WSAC Members Storm DC

This year, we had one of the largest contingents of county officials from the state of Washington to attend a National Association of Counties’ (NACo) Legislative Conference. WSAC members joined nearly 2,000 other county leaders in Washington, D.C. on March 2-6, 2019.

Numerous sessions and presentations focused on important topics that link federal funding and policy with County operations including:

  • Disaster recovery
  • Opioid and substance abuse epidemic
  • Broadband accessibility
  • Revitalizing American infrastructure
  • Cannabis
  • Early childhood investments
  • Workforce and economic development
  • Transportation and infrastructure
  • Public health and safety
  • Mental health and jails
  • Cybersecurity and technology

All told, there were more than two dozen policy workshops featuring county officials and other leaders in the public, private and nonprofit sectors. NACo President Greg Cox put it best when he said, “Decisions made by the White House, Congress and federal courts have significant impacts on our (county leaders) ability to lead our communities and pursue a better future.

March 2019 DC Trip 2

WSAC Members in front of the Federal Legislative Capitol in Washington DC in March 2019.

Congressional Meetings

WSAC President Scott Hutsell, WSAC 1st Vice President Rob Gelder and other WSAC and county elected officials met with members and staff of Washington State’s Congressional Delegation to review WSAC Federal Priorities and other issues important to Washington’s 39 Counties.

Topics Covered Included:

  • Promoting county infrastructure priorities in a comprehensive infrastructure package
  • Supporting the Payments in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) and Secure Rural Schools (SRS) programs, which honor federal commitments to public lands and timber counties
  • Promoting mental health, substance use disorders treatment, and criminal justice reform, and eliminate opioid dependence, overdose and fatalities
  • Boosting broadband deployment and accessibility while preserving local zoning authority.
  • Reduce the Threat of Catastrophic Wildfire
  • Columbia River Treaty
  • Fish Passage Barrier Removal – Salmon Recovery
WSAC President Lincoln County Commissioner Hutsell with Congressman Dan Newhouse

WSAC President Lincoln County Commissioner Hutsell with Congressman Dan Newhouse

Press Conference: PILT and Secure Rural Schools

Klickitat County Commissioner David Sauter (and former WSAC President) was spotlighted to introduce Representative Derek Kilmer and Representative Cathy McMorris Rogers during a rally and press conference with a bipartisan group of congressional leaders to underscore support for two key public lands programs: Secure Rural Schools and Payments in Lieu of Taxes. Watch the press conference here:  https://www.naco.org/resources/video/press-conference-pilt-and-rural-schools

March 2019 DC Trip

Klickitat County Commissioner Dave Sauter in front of the Capitol steps during the PILT press conference in March 2019

TestIT

During the conference, NACo launched the “TestIT” app that leverages a broadband sampling tool designed to aggregate broadband speeds across the country from app users. With the press of a single button, users are able to test their broadband speed from anywhere and compare their internet speeds to the national average and minimum standards established by the Federal Communications System. WSAC members are encouraged to download the mobile app now to help identify areas with low or no connectivity. This will help ensure adequate funding for broadband infrastructure is provided across the country. Accurate connectivity data is the foundation for investments in broadband infrastructure. Unfortunately, connectivity data provided to the Federal Communications Commission is often inaccurate and inflated – leaving many rural communities overlooked and disconnected.

WSAC President Lincoln County Commissioner Hutsell, Congresswomen Cathy McMorris Rodgers, and WSAC’s Executive Director Eric Johnson

NACo Steering Committees

Our Washington State county elected and appointed officials also participated in a myriad of NACo Steering Committees, task forces, caucuses, and workgroups during the NACo Conference. For more information on participating in a NACo Steering Committee or attending an upcoming NACo Conference, please visit https://www.naco.org/

Congressman Denny Heck with WSAC President Commissioner Scott Hutsell

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Eric Johnson has has served as the Executive Director of the Washington Association of Counties (WSAC) since 2008. Johnson, a former Lewis County Commissioner, has more than 25 years of public service at the local and state levels and most recently served as the Association’s Assistant Executive Director before being named as the Executive Director. The Washington State Association of Counties is a non-profit, non-partisan organization that provides its members research assistance, professional training, legislative advocacy, and a forum for discussing matters of common concern to counties. Members include the elected commissioners, executives and council members of Washington’s 39 counties.
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