SB 5155 is a tort liability bill carried over from last year. This bill would allow interest on judgments for tortious conduct to begin to accrue from the date on which a person suffers an injury or loss. This means the interest would start to accrue before a claim was filed and, in some cases, even before a county was made aware of the injury or loss. Current law provides that interest begins to accrue on the date a judgment is entered by a court. The date when the interest starts is especially important in an era where litigation and even settlement negotiations can drag on for years. Much delay can result from plaintiff choices or court schedules, neither of which is in county control. The Senate adopted an amendment (currently in the bill) that exempts local government from its application, but we are concerned the House will take this out. This bill is set for a hearing on February 16, and we will testify in support of the “exempt local government” amendment already adopted in the Senate.

The Voting Rights Act, SB 5597, passed the Senate yesterday and is in the House. WSAC worked on an amendment with the cities to change which local governments would be in preclearance (that is, have to seek permission from a court or the Attorney General before taking covered actions), but it was not adopted. We continue to believe that putting a city or county into preclearance simply on the basis of population (which captures 22 counties) is poor policy and difficult to calculate (demographics change constantly), so we believe basing it on past violations is a better standard. The sponsor has said she will work with us on this going forward, so we will continue our efforts on this in the House in the coming weeks.