Legislative Updates from WRPA Lobbyist: 01/23/2017

REMINDERThere’s still time to register for the annual “Great Outdoors Day” co-sponsored by WRPA and the WWRC, and scheduled for Feb. 13.  We will have a morning briefing, noon-hour speakers (three of four confirmed), and an evening reception at the Governor’s Mansion.  And of course, you’ll have a chance to meet with your lawmakers and cover key priority issues for WRPA and your organization!

Week 2 of the Session began with a large rally on K-12 education funding, which, of course, was not as multiple-city in reach or as massive in size as the national marches for women that closed the week.  Still, it cast an even brighter spotlight on education funding and intensified the questions and interest from the media and the public.

One of the questions on education funding was innocently posed by a free-lance reporter who wondered when Republicans would release their plan.  He received a tart “none of your business” reply from Senate Majority Leader Mark Schoesler (R-Ritzville/9th Dist.), who subsequently found himself the target of several critical stories and editorials from the mainstream media (see the Seattle Times piece linked below).

We now hear that Senate Republicans, who are planning a no-new-taxes Operating Budget for 2017-19, may well release their education funding plan by the end of this coming week.  From conversations and press coverage, we’re gathering that likely revenue sources could include:  A sharp uptick in marijuana revenues (the General Fund forecast is $240 million above 2015-17 levels); projected savings from a possible merger of Public Employees’ and Teachers’ Retirement System Plan 1 pensions; revenue transfers; and further dedicating of lottery revenues. 

Here are links to articles on the Jan. 16 education funding rally, an editorial in response to the “none of your business” response of last week, and a weekend Seattle Times piece on the likelihood of marijuana revenues to address at least part of the K-12 funding puzzle:

Rally for education funding Monday:  http://www.kiro7.com/news/local/teachers-students-rallying-in-olympia-for-education-funding/484884801

Senator Schoesler editorial in Seattle Times:  http://www.seattletimes.com/opinion/editorials/yes-sen-schoesler-legislative-process-is-the-medias-business/

Is marijuana money the answer?  http://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/politics/state-weighs-using-pot-revenue-to-plug-school-funding-gap/

In the meantime, lawmakers kept churning out bills in Week 2 and Legislative Committees kept scheduling many of them for a public airing. 

At a WRPA level, we had a topsy turvy Week 2.  There were positive meetings on our efforts to seek $12 million in the 2017-191 Capital Budget for “YAF” and to underscore our support for at least $100 million in the WWRP program.  We also got our “background check” bill finished and introduced in the Senate (SB 5399) and received very good news on the ‘crumb rubber’ front.  But in the category of “words and details matter,” a Metropolitan Park District bill that we planned to take a ‘neutral’ stance on had significant drafting errors in it, and a section of a tourism marketing bill threatens multi-modal account funding that is important to all of you.  Efforts are underway to ‘fix’ both bills, but I’m arranging to do a Tuesday conference call with all of you to explain more.

Following is an overview of where we stand on WRPA 2017 Legislative Agenda priority and support items, and then a listing of a few other bills of note.  If any of you have other bills you want listed, please don’t hesitate to e-mail me at Doug@outcomesbylevy.onmicrosoft.com  A list of hearings for Week 3 is at the end of this report (Pg. 5), with recommendations on whether we should testify, sign in, or monitor bills in play.

Top Priorities

Enhance WWRP Funding in 2015-17 Capital Budget

(Capital Budget) Last Thursday and Friday, respectively, I met with the Senate Ways & Means Capital Budget Chair Jim Honeyford (R-Sunnyside/15th Dist.) and House Capital Budget Vice-Chair Beth Doglio (D-Olympia/22nd Dist.).  It is clear that Rep. Doglio and her fellow House Members are much more enthusiastic about the Governor’s $100 million funding level for WWRP and putting it on their priority list.  Senator Honeyford expressed some ongoing dissatisfaction with the program, even though he authored SSB 6227 a Session ago to bring more accountability to it.  While we ideally would love lawmakers to consider the $120 million level for WWRP, pressures on Capital Budget debt capacity are immense and that will be very tough. 

Maximize Competitive Grant Funding for the Youth Athletic Facilities (YAF) Program

(Capital Budget) I had very positive meetings with Sen. Honeyford and Rep. Doglio on the $12 million recommendation for YAF by both our organization and the Recreation and Conservation Funding Board.  We continue to show Senate and House Capital Budget writers the RCFB’s “Letter of Intent” spreadsheet displaying 132 requests and $30 million in state funding that is being sought through those requests.

Advocate for Key “Healthy & Active Communities” Funding within the State Budget Process

(Capital, Transportation, Operating Budgets) Key budgetary items WRPA will support include:

  • Public Health District and “Healthiest Next Generation” funding -- Operating Budget:  Nothing new to report.  HNG is not in the Governor’s Operating Budget and it almost certainly will not be in the Senate’s budget to be unveiled several weeks from now.
  • Bicycle and Pedestrian Grant, Safe Routes to Schools, and “Complete Streets” funding in the Transportation Budget:  The Governor’s 2017-19 Transportation Budget continues funding for these programs under allocations spelled out in the “Connecting Washington” package.  Further down in this report, I give details on a potential $2 million re-direction of multi-modal funding that would take away some dollars from these accounts – and, accordingly, has raised major hackles in the bicycle and pedestrian advocacy community.
  • 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):  We will work to protect these accounts.  The BFP and NOVA funding levels have been bolstered by new gas tax revenues approved under the “Connecting Washington” package enacted by the Legislature in July 2015.

Allow cities/counties to utilize FBI fingerprint-based background checks to screen prospective employees working with youth, vulnerable adults; Make Language for MPD/Park Districts consistent

 (Policy Bill) Our thanks to Sen. Steve O’Ban (R-Pierce County/28th Dist.) and Rep. John Lovick (D-Mill Creek/44th Dist.) for agreeing to prime-sponsor this legislation.  The Senate bill is now out – SB 5399.  We expect a House bill number by mid-week.  To better ensure the safety of children and vulnerable adults, we are promoting these bills to broaden existing statutory authority for cities and counties to use FBI fingerprint-based background checks under state law.  In pursuing this authority, we also are seeking to make the MPD/Park District language consistent with the authorizing language for cities and counties.  This legislation is designed to be permissive (not a mandate) and includes specific provisions indicating that local agencies may continue to utilize private vendors if they so desire. 

“Support/Oppose” Items

Protect Funding for Dedicated Accounts within the Capital Budget

(Capital Budget) WRPA will again be urging the Legislature to refrain from diverting funding from dedicated accounts in the Capital Budget that are designed specifically to address outdoor recreation activities.  See above under “Top Priorities.”

Protect Funding for Washington State Parks

(Operating Budget) WRPA will seek to ensure the State Parks Operating Budget for 2017-19 is not diluted.  The Governor’s 2017-19 proposal is a very good first step, providing about $174.5 million through “earned income” revenues (Discover Pass, camping fees, etc.), a General Fund allocation, and continued earmarking of litter-tax proceeds.  I’ll pass along additional information I received Friday from Daniel Farber of State Parks.

Oppose Legislation to Prematurely Place Regulatory Burdens on “Crumb Rubber” Fields

(Policy Bill) Last Wednesday, the Department of Health announced and released the results of a several-month-long investigation into cancer cases brought to DOH by University of Washington soccer coach Amy Griffin.  Coach Griffin had significant concerns that crumb-rubber fields were contributing to what she saw as an inordinately high number of contracted cancers among soccer players (she brought 53 cases to the attention of DOH).  We have forwarded to all of you the link and the information from the DOH announcement.  DOH concluded that the number of cancer cases is lower than they would have assumed for soccer players overall.  They also continued to note that current science and data does not show any elevated risk from crumb-rubber fields.  As we’ve reported, WRPA puts a premium on safety for kids (and adults) who use our facilities.  However, WRPA, joined by a coalition of interests representing schools, Public Health, recyclers, and others, is prepared to oppose legislation that prematurely puts new regulatory hurdles on the use of crumb-rubber infill on synthetic playing fields.  While major federal and State of California studies continue, all major studies and analyses to date, including those done by states such as Connecticut and Massachusetts, have shown no elevated health risk from crumb-rubber materials.  By the way, we still have not seen a bill regarding this issue.

Support Efforts to Address Mental Health, Homelessness, Affordable Housing

(Operating Budget, Capital Budget, Policy Bills) Our Agenda outlines support for a $200 million Housing Trust fund allocation in the Capital Budget; “1115 Medicaid Waiver” funding that allows some Medicaid dollars to be targeted to supportive housing services; extending and increasing the “Document Recording Fee” on housing transactions; and local-option funding tools for affordable housing.  Here is an extensive listing of bills in play covering these issues – apologies for the small type size!

  • SB 5182, “preservation tax exemption” for existing housing stock: This measure by Sen. Joe Fain (R-Auburn/47th Dist.) is up for a hearing Monday at 1:30 p.m. in the Senate Human Services, Mental Health, and Housing Committee. The bill provides local governments with the option of providing local property tax exemptions to developers who preserve and upgrade existing housing stock to maintain affordability;
  • SB 5254, ensuring adequacy of buildable lands and providing funding for low-income housing and homelessness:  There are nearly 40 sections of proposed statutory changes packed into this Realtors-promoted bill, which is due for a hearing Thursday at 1:30 p.m. in the Senate Local Government Committee.  Cities, counties, and organizations such as FutureWise will look to revise or remove some of the buildable lands sections of the bill but support others, such as one that removes the sunset date on the document recording fee.  This bill will clearly undergo changes, but may be a “vehicle” for a compromise bill in weeks and months to come.
  • HB 1044, stipulating that 25 percent of proceeds in any Housing Trust Fund cycle must be dedicated to homeownership projects:  The array of advocates seeking to build biennial funding in the HTF to $200 million, and to make progress on housing units devoted to lower-income renters, homeless families and youth, etc., will actively oppose this bill by Rep. Drew MacEwen (R-Shelton/35th Dist.).  The bill has a Thursday, 1:30 p.m. hearing in the House Community Development, Housing, and Tribal Affairs Committee.
  • HB 1536, removing the sunset on surcharges related to the document recording fee and increasing the amount of the DRF:  Twenty-eight House Members – all Democrats – have joined freshman prime sponsor Nicole Macri (D-Seattle/43rd Dist.) in co-sponsoring this legislation.  Among other things, 1536 removes a 2019 sunset that is to be applied to a $30 DRF surcharge, and it takes the overall DRF level to $90.  No hearing date has been set yet on this bill, which will be strongly supported by a coalition of cities, counties, housing organizations, and the Low-Income Housing Alliance.
  • HB 1570, providing several local options to help communities invest in affordable housing:   No hearing has been set yet on 1570, prime-sponsored by Rep. Joan McBride (D-Kirkland/48th Dist.) and co-sponsored by a handful of Members, including Reps. June Robinson (D-Everett/38th Dist.) and Larry Springer (D-Kirkland/45th Dist.).  This legislation provides tools such as councilmanic sales tax authority, new Real Estate Excise Tax authority, the ability to flex up existing REET money, authority to impose “demolition fees” on housing tear-downs, etc.
  • SB 5407, preserving housing options for tenants:  The text of this bill by Sen. David Frockt (D-Seattle/46th Dist.) is not even available yet, but we believe 5407 will be a measure to prohibit “Source of Income Discrimination” in public housing.  Stay tuned.
  • “1115 Medicaid Waiver”:  The federal Centers on Medicare and Medicaid Services have now approved Washington State’s waiver, which will enable several hundred million dollars of Medicaid funds to be applied toward supportive housing services over the next five years.  Additionally, what had been called the “1115 Medicaid Waiver” is now being retitled the “Medicaid Demonstration Transformation.”  The Governor’s supplemental operating budget includes this waiver funding (Sec. 213).


Re-Establishing a Statewide Tourism Marketing Program

(Policy Bill) This Wednesday at 8 a.m., the House Community Development, Housing, and Tribal Affairs Committee will hold a hearing on HB 1123 sponsored by Reps. Cary Condotta (R-Wenatchee/12th Dist.) and Committee Chair Cindy Ryu (D-Shoreline/32nd Dist.).  The bill would re-establish a statewide tourism marketing program by re-directing $5 million a biennium in sales tax paid by certain tourism-related industries from the General Fund to a new tourism marketing account.  The private sector would be expected to match the $5 million on a 2:1 basis.  Another $2 million to develop a comprehensive tourism marketing plan would come from a one-time use of $2 million in rental car taxes.  It is the re-direction of the $2 million, which is tied up with Sec. 9 of the bill, that has caused a firestorm.  Advocates for multi-modal accounts that finance bicycle and pedestrian projects, transit projects, even some ferry system activities, are adamantly opposed to re-directing those funds.  WRPA has been supportive of 1123, but because all of you benefit from multi-modal programs, and because we discovered Sec. 9 language impacts that, we may wish to testify “other” until this issue can be resolved.


 “Big Tent” Outdoor Recreation Coalition – Fifth Annual Rally Day Feb. 15

(Budgetary, Policy Items) As previously reported, confirmed speakers include Governor Jay Inslee and newly-elected Lands Commissioner Hilary Franz.  More speakers are being sought.  Olympia’s Paul Simmons has agreed to staff a WRPA booth at the Rally Day event.

Other Bills

  • SB 5138/HB 1465, authorizing agencies to list in their ballot titles a lower property-tax level for Metropolitan Park District (MPD) formation involving a specific facility:  Sen. Guy Palumbo (D-Bothell/1st Dist.) and Rep. Shelley Kloba (D-Kirkland/1st Dist.) are the prime-sponsors of this legislation, which has a series of technical flaws and needs to be ‘fixed.’ As written and as detailed at a  public hearing last Wednesday on 5138, there is a retroactivity clause in the bill, and the legislation is not tightly written in terms of specifically tying a lower-allowable tax rate to a specifically identified facility need.  I will forward an e-mail from the Kirkland lobbyist working on a series of amendments.  I want to pass along hearty thanks to Steve Burke, Executive Director of the William Shore Memorial Pool MPD in the Port Townsend area, who first spotted many of the bill-drafting issues and testified to them last Wednesday.  Steve also has provided me the names of several interested MPDs and I am adding them to our list for a proposed conference call on Tuesday.
  • Discover Pass bills:  I will separately forward all of you a State Parks e-mail that details these further, but here are a bunch:  State Parks supports SB 5342/HB 1478, which would share 25 percent of the proceeds from Discover Pass fines with local courts in counties with a population of 100,000 or fewer; HB 1271, opposed by State Parks, would lower the penalty for failure to comply with a Discover Pass requirement from $99 to the actual price of the Discover Pass; SB 5200 allows married spouses to combine their volunteer hours with State Parks to qualify for a complimentary Discover Pass; HB 1177/SB 5305, on which State Parks is neutral, would provide a free Discover Pass to veterans who qualify for lifetime disability benefits; HB 1180, on which State Parks is also neutral, would provide a complimentary Discover Pass to all veterans with a 100 percent disability benefit; and HB 1247, which is also a “neutral” position bill for State Parks, authorizes a lifetime pass at no cost to disabled veterans who have a service-connected disability of at least 30 percent and reside in Washington or Oregon.
  • SB 5357, establishing a pilot program to license outdoor recreation learning programs:  Sen. Kevin Ranker (D-San Juan Islands/40th Dist.) is the sponsor of this bill, which attempts to provide standardized licensing for some 40 outdoor learning programs that have been started in Washington.
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