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With one week to go until the April 25 end of session, both chambers are working through the concurrence/dispute calendars. The concurrence/dispute process regards bills that were amended in the opposite chamber, and the originating chamber must either concur in the amendment or ask for the other chamber to recede. If neither option is taken, the chambers can go to “conference” and negotiate the differences. If that does not happen, the bill fails.
One of those bills subject to this process is the low carbon fuel standards bill, HB 1091. This House bill was amended on the Senate floor by Sen. Mullet. His amendment directs that, beginning January 1, 2028, the Department of Ecology must not increase the applicable clean fuels program standard until the department can demonstrate that at least one new biofuels production facility producing in excess of sixty million gallons of biofuels per year has received all necessary siting, operating, and environmental permits post all applicable appeals. Currently, it is unknown whether the House will concur with the Senate amendments. If not, the bill will likely go to a conference where the differences will be negotiated. Can it be done in a week?
Beside the fate of HB 1091, there are several other unknowns at this point: Will the Senate attempt to pass the three bills that embody the Forward Washington transportation funding package? Does the House have enough time to hear and debate the cap & invest carbon bill, SB 5126? How will the Legislature reconcile the two broadband bills that each chamber passed, SB 5383 and HB 1336?
The Senate Transportation Committee heard and passed the three-transportation funding bills this week. SB 5481, SB 5482 and SB 5483 are now in the Senate Rules Committee, one step from receiving a senate floor vote. Assuming the Senate passes the bills during this weekend, the House would have only a few days to address them. The Senate funding and spending framework is different from the house transportation funding proposal (called Miles Ahead) unveiled by Rep. Fey several weeks ago.
Because of late passage by the Senate, the House is currently pushing to hear and debate, SB 5126, the cap & invest bill. The bill had its first hearing on Wednesday in the House Environment & Energy Committee and is currently scheduled for a committee vote. The House Appropriations Committee is set to hear the bill on Monday, April 18th, and vote on it on Tuesday, April 20th. Revenues for this bill are integral for the Forward Washington funding package, and, unless amended by the House, the current SB 5126 has provisions stating that it cannot be fully implemented until an additive transportation funding bill is passed (either the Forward Washington proposal or the House’s Miles Ahead transportation funding proposal).
The broadband bills, SB 5383 and HB 1336, are other examples of bills that either need a concurrence vote or to be negotiated. Both were amended by the other chamber – SB 5383 in the House and HB 1336 in the Senate. Neither has been brought up for a concurrence vote at this time. HB 1336 provides Ports, PUDs, 2nd class cities and counties the ability to provide broadband services to underserved areas. SB 5383, allows Ports and PUDs to do so subject to some limitations. There are concerns that HB 1336 goes too far and will lead to overbuilding of the system, while others believe SB 5383 does not go far enough. If an agreement cannot be reached both could fail this week.
Rumors are that all three budget negotiations (operating, capital, and transportation) are close to finishing so the session should end on time. The budget agreements could be unveiled by Wednesday.
Sunday, April 11th, was the last significant bill deadline prior to the April 25th session adjournment. Bills that did not receive a floor vote in both the House and Senate by that deadline will have to wait until next year, with the caveat that bills necessary to implement the budget (NTIB) are alive until adjournment.
Below are lists of the bills tracked by the APWA legislative committee that have survived. Bills not on this list, include land use bills, many of which failed this week - bills such as HB 1099, the climate change as an element of the GMA, and salmon recovery HB1117. Both bills (SB 5383 and HB 1336) that would give local governments the ability to provide broadband passed, however, it is unknown how they will be reconciled with each other.
The remaining two weeks will be about concurrences/disputes – the process that reconciles bills that were amended in the opposite chamber. For example, HB 1336, mentioned above, is a House bill that was amended in the Senate. The House will now decide whether to concur in those amendments or ask the Senate to recede from those amendments. If the House asks for the Senate to recede and the Senate does not, either chamber can request a conference where the differences can be negotiated. If the conference produces an agreement, both chambers must vote on the “conference report”, which cannot be amended – it is a straight up or down vote. If both chambers vote to accept the “conference report”, then the bill goes to the Governor for his signature or veto.
This week will be notable for the Senate Transportation Committee hearing on Monday, April 12th, which is also my brother’s birthday (Happy 59th Dan!). The committee will hear the three bills that embody Sen. Hobbs’ ‘Forward Washington’ transportation funding proposal. Those looking for the list of revenues can do so here. Those interested in the project list associated with this proposal can do so here. All the bills and documents for both the House and Senate transportation budgets can be found here.
At this point in session, with less than two weeks to go, it is unlikely that an agreement on an additive transportation package can be done. The level of support shown at the Monday hearing will be informative. That same time dynamic also applies to the recently passed SB 5126, the cap & invest bill that is tied to the passage of a transportation funding package. Deemed NTIB, this senate bill passed the Senate on April 8th by a 25-24 margin. It is scheduled for its first House hearing on April 14th in the House Committee on Environment & Energy. That does not give the House much time to debate the bill, and some House members may feel “jammed” by the Senate’s late passage.
Lurking in the background are the various biennial budget negotiations. The Legislature must have an operating budget and failure to reach an agreement in the next two weeks means a special session, which no one wants. While the transportation and capital budgets also need to be negotiated, its always the operating budget negotiation that makes us nervous because the differences are more pronounced.
Transportation (Senate) - Virtual, - 4/12 @ 10:00am
Contracts and Purchasing
There are only three weeks left in this 105-day legislative session. The fiscal committee cutoff was April 2nd, so now they focus on legislative floor action until April 11th. That is the opposite house cutoff, when the Senate must finish considering House bills and the House must stop considering Senate bills. After that they start the process of concurrence/dispute where the House and Senate determine whether to accept the other chamber’s amendments to their respective bills. If they cannot find agreement, the bill fails.
Two bills of interest to APWA, survived the fiscal committee cutoff: SB 5032, which extends the sunset on alternative public works contracting procedures to July 1, 2031, passed the House Capital Budget Committee. However, the bill was amended. See here for the amendment: https://app.leg.wa.gov/committeeschedules/Home/Documents/28984 There is concern that this amendment may impede the passage of this bill due to concerns about implementation. Whether the Senate will concur in this amendment is unknown. The bill needs a House floor vote before that question can be answered. The other bill of interest is SB 5031, an act relating to a community aviation revitalization loan program. This bill would create a program to provide loans to public use airports. It also passed from the House Capital Budget Committee. The House version of this bill, HB 1030, is also still alive and in the Senate Rules Committee.
Besides voting on bills in the fiscal committees, each chamber also focused on passing its budget bills. Generally, each chamber shows it can pass its own budget proposal before budget negotiations begin in earnest. If a chamber cannot pass its own budget proposal, they place themselves in a weakened negotiating position. Budget negotiations involve legislative leadership – the various budget committee chairs and members of caucus leadership. While the transportation and capital budgets usually are relatively straightforward negotiations, the operating budget negotiation can be problematic if the spending priorities and amounts are too disparate. Here, the Senate spent almost a billion more than the House and relied on money from the budget stabilization account (rainy day fund), while the House spend spent more federal money from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). If they cannot settle these differences, then the Governor may have to call a special legislative session.
Also, last week, the House Transportation Committee held a hearing on HB 1564, an act concerning transportation spending. This transportation package, titled “Miles Ahead Washington” had the largest percentage for bus, bike and pedestrian projects than any of the previous proposals. Those interested in viewing the bill proposal can do so here: http://leap.leg.wa.gov/leap/Budget/Detail/2021/htNewLawBillH-1461.2-033121.pdf and those interested in the project lists can find them here: http://leap.leg.wa.gov/leap/budget/detail/2021/ht2123Bien.asp
Next week, the Senate Transportation Committee is scheduled to hear public comment on an updated version of Chair Hobbs’ “Forward Washington” transportation funding proposal. It is expected to rely on funding from a carbon ‘cap & invest’ bill – presumably, SB 5126, which is currently on the senate second reading floor calendar.
Contracts and Purchasing
The policy committees are done as of March 26th, and the fiscal committees have an April 2nd deadline. We are at the point of session where the budgets take center stage: the transportation budgets had their hearings last week and the Senate passed their version out of the Senate on Monday. The Senate Ways & Means Committee heard its operating budget proposal on Friday (March 26th) and the House Appropriations Committee heard its version on Saturday (March 27th). The House and Senate capital budgets were heard as well: the Senate’s on March 25th and the House’s on March 29th.
So far, all the budgets have relied on federal money from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). The Senate transportation budget used $1 billion while the House transportation budget used $800 million. The money was used to backfill transportation accounts hit hard by the pandemic and for the State’s culverts obligation. These transportation budgets were described as “Band-Aids” and addressed the pandemic impacts to the transportation revenues. The capital budgets used some of the federal money, spending it on COVID-related infrastructure projects and broadband grants. Of the operating budgets, the House used more of the ARPA money than the Senate did, which also used funding from the Budget Stability Account (the raining-day fund).
A long-time budget staffer noted that these budget proposals have the shelf-life of bottled milk stored in a warm car since each chamber will pass their budgets and commence negotiating. Yet, there are certain provisions in the budgets that are of interest to APWA:
This week, the House Transportation Committee will hear HB 1564. It is currently a “title-only” bill, but on April 1st, the committee will release transportation project lists that reflect what could be funded if a transportation revenue package passed this session. It is an effort to keep that topic moving forward. Many are doubting there is time left in the remaining 3 weeks of session to accomplish this.
A bill that is of great interest to APWA is SB 5032. It reauthorizes and addresses alternative public works contracting, and it was moving through the Legislature up until this week. There is an amendment being offered in the House Capital Budget Committee that may cause the bill problems being implemented. The amendment is laudable in that it requires the Capital Projects Advisory Review Board (CPARB) to address and enhance equitable participation by disadvantaged business enterprises in capital construction projects, but the implementation of those principles as directed by the amendment is problematic. The bill is scheduled for a committee vote on March 31st.
Appropriations (House) - Virtual, - 3/30 @ 1:30pm
Transportation (Senate) - Virtual, - 3/30 @ 1:30pm
Ways & Means (Senate) - Virtual, - 3/30 @ 1:30pm
Capital Budget (House) - Virtual, - 3/31 @ 8:00am
Appropriations (House) - Virtual, - 3/31 @ 1:30pm
Transportation (House) - Virtual, - 3/31 @ 1:30pm
Transportation (House) - Virtual, - 4/1 @ 9:00am
Contracts and Purchasing
Policy committees are holding hearings on bills from the opposite chamber and will continue to do so until March 26th, the next bill deadline. The fiscal committees will continue until April 2nd. The session is scheduled to end April 25th, the 105th day. We are in the last third of the session.
This week, the fiscal committees will begin hearings on the budgets. Both the House and Senate Transportation Committees are scheduled to hear their respective transportation budget proposals on March 23rd. The Senate Ways & Means Committee will hold a hearing on their operating budget bill on March 26th. The House Appropriations Committee will hear its operating budget proposal on Saturday, March 27th. These hearings come after the latest fiscal forecast, which was released March 17th (see the link below).
The state general fund revenues appear to have recovered to pre-pandemic levels (the forecast showing an increase of $1.9 billion); however, the transportation revenue collections have continued to drop. The transportation budget will lose another $101 million in this fiscal biennium and another $220 in the 2021-2023 biennium. The 10-year outlook forecasts a reduction of $765 million.
The transportation budget proposals are expected to be lean and budget negotiators struggle to fill holes in the motor vehicle account, which is funded primarily with gas tax, ferry revenue and tolls – all of which have seen reduced collections due to the pandemic. Also, the state must provide about $800 million for culvert replacement per the court decree. These budgets are not expected to rely on the roughly $4.25 billion of federal America Rescue Plan money that the state will receive – mostly because the budgets were crafted prior to Congress acting on the measure.
Given that the state operating budget is in relatively good shape, the Legislature is expected to use a portion of the federal money to backfill the pandemic hit to the transportation accounts. To what extent is unknown and the Legislature may have to wait until more federal guidance regarding allowed expenditures is available.
While welcome, the federal money muddles the transportation funding landscape. It could undermine efforts to craft another transportation funding package, or it could highlight the need to go big to provide jobs for the state. While this week’s fiscal forecast showed strong sales tax receipts, the forecast also highlighted concerns about unemployment and the struggles small businesses are still enduring.
Those interested in viewing the March 2021 fiscal forecast can do so here: https://erfc.wa.gov/forecasts/economic-forecast
Michael Shaw, APWA Lobbyist
APWA Upcoming Events Report
Environment & Energy (House) - Virtual, - 3/23 @ 8:00am
SSB 5381 - Exec Session - Addressing fish passage project permit streamlining. (Neutral/Monitoring)
Environment, Energy & Technology (Senate) - Virtual, - 3/23 @ 10:30am
E2SHB 1050 - Exec Session - Reducing greenhouse gas emissions from fluorinated gases. (Neutral/Monitoring)
Capital Budget (House) - Virtual, - 3/23 @ 1:30pm
SB 5017 - Exec Session - Clarifying school district procurement requirements for personal service contracts for construction management, value engineering, constructibility review, and building commissioning. (Neutral/Monitoring)
Transportation (House) - Virtual, - 3/23 @ 3:30pm
HB 1135 - Public Hearing - *Making transportation appropriations for the 2021-2023 fiscal biennium. (Remote testimony.) (Neutral/Monitoring)
Transportation (Senate) - Virtual, - 3/23 @ 4:00pm
SB 5165 - Public Hearing - Making transportation appropriations for the 2021-2023 fiscal biennium. (Remote testimony.) (Neutral/Monitoring)
Consumer Protection & Business (House) - Virtual, - 3/25 @ 10:00am
E2SSB 5188 - Exec Session - Concerning creation of the Washington state public financial cooperative. (Neutral/Monitoring)
Environment & Energy (House) - Virtual, - 3/25 @ 1:30pm
SSB 5381 - Exec Session - Addressing fish passage project permit streamlining. (Neutral/Monitoring)
Transportation (House) - Virtual, - 3/25 @ 3:30pm
HB 1135 - Exec Session - Making transportation appropriations for the 2021-2023 fiscal biennium. (Neutral/Monitoring)
Transportation (Senate) - Virtual, - 3/25 @ 4:00pm
SB 5165 - Exec Session - Making transportation appropriations for the 2021-2023 fiscal biennium. (Neutral/Monitoring)
Ways & Means (Senate) - Virtual, - 3/25 @ 4:00pm
SB 5083 - Public Hearing - Concerning the capital budget. (Hearing is on the Proposed Substitute.) (Support/Monitoring)
Environment & Energy (House) - Virtual, - 3/26 @ 10:00am
SSB 5381 - Exec Session - Addressing fish passage project permit streamlining. (Neutral/Monitoring)
Ways & Means (Senate) - Virtual, - 3/26 @ 1:00pm
SB 5092 - Public Hearing - Making 2021-2023 fiscal biennium operating appropriations. (Hearing is on the Proposed Substitute.) (Neutral/Monitoring)
Ways & Means (Senate) - Virtual, - 3/27 @ 10:00am
SB 5083 - Exec Session - Concerning the capital budget. (Support/Monitoring)
The focus on legislative floor action ends on March 9th, and then the policy committees start up again (until the next deadline of March 26th). The GAC is focused on SB 5333 that would nullify certain public works contract language during the pandemic. Whether it will pass the Senate will be resolved by the March 9th deadline. That bill is on the Senate floor calendar, and there is one amendment currently being offered. According to the amendment’s effect statement, it would:
The bill still applies to local governments, so the amendment only helps the state agencies. Also, this bill raises a legal question to the extent it applies retroactively. Generally, retroactive laws that impair reasonable expectations held under the “old” law are subject to challenge. If this bill applies only to those contracts signed after the effective date, which is generally the presumption that statutes apply prospectively, then the Legislature is within its power to do so.
Michael Shaw, APWA lobbyist
Environment, Energy & Technology (Senate) - Virtual, - 3/10 @ 8:00am
Environment, Energy & Technology (Senate) - Virtual, - 3/11 @ 10:30am
Transportation (House) - Virtual, - 3/11 @ 3:30pm
Contracts and Purchasing
The Legislature is entering the 8th week of the 15-week session and is currently churning through bills during the floor action phase of the process when the full membership of the House votes on house bills and the Senate votes on senate bills. Currently, there are 133 bills on the house floor calendar and 126 on the Senate floor calendar. They have until March 9th to act on their bills before starting to consider the bills from the opposite chamber.
Most of the bills receiving “floor time” relate to either criminal justice reform, housing, climate change or pandemic-related issues. On Saturday, for example, the House voted on two bills: HB 1091, the low-carbon fuel standards bill, and HB 1054, the police tactics reform bill. The Senate did not work this weekend.
While the current focus is on policy bills, the budget is becoming more of a topic. There is speculation that state revenues are coming in higher than forecast and that the State may receive upwards of $5 billion in COVID relief funds. Also, there are a number of tax bills being considered: a wealth tax, an estate tax and a capital gains tax. In the transportation realm, several transportation funding proposals have been floated that rely on some type of carbon tax. We will not know how this will shake out until April. Session is scheduled to end on April 25th.
Mike Shaw – APWA lobbyist.
Contracts and Purchasing
February 22nd is the fiscal committee cutoff so bills that do not pass from the fiscal committees by Monday afternoon are likely “dead” for session. There are a lot of exceptions to that rule: budget bills or bills necessary to implement the budgets are exempt from the bill deadlines.
One bill that keeps moving a long is SB 5333, which addresses public works contracts that are impacted by COVID-related delays. APWA has weighed in against this bill and various legislators keep assuring us that the bill will not pass. Yet, the bill keeps moving – it had a hearing in the Senate Ways & Means Committee last week and it is scheduled for a committee vote on Monday (2/22/2020).
Once the fiscal committees finish their work, the Legislature will focus on floor action, where the whole chamber debates and votes on bills. Due to the virtual nature of session, this could be where many bills fail – as computer screens freeze up and members cannot easily be heard, it takes a lot of time to pass bills, and bills that have opposition take even more time.
The Senate and the House have until March 9th to vote on their bills. After that, they essentially start the process over again – holding policy committee hearings on the other chambers bills. They may not have many to consider as they may not pass many bills due to the constraints I mentioned above.
Last Friday, Senate Curtis King, the Senate Transportation ranking member, unveiled a transportation funding concept. It is an 8-year plan that generates revenue by increasing the gas tax by 3 cents and by transferring sales and use tax revenue from the sale of vehicles from the state operating budget to the transportation budget. These two revenue sources generate much of the $10.1 billion in Sen. King’s proposal (it also contains a 20-cent surcharge on transit rides and an assessed value transportation fee). Much of this money would be spent on highway maintenance and preservation ($5B) and culverts ($2.2B). It would also fund the I-5 Columbia River Bridge ($500M) and the US 2 Trestle ($700M). Most importantly, it would fund the West Seattle Bridge ($25M), which would benefit me greatly.
Mike Shaw – APWA lobbyist
Appropriations (House) - Virtual, - 2/22 @ 9:00am
Ways & Means (Senate) - Virtual, - 2/22 @ 9:30am
Transportation (House) - Virtual, - 2/22 @ 1:30pm
Contracts and Purchasing
Monday is the 29th day of the 105 virtual session and the first bill deadline is a week away, February 15th. Hence, most this week the legislative policy committees will hold “executive session”, which is the time when they consider bill amendments, debate the merits of bills in their committee, and vote whether to pass those bills from committee prior to that February 15th deadline. Fiscal committees have until February 22nd to hear bills that have a fiscal impact (over $50,000).
Here are some of the public works bills that are moving:
HB 1030/SB 5031, aviation revitalization loan program. These bills have had policy committee hearings and the senate version, SB 5031, passed to the fiscal committee, Senate Ways & Means.
HB 1308, expanding apprenticeship utilization requirements. This bill had its hearing in the House Capital Budget Committee, a fiscal committee. This bill has raised concerns because it requires no less than 15% of labor be performed by apprentices if the public works contract is more than $1M.
HB 1391/SB 5356, prime contractor bidding submission requirements on public works. An attempt to address bid shopping, sets submission requirements in projects over $1M. The House bill has a hearing this week in the Capital Budget Committee, and the senate version, SB 5356, had a hearing last week and is scheduled for executive session on February 9th.
SB 5032, reauthorization and improvements to alternative public works contracting procedures. This bill is CPARB generated legislation. It amends CPARB duties and the design-build, general contractor/construction manager and job order contracting procedures. The bill has already passed the Senate, 49-0.
The capital budget and the transportation budgets will not be moving until after the next fiscal forecast in March. Legislators must have their capital budget requests submitted by February 19th. There is no point in submitting transportation budget requests unless there is a new funding package since the transportation budget is in the red. Folks will be lucky to keep what they were already awarded. Those interested in reading those bills mentioned above can do so here: https://apps.leg.wa.gov/billinfo/
Michael Shaw, APWA lobbyist.
The 2021 Legislature is still focusing on the bills of the four major issue areas: criminal justice reform, pandemic relief, housing, and climate change. Other bill bills address social equity concerns and thus will also receive strong consideration. Bills that do not have a nexus to those four areas, will not get much further than committee hearings.
Why is that? Because they do not have the bandwidth.
Another constraint is the budget deficit. Many of the bills introduced have a budget impact, and those that survive the February 15 policy committee cutoff will have to be heard in a fiscal committee. Senate fiscal committees include the Senate Ways & Means Committee and Transportation Committee. In the House, those committees are the Appropriations Committee, the Finance Committee, the Capital Budget Committee, and the Transportation Committee. Most House bills with a fiscal impact of over $50,000 will be heard in the Appropriations Committee. Currently, the Appropriations Committee has 49 bills, and the Senate Ways & Means Committee has 66. Neither Committee has sufficient time to hear each one of those bills and those numbers will only increase as the policy committees keep passing bills until their February 15th deadline.
Given that reality, what is the likelihood of public works related bills surviving? The odds are not great. A bill that is problematic for public works is SB 5333. It would void certain public works clauses that would penalize contractors for delays due to pandemic issues. While this bill is tied to one of the four issue priorities mentioned above, it does have a fiscal impact (impacts to the Washington State Department of Transportation and other local government agencies). The bill is scheduled for a policy committee vote on February 1st. Whether it is referred to a fiscal committee (likely Senate Transportation) is unclear because a fiscal analysis has not been completed yet. Below are other bills that have hearings or are scheduled for a committee vote this week:
On January 19th, the House Democrats unveiled a $26 billion (over 16-years) transportation package at a press conference. The priorities in the plan include maintenance and preservation, investing in frontline communities, supporting economic recovery, carbon reduction, and living up to prior commitments, including the restoration of fish passages. This proposal is unique in that it raises new revenue without borrowing through bonds. The primary sources of revenue are an $0.18 gas tax increase, a $15/ton carbon fee that increases to $25/ton, and various other licensing fees.
More details about the proposal are here: http://leap.leg.wa.gov/leap/Budget/Detail/2021/htRevenueAndSpendingFramework1_19.pdf
In the Senate, the Senate Transportation Committee Chair, Sen. Hobbs, continue to refine his transportation funding proposal called Forward Washington and will hold a work session on January 28th. Vice Chair Sen. Saldaña is working on a proposal based on stakeholder meetings she has had over this interim and Ranking Minority Member, Sen. King, may unveil his own transportation funding proposal in a few weeks.
On Friday, January 22nd the House and Senate Democrats announced a plan for community and economic recovery, starting with $2.2 billion in federal funds to provide assistance to families and businesses who have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The proposal provides funding in critical areas, starting with $240 million in small business grants; $668 million to school districts to address learning loss; $618 million for the Department of Heath to use for vaccine distribution, contract tracing, and testing; $325 million for direct rental and utility payments; $5 million for rental and foreclosure assistance; $4.7 million for food assistance programs with an additional $26.3 million in block grants for hunger relief organizations; $50 million for child care grants and incentives, prioritizing providers in child care deserts and supporting racial equity across the state; $65 million for Immigrant Relief Fund for those people left out of federal stimulus payments; $9 million for TANF and $12 million in Disaster Cash Assistance. The bills reflecting the changes and appropriations are HB 1367 and HB 1368 and their companion bills are SB 5343 and SB 5344. HB 1367 and HB 1368 are scheduled for a hearing in the House Appropriations committee on January 26th and executive session on January 28th. SB 5343 and SB 5344 are not yet scheduled for a hearing. House and Senate Democrats will hold a joint media availability the proposal on Monday, January 25th at 2:15pm and will be broadcast on TVW.
First Week of the 2021 Legislative Session
The 2021 session starts January 11th in Olympia. Governor Inslee has called out 300 national guard troops and they have fenced off much of the capital campus in anticipation of attempts to disrupt the Legislature. The Washington State Patrol will also beef up their presence and the fences will stay up until authorities decide they are no longer needed.
On the 11th, Legislators will assemble and, due to COVID, change rules to accommodate a virtual session, and disperse. The remaining 104 days of the regular session will be done via Zoom and Microsoft Teams. A few legislators will be in Olympia and several said they will operate from their offices, but most will be participating from their districts. Issues concerning operations are still being worked through.
Those wishing to testify before a legislative committee can sign up here: https://app.leg.wa.gov/CSIRemote/ . You will be presented with three options: registrer to live testify during the hearing; submit written testimony (5,000 character limit) or note position for committee record. Signing up for live testimony does not guarantee that you will be selected to testify.
Those interested in reviewing the committee agendas can do so here: https://app.leg.wa.gov/committeeschedules/ . Legislators can prefile bills in December and usually there are many. Not this year - legislators have been cautioned by their leadership to show restraint because the virtual session will make hearing, debating and passing legislation harder. Bills that can wait until 2022 will be put off, and those bills that address COVID impacts, social equity, criminal justice reform, housing or budget impacts will be given priority. At this point, there are a lot less bills than normal.
There has been discussion of a transportation funding package. The pandemic has caused substantial reductions to rental car taxes, toll revenue, ferry fares and gas tax revenue. Current transportation projects may be postponed. The State must still address the court order to replace culverts that block fish migration and there are substantial maintenance and preservation needs. At the same time, legislators want to address climate change through a carbon tax or a cap-and-trade program. Many see that as potential transportation multimodal revenue.
An ambitious transportation funding package is a multi-year endeavor, but this strange virtual session may force the legislative focus necessary to make progress. Or it may make it impossible since negotiators may be spread across the State.