Published on May 20, 2019

2019 was a solid session for cities – now we look ahead to 2020

Contact: Candice Bock

Now that we are nearing Memorial Day weekend, it is hard to think back to January 14, the start of the 105th legislative session, and recall where things stood then and how much was accomplished for cities this session. This Session Recap Legislative Bulletin highlights all the bills we have written about throughout this session and summarizes the most significant issues and happenings in the various subject areas we track.

Thinking back to January, the Legislature convened with the Democrats holding strong, but not super- majorities in both the House and Senate. There was a strong showing of legislators with city backgrounds, with 30 members having some city service. The 2019 Legislature faced some of the same budget challenges as they have over the last decade. Budget leaders were concerned about an approximately $3.5 billion shortfall to cover maintenance level funding of existing programs and the need to meet new mandates and policy goals. The size of the shortfall seemed contrary to the strong economic news that Washington has been enjoying. It was the result of increased costs that all governments experience, along with the need to continue to make major investments in education and behavioral health and to fulfill newly negotiated collective bargaining contracts.

In the end, the Legislature balanced the budget with some reductions in agency spending, but primarily through new revenue and another sweep of the Public Works Trust Fund (PWTF).

There was also a lot of interest in addressing affordable housing this session, and cities were able to gain momentum after spending a lot of energy and political capital pushing back on zoning and land use pre-emption and mandates. We are very pleased that the Legislature passed HB 1406, providing the possibility of much needed funding to invest in affordable housing.

All in all, it was a solid session for cities. We made some good headway in funding for affordable housing, behavioral health and law enforcement training. We also were able to preserve city-state shared revenues and local regulatory authority. For a quick look at how cities fared on our 2019 Priorities, take a look at our AWC City Priorities – Outcomes summary.

Throughout the session, we provided you with a weekly bill Hot Sheet listing bills that had city support or that we were opposing, or where we were asking for amendments to address cities’ needs and concerns. We regularly shared this Hot Sheet with legislators and hoped that it was helpful to you in talking about bills with your legislators. If you were wondering what happened to some of those bills, you can check out our Final Session Recap Hot Sheet.

What’s next, and what about 2020?

If you are looking for more about the session that just ended, please join us for a live webinar Session Recap on May 29 where will share more about what happened during the 2019 session and we will begin the look ahead to 2020.

AWC will begin our agenda-setting process for 2020 in June, when the Legislative Priorities Committee kicks off its work. If you have a suggestion or proposal for the Committee to consider, please share it with us. We will be looking at items that didn’t get to the finish line in 2019 as well as soliciting new issues to consider. The 2020 session is a short, 60-day session so we typically keep our agenda realistic, knowing the political realities of such a short time frame during a legislative election year.

It’s not too soon to start connecting with your legislators during the interim. Legislative advocacy is a year-round effort and the next few months are the best time for your city to build stronger relationships with your local legislators. Invite them out for coffee or ask them to come to a council meeting and share their perspective on the 2019 session. Thank them for their hard work and support for cities – but don’t forget to ask them why there was so much legislative interest in pre-empting local decision making and what it will take for the legislature to stop sweeping the Public Works Trust Fund.

By building your relationship during the interim, your legislator will have a better understanding of your cities’ needs; this will make for better results in the 2020 session.

On behalf of AWC Government Relations Team, I want to express our appreciation to all of you for your hard work, outreach and support during the 2019 Session. Cities are stronger with all of your voices involved in the conversation. We couldn’t do it without you. Thank you!

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