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It’s the 57th day of the 105 day legislative session. The House and Senate are cranking out floor votes – sending bills across to the other chamber. They have until next Wednesday, March 13th, to do so; after that they start up the committee process again. Bills that are not tied to the budget and that do not pass out of their chamber of origin are dead.
The state fiscal forecast is likely to occur on March 22nd and the House budget proposals will be unveiled at the end of the month. The Senate will unveil their budget proposals soon thereafter. The House operating budget is expected to rely on new revenue – whether that is a capital gains tax, an escalating real estate excise tax, and perhaps a B & O tax increase of some sort is unknown.
The transportation budget is unlikely to be much of a departure from last biennium’s budget. It’s likely that bills relating to tolling along I-405, SR 509 and SR 167 will be tied to that budget. One of the unknowns is how the Legislature will address the fish passage barriers litigation. The transportation funding proposal bills (SB 5970, SB 5971, and SB 5972) passed out of the Senate Transportation Committee with mixed votes last week. It remains to be seen whether there is enough bandwidth to consider a transportation funding package when the operating budget may need new revenue.
Two bill cutoffs have passed, and the 2019 session is reaching its halfway point. Committee hearings have abated somewhat, and House and Senate floor action will pick up. There are a lot of bills to consider and only two weeks for each chamber to pass their own bills before they transition to considering the bills from the opposite chamber. Here are the primary bills that are still alive that APWA is tracking:
Local Government procurement: HB 1359 and SB 5418 both contain provisions related to unit price contracting and both increase the dollar threshold for small works roster projects. SB 5418 has additional provisions related to a JLARC study and bid challenges.
Contractor requirements & liability: HB 1395 concerns direct contractor liability for payment of wages and benefits, and SB 5457 requires each prime contract bidder to submit, as part of the bid on public works contracts, the names of the subcontractors.
Transportation funding proposals: On Thursday, the Senate Transportation Committee held a hearing on Sen. Hobbs’ transportation funding proposal. SB 5970 contains the bonding provisions; SB 5971 contains the provisions that raise the revenue (e.g., 6 cent gas tax increase, $15 carbon tax fee) and SB 5972 contains the spending portion of the package.
Regarding those bills that did not survive the bill deadlines, below are several of the notable ones:
HB 1006 – new requirements for locating underground facilities.
HB 1680 – local government infrastructure funding (ends the deposit of 4.1 percent of the Real Estate Excise Tax (REET) into the Education Legacy Trust Account in fiscal year 2019, rather than fiscal year 2020).
SB 5952 – funding local public works through the creation of a state infrastructure bank.
The budgets will likely be unveiled by the end of the month. The House goes first this year and will likely depend on new revenue sources to meet its obligations.
The first bill cutoff came Friday, February 22nd. The Transportation Committees and the other fiscal committees will continue to meet next week, but the policy committees are done until March 14th, when they start considering bills from the other chamber. Next month, much of the focus will turn to the budgets once the March fiscal forecast is released.
Bill introductions have slowed considerably, but not before a large number of bills concerning transportation electrification were introduced and heard. On this bill cutoff day, several of those bills failed in committee but several bills are still moving. Electrification bills that are still moving include:
The GAC continues to watch a number of procurement bills that are still moving. Some contain provisions that we feel will further complicate public works procurement processes.
On Tuesday, both House and Senate Transportation Committees will hold a hearing on Initiative 976, which pertains to vehicle license fees. This is an initiative to the legislature so the Legislature can either pass it (and it becomes law), pass a substitute version (which would go on the ballot with I-976), or take no action and let I-976 go to the ballot with no competing option. At this point, the latter option is the most likely.
On Thursday, the committee will hear the bills associated with Sen. Hobbs’ transportation funding proposal:
These bills reflect much of what has been discussed and over the last several months. While few expect this to be enacted this session, the conversation regarding a new transportation funding package has started in earnest, and that conversation is expected to last into next session, and, perhaps, to the 2021 session.
We are over a third of the way through the 2019 session. The first bill cutoff is February 22nd and the House and Senate have until March 13th to hear their own bills before they start considering the each other’s bills. Consequently, bill introductions have slowed to a trickle.
Of those hearings still occurring, the House Capital budget is holding hearings on three bills concerning local infrastructure: HB 1441, which allows the Housing Finance Commission to provide financing for local government infrastructure projects; HB 1680, which ends the diversion of 4.1% of the REET from the general fund to back to the Public Works Assistance Account, and HB 1691, which ends the diversion of the Refuse Tax to the General Account to back to the Public Works Assistance Account.
In the Senate, the State Government Committee is holding a hearing on SB 5457. This bill requires bid documents for public works projects over $1 million include names of all subcontractors. On Friday, the Senate Transportation Committee is hearing SB 5825, which addressing the tolling of Interstate 405, state route 167 and state route 509.
After this week, while the financial committees will continue meeting until March 1st, the focus will shift to floor action.
We are about 35 days into the 105 day legislative session. The Legislature closed down on the 29th day due to snow, and reopened on Tuesday. With only five days until the first bill cutoff (February 22nd), and with over 2,000 bills introduced, this closure will likely “kill” many bills that would have otherwise had hearings.
The major issues facing the legislature this year are the State’s mental health system, homelessness and affordable housing and fish-passage associated with culvert replacement. These were reflected in the Governor’s budget proposal that was released in December. The first weeks of session were marked by hearings related those proposals.
The early days of session were also marked by a relatively slow start due to the large number of new members in both houses. The pace increase significantly as we entered the third and fourth weeks of session resulting in the over 2,000 bills mentioned above.
Last week, the Senate Transportation Committee held a hearing on SB 5505, which would require that local storm water fees paid by WSDOT be spent solely on WSDOT properties and that reports be sent to WSDOT describing those expenditures. Essentially, this bill would go back to pre-2014 practices. APWA testified against the bill, stating that those requirements would make it harder for local governments to implement their stormwater programs.
Public procurement is a popular topic this session, with over 20 such bills introduced. Some of these bills authorize the use of unit price contracting; others concern subcontractor relationships and procedures. A few of those bills have hearings this week: SB 5702 (concerning the fairness of public works bidding) in the Senate Local Government Committee while SB 5656 (concerning public works contracting procedures) will be heard in the Senate State Government Committee.As this long budget session unfolds, we will resume weekly legislative updates to you informed about what the members of the Government Affairs Committee is seeing and acting on.