City Legislative Priorities

The key to growing 281 strong cities and towns in Washington starts with addressing housing shortages and affordability, helping individuals with mental health and drug addiction issues, and providing tools to enhance local economic vitality. See below to discover city legislative outcomes from the 2018 legislative session.


Strengthen city tools to address housing conditions in our communities

Cities large and small are experiencing challenges with housing in their community – from shortages of affordable housing, to a lack of workforce housing, to neighborhood impacts of abandoned foreclosed properties. Cities need a variety of local option tools to address the problems of their specific local circumstances.

The Legislature:
PRO – Passed HB 1570 making the document recording fee permanent and increasing it by $22 statewide for a total of $54 M per biennium. The fee supports homeless housing programs.
PRO – Passed HB 2057 providing a means for cities to mitigate the impacts of abandoned and bank-owned foreclosed homes.
PRO – Passed HB 2538 authorizing cities to eliminate impact fees for homeless shelters and emergency domestic violence shelters.
PRO – Passed HB 2667 fixing a legal quirk that created homelessness for recipients of one housing support program before they qualified for another.
PRO – Provided a $4 M increase to the Housing Trust Fund for a total of $110.7 M.
CON – Failed to pass HB 1797, which would have created a new construction sales tax reimbursement pilot program to attract new multifamily housing and provided additional flexibility within existing tools such as making the optional sales tax authority for affordable housing a council decision.
CON – Failed to create the state/local affordable housing partnership in HB 2437 which would have allowed local governments to draw down a portion of state sales tax for housing purposes by providing a local match.


Direct funds to mental health, chemical dependency, and social safety net programs

Although cities are not frontline service providers, many of the problems associated with mental health and chemical dependency show up in our communities and on our streets. Increasingly, local public safety personnel play an expanding role in addressing these impacts. AWC actively supports and will engage with those seeking to direct resources to address these challenges and will collaborate with the state, counties, and providers to find ways to deliver support services in the most effective manner.

The Legislature:
PRO – Passed HB 2892, which is a mental health field responder pilot program that helps city police departments hire mental health professionals to work with officers to connect at-risk individuals with support services, rather than defaulting into the criminal justice system.
PRO – Passed HB 1047 providing safe and secure “drug take-back” collection and disposal locations in every city for unwanted medications.
PRO – Provided a grant of $800 K to create a criminal justice diversion center to provide short-term placement/ shelter with a coordinated delivery network of integrated services.
PRO – Made significant investments in the mental health system, including the following highlights:

  • $69.3 M to county behavioral health organizations for community service enhancements;
  • $25.3 M in behavioral community capacity funding; and
  • $14.4 M for opioid treatment and overdose prevention.


Enhance economic development tools and programs that foster business development in cities

Economic development opportunities vary greatly across the state. Some communities have commercial or industrial areas that have deteriorated or lack the needed infrastructure for critical development, and others lack access to adequate broadband services. AWC supports expansion of current programs and funding, such as the Public Works Trust Fund, and will engage key legislators and stakeholders to identify tools that can help foster vital economies in all corners of our state.

The Legislature:
PRO – Passed HB 2858 allowing local governments that have been awarded Local Infrastructure Financing Tool (LIFT) funds to carry the funds forward for use in later years.
PRO – Passed and funded SB 5251 creating a new Tourism Marketing Authority that will pursue a statewide tourism marketing plan. Washington State is one of the only states in the nation that does not have a state-funded tourism authority.
PRO – Passed a delayed capital budget along with an updated supplemental budget that funds significant projects supporting economic development across the state, including:

  • For the first time in at least five years, funds 25 projects, emergency loans, and pre-construction loans in the Public Works Trust Fund for $116.1 M!
  • Funds $95 M in stormwater projects.
  • Funds $160 M in Drinking Water Revolving Loan Program allowing critical projects to move forward.
  • Funds $80 M in Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program projects – many of which are in cities.
  • Funds an initial investment of $19.7 M in strategically prioritized local and private fish-blocking culverts.
  • Funds CERB at $5 M in additional loan and grant authority and $5 M for a rural broadband grant program.

PRO – Passed funding of $360 K in city fuel tax study money for the Joint Transportation Committee (JTC) to conduct an assessment of city transportation needs and revenues, and to make recommendations on future funding sources.
CON – Failed to pass SB 6499 that would have established a permanent statewide financing program modeled after the successful Local Revitalization Financing (LRF) program.


Preserve state-shared revenues with cities and increase law enforcement training funds

The 2017-19 state operating budget continued to fund traditional shared revenues such as liquor revenues and municipal criminal justice assistance at the levels provided in recent years. As the Legislature considers a supplemental budget, AWC will encourage the provision of additional funding for Basic Law Enforcement Academy classes during the biennium to ensure that new recruits receive training as quickly as possible.

The Legislature:
PRO – Provided continued full funding of revenues shared with cities, including liquor profits and taxes.
PRO – Provided additional marijuana revenues to share with cities and counties that don’t ban sales.
PRO – Provided funding for 16 Basic Law Enforcement Academy (BLEA) classes in FY 2018 and 17 classes in FY 2019.

Legislative priority process

The AWC Legislative Priorities Committee meets multiple times per year to identify and recommend to the AWC Board of Directors which city issues should be priorities. The committee comprises approximately 40 city officials from throughout the state. The AWC Board of Directors adopts the next year's legislative priorities at its fall meeting. AWC Regional Meetings are held throughout the fall and include details on AWC’s priorities.

Federal priorities

The health and vitality of local economies are critical to a robust and dynamic national economy. Federal fiscal policies should enhance the ability of local elected officials to respond to needs at the local level. More


Access AWC’s online library of Legislative Bulletin and CityVoice news articles to search for issue updates by topic.

Copyright © 2018 Association of Washington Cities