Our .09% rural sales tax credit extension bills, a major WSAC priority, continue to move forward. HB 1267 has passed out of the House Committee on Local Government and will be heard in the House Committee on Finance on February 7. The companion bill, SB 5613, will also be heard on the 7th in the Senate Committee on Local Government, Land Use & Tribal Affairs.
SB 5059 is a prejudgment interest tort liability bill like the one 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. Last year, we were able to get an amendment exempting local governments. We will try again to get such an amendment, but in its present form, we oppose the bill. The bill has passed out of the Senate Committee on Law & Justice and will be heard in the Senate Committee on Ways & Means on February 7th.
WSAC has joined other local governments to introduce bills to curb frivolous lawsuits based on public records requests. We have no problem complying with the Public Records Act and being held accountable when mistakes are made, but the current system incentivizes litigation over resolution. HB 1597 and SB 5571 provide administrative processes that help cure mistakes and resolve disputes in good faith before resorting to litigation. An aggrieved party may still bring a lawsuit, but only after trying to get administrative relief first. It is unclear whether these bills will move this year, but we are pleased to at least bring the issue forward, let legislators know the extent of the problem (one party has filed over 100 lawsuits—not records requests; lawsuits!), and work on solutions.
WSAC, Policy Consultant