (“no less than 40 percent” for acquisition, and “no more than 50 percent”); direction that state agencies must show some of the same due diligence and consistency in their projects that we have to show in ours; and language that calls upon the Recreation and Conservation Office to determine methods of providing “under-served” communities with potential match reductions or waivers.  Amendments to both bills define what “confer” means for state natural resource agencies; and clarify the definition of “multiple benefits” on habitat conservation projects. 

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.  All feedback we get on the inclusion of this provision has been positive.

Clarifying and Reinforcing Recreational Liability Immunity for Multi-Purpose Trails

Nothing new to report – this one will become an interim project.  SB 6384 will ‘die’ for the Session and we are being asked to convene post-Session discussions, principally with bicycling groups.

Governor’s “Healthiest Next Generation” Initiative

Nothing new to report.  The Governor’s proposed 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.

WRPA Support/Oppose Items:

Support funding and policy initiatives to address growing mental health, human services, and homelessness issues in local communities – 2SSB 6239, SB 6647:  2SSB 6239 is about the last local-option affordable housing bill left standing in the 2016 Session.  This bill passed out of the Senate Ways & Means Committee last Tuesday with 19 yes votes and four members voting “without recommendation.”  The bill then advanced on Friday to the Senate Floor Calendar.  6239 is the Seattle-promoted bill offering a local property tax exemption to owners of multi-family housing who will agree to preserve and improve existing housing stock and keep rents constant. On a homelessness prevention front, Senate Minority Leader Sharon Nelson recently introduced and held a news conference on SB 6647, her bill to recognize a homelessness emergency by utilizing hundreds of millions of dollars in state general fund reserves.  The bill is not getting a hearing from the Senate Majority Coalition.  The City of Seattle circulated a letter last week to cities throughout King County, asking for co-signers on a unified request to declare a homelessness emergency.

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

We heard last week that SB 5614 may well remain in Senate Rules and not come up for a Floor vote before Wednesday’s cutoff deadline.  That is disappointing, as we support this legislation.  Clark County and Spokane County have taken the lead role on 5614.

Protect funding for dedicated accounts within the Capital Budget

I learned late last week that both Sens. Honeyford and Keiser are very interested in finding $500,000 in the 2016 Supplemental Capital Budget for a noble cause:  establishing 10 washing stations where the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife would spray boats to prevent the carrying of invasive species.  One area where staff is looking to get the funds is by re-directing $500,000 from Boating Facilities Program funds.  We’ve since learned that a) such washing stations could technically qualify for BFP funds; and b) the project has not been thoroughly vetted, costed out, or put into detailed form.  We will go back to Sens. Honeyford and Keiser with that information.

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

As we reported, PSHB 2547 and SB 6540 have ‘died’ for the 2016 Session.  I believe it will be important for us in WRPA to take a leadership role on this issue and think about pro-active steps we could take, for example around signage.  More to come, obviously!

”Big Tent” Outdoor Recreation Coalition

With the fourth annual Big Tent Rally now having come and gone, planning is already underway for next year!  Again, thanks to Paul Simmons of Olympia, John Keates of Bothell, Andrew Austin of METRO Parks Tacoma, Tony Tipton of Pierce County, Tom Teigen et al in Snohomish County, the folks at Vancouver Parks and Recreation, and all those who made Rally Day No. 4 our most successful one yet.

Quick Snapshot on Other Issues of interest/impact to WRPA

  • Emerging Issue -- $250,000 Operating Budget proviso to look at how state and federal fee passes can be standardized and possibly combined into a single pass:  Kudos to Sen. Linda Parlette (R-Wenatchee/12th Dist.) and our colleagues in State Parks for working on this one.  It now appears this budget proviso can be funded without new dollars, and with agencies agreeing to fund the study within Discover Pass revenues.
  • Speaking out on the chipping away of Discover Pass revenues – SSB 6297, SB 5137, etc.:  Senator Kevin Ranker (D-San Juan Islands/40th Dist.) has asked lobbyists representing outdoor recreation to speak out on this one.  His point is that legislation which exempts certain people from Discover Pass fee obligations, or chips away at Discover Pass revenue, may look “OK” in singular form but becomes dangerous in the aggregate.  6297 which allows small counties to potentially keep more Discover Pass infraction revenue, and 6137 which gives 100 percent disability returning veterans a free Discover Pass, are two examples.  We will be putting a letter together on this issue for folks in WRPA and elsewhere to review.
  • Tourism promotion legislation – ESB 5916, HB 2552:  Neither of these bills is going to pass, and the Washington Tourism Alliance is now asking our help on supporting a proposed $400,000 “bridge funding” budget proviso to help with WTA website and printing costs.  I will be checking in with President Brad Case on this one.
  • Restore liquor revenues – HB 2438/SB 6425, removing the cap on liquor revolving account funds and gradually restoring the 50/50 percentage split between the state and local governments: Our thanks to Rep. Tana Senn (D-Mercer Island/41st Dist.), the Chair of the bi-partisan “Local Government Champions Caucus” in the House, for spearheading a letter signed and sent by 41 Members urging passage of HB 2438.  Of the 41 signers, 23 were Democrats and 18 were Republicans.  Senn and bill sponsor Rep. Terry Nealey (R-Dayton/16th Dist.) have also directed staff to draft an amendment to the 2438 legislation that significantly minimizes its ‘hit’ on the state’s four-year budget outlook, mostly by delaying the implementation of when liquor revenues would be restored.  The hope now is to get this issue on the radar of House Leadership.
  • Bills to extend the life of the Invasive Species Council (SB 6162/HB 2331) and the Habitat Lands Coordinating Group (SB 6296/HB 2493):  These bills are all in great shape.  6162 passed 49-0 off the Senate Floor on Thursday, a day after 2331 received a 96-1 passing vote off the House Floor.  As for the other companions, 6296 has already cleared the Senate unanimously and is up for a hearing this coming Wednesday morning in the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee.  The House companion, HB 2493, is on the House Floor Calendar.  6162/2331 extends the sunset date for the Invasive Species Council from 2017 to 2022, while 6296/2493 adds 10 years of statutory life to the Habitat Lands Coordinating Group.
  • 2SHB 2667/SSB 6377 – Allowing the State Parks & Recreation Commission to use majority (rather than unanimous) votes to approve long-term leases beyond 20 years:  While these bills started out as legislative vehicles to effect new statewide policy, they may just end up as a pilot bill for a Saint Edward State Park proposal.  We in WRPA have testified in support of these companion bills by Rep. Jessyn Farrell (D-Lake Forest Park/46th Dist.) and Sen. Kirk Pearson (R-Monroe/39th Dist.).  Both bills are in their respective Rules Committees.  It appears the House bill, which would provide 80-year lease and majority vote authority just for State Parks and just for a Seminary Building proposal at the State Park, could wind up as the ‘vehicle.’
  • SHB 2334, regarding the sales taxation of martial arts:  This bill passed unanimously out of the House last Thursday. 2334 exempts from sales tax any yoga, chi gong, and martial arts activities not held in a gym or fitness center. This bill is a follow-up to the 2015 bill that we (WRPA) worked on around taxation of recreation and amusement activities.  The fact that 2334 has only a $157,000 fiscal impact for the remainer of the 2015-17 biennium puts it ‘in the mix’ of tax incentive bills that have a chance.
  • Public Records Act reform – SHB 2576:  During its hearing last Monday in the House General Government and Information Technology Committee, this bill ran into more hurdles. It was amended to include a null-and-void clause, making it a requirement that the bill receive funding in the budget in order to pass.  Negotiations continued on 2576 into Friday, with yours truly sitting in on one of the sessions.  From what we are learning, 2576 could get pared back further.
  • HB 2460/SB 6351, allowing local agencies to pre-empt the carrying of firearms in libraries, in parks, or on transit buses:  These companion measures have ‘died.’
  • HB 2427/SB 6315, local government modernization:  Both the House and Senate versions of this King County-promoted bill have advanced to the respective Floor Calendars.  Cities and counties are supportive of the provision in these companion bills to explicitly authorize local governments to use electronic signatures for formal document recording.  
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