It’s that time of session when you can pretty much tell what bills the legislature is likely to pass and you’ve seen all of the budget drafts except for the final version. Thus, we can have a pretty good understanding of how the legislative session might shape up for the counties.

While there are bills that will add resources to counties if they pass, there are also several bills that will add costs to counties if/when they pass. You’ve already heard about most of them.

ESSB 5163 is the bill that increases liability for wrongful injury or death. Estimates suggest it will cost local governments between $7.5 and $12 million per year, increasing by about 10% per year.

HB 1913, the bill that adds new conditions to the list of those presumed to be as a result of a first responder’s occupation, will cost local governments around $1.3 million. While this negotiated bill is dramatically better than last year’s version, which would have cost around 20 times that amount, it’s still an added cost.

2SSB 5604 replaces Washington State’s existing guardianship statutes with a uniform act from the Uniform Law Commission that was approved in 2017 and enacted by two states since its enactment. The bill requires a court to appoint a public defender at county expense to represent indigent parents of minors subject to guardianship in certain circumstances. We conservatively anticipate that this new requirement for legal representation will cost counties between $4.1 million and $5.5 million annually.

If HB 1390 passes and PERS 1 and TRS 1 retirees are granted a 3% cost of living increase, costs to local governments will rise by $11.7 million in this next biennium and $15.3 million in the next one.

If any of the 4 bills creating a graduated real estate excise tax at the state level were to pass unamended, some counties will see a loss of revenue as their collection of the administrative fee goes down, whiles others may see theirs go up.

The Native American Voting Rights Act, ESSB 5079, already passed by the legislature, will require counties to add ballot drop boxes on tribal lands and creates a cause of action for failure to comply.  This will certainly add some amount of costs.

SB 5505 will significantly reduce payment by WSDOT for local stormwater service charges.

All of these new costs will add up, and we can only hope that enough bills that add resources pass to offset the losses counties may suffer as a result of new legislation this year.