In a strong showing of agreement and collaboration, both counties and tribes supported the passage of SHB 1717, outlining a clear path for tribal participation in planning under the Growth Management Act (GMA). Approved by the House earlier in the session, the Senate approved it on Thursday afternoon, and the bill is now on its way to the Governor for signature.

Under the bill, federally recognized tribes may voluntarily participate in a county or regional planning process under the GMA. If a tribe wants to participate, it must present a resolution to the county, indicating the tribe’s intent. The county must then enter into good faith negotiations with the tribe to develop a mutually agreeable Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) to determine how the tribe and the county will collaborate and participate in the planning process.

If an agreement cannot be reached, the bill includes requirements for mediation. If an agreement still cannot be reached, neither party has any further obligation beyond the GMA’s existing requirements for participation and outreach.

SHB 1717 also provides a process for tribes to request Commerce’s assistance in resolving concerns with a proposed comprehensive plan or development regulations. If a tribe requests assistance, Commerce must notify the county of the request, include a summary and supporting materials of the tribe’s concerns, and offer to provide facilitation services. If a county receives such notice, it must delay adopting any plans or changes for at least 60 days. The county can either agree to amend the plan or regulations or enter into a facilitated process with the tribe, paid for by Commerce.

At the end of the 60 days, unless there is an agreed solution or an agreement to extend talks, the county may proceed to take action adopting any plans, amendments, or regulations.

Finally, the bill also requires counties to include policies that address the protection of tribal cultural resources in their countywide planning policies.

WSAC and tribal representatives negotiated the language in this bill together. This bill is a reasonable approach that encourages counties and tribes to work together to identify and address areas of mutual interest early and throughout the planning process. Working together when possible is better than litigation. When tribes voluntarily participate, we’ll all have the opportunity to try and resolve any concerns before the only option left is an appeal.

WSAC proudly supports SHB 1717. We encourage the Governor to take swift action and sign this bill into law.