The first two cutoffs have come and gone. Here’s an update regarding some important bills we are continuing to work on after the policy and fiscal cutoffs.
Bills we support:
HB 1670 Raising the limit factor for property taxes.
The Association of County Engineers testified in the House Finance Committee alongside other county and local jurisdiction partners in support of removing the arbitrary 1% property tax cap on Road Fund revenues. We highlighted the harm this cap has caused to the county transportation system, creating an ongoing structural deficit between county revenues and expenses. The bill passed out of committee and was referred to Rules. We are working to advance the bill to the Floor Calendar.
SJR 8201/SB 5303 Creating a Public Works Assistance Revolving Account.
This legislation, introduced by Senator Mullet, would protect loan repayments to the Public Works Assistance Account from future diversions. Senate Joint Resolution 8201, if approved and ratified by the voters, would amend the state Constitution to establish a new Public Works Revolving Trust Account where the repayments of Public Works Board loans by local jurisdictions would be deposited and only used for new loans and grants. Both bills passed out of committee, were referred to Rules, and placed on the Floor Calendar. While SB 5303 was passed by the Senate yesterday, no action was taken on SJR 8201. This is concerning, as the bills need to move together, and we will continue to work on advancing SJR 8201 to the House.
Bills we are requesting amendments for:
ESHB 1050 Expanding apprenticeship utilization requirements.
Originally, HB 1050 would have expanded apprenticeship utilization requirements to municipalities awarding public works contracts of more than one million dollars and subcontracts of $200,000 or more. These contracts would require specifications that no less than 15% of the labor hours be performed by apprentices. The bill was amended in Executive Session to increase the subcontractor requirement threshold to $350,000 and allow municipalities to adjust the requirements if there was a demonstrated lack of apprentices in a specific geographic area, or if contractors could demonstrate a good faith effort to comply with the requirements. The bill was placed on the Floor Calendar and was again amended, this time removing the subcontractor requirement completely. The bill passed out of the House on Tuesday.
SB 5726 Concerning the prevailing wages and sick leave benefits for construction workers.
This bill includes language we had concerns with from another bill that did not get out of committee. The language requires that wages in public works contracts be paid at the prevailing wage in effect when the work is performed. Our original concerns included how the bill might impact bid calculation, possibly lead to price increases, and raise questions about who would be responsible for ensuring the correct wage is paid. The bill was pulled to the Floor Calendar this week, amended, and passed the Senate yesterday. While we appreciate the Floor Amendment trying to address some challenges, the bill remains very technical, and we still have concerns. While we support the underlying intent of the bill, we remain concerned that the current draft will increase change orders, create unpredictability for project planning, and create inconsistency in the statute. We will continue to work with our other local association partners and labor representatives to try and resolve the remaining concerns in the House.
HB 1705 Relating to stormwater control facilities and county jurisdiction.
This bill requires a county that plans to extend or improve a stormwater control facility within an operating diking or drainage district to notify and consult with the diking or drainage district. It would also allow a county and a diking or drainage district to enter into a written agreement allowing the district to operate a stormwater control facility constructed by the county, and provides that a district that operates a stormwater control facility is eligible to receive a portion of the stormwater rates and service charges collected by the county. The bill was heard on February 8th in the House Local Government Committee. We testified in opposition to the bill with concerns regarding the potential transfer of revenue and responsibilities of a stormwater utility to a diking or drainage district established for another purpose. We offered amendments to the bill that were accepted by the Chair and would have substantially improved the bill from our perspective. Unfortunately, the bill was passed out of Executive Session without the amendments and without explanation. The bill has now been referred to the Rules Committee but has yet to be placed on the Floor Calendar.
WSACE, Policy Director