This year’s legislative session is expected to conclude on March 8th as scheduled, as many legislators are eager to resume campaigning for the 2018 elections and all are disinclined to extend their work into extra innings after doing so for the past few years. In addition, this is the first year that Democrats have regained full control of the Legislature, and they are eager to show that they can govern more effectively.
With the deadline for committees to finish their work behind us, Friday, March 2nd is the final day for the House and Senate to hear and vote out opposite house bills. After Friday, the House and Senate will hear bills that they originally approved but were amended by the other body.
Last week the House and Senate released the first versions of their respective operating, transportation, and capital budgets and amendments were made to the proposed budgets in committee and floor action throughout the week. AIAWA held meetings to advocate for the House’s capital budget, which contained supplemental dollars for projects delayed by the failure to pass the 2017 capital budget. Key leadership and fiscal committee members will spend the last two weeks of session negotiating and passing final versions of the budgets.
Last week AIAWA testified in opposition to HB 1851 regarding transparency in government contracting and in support of HB 1622, concerning the state building code council. More info on these bills can be found below.
Here are the bills AIAWA has been following most closely:
- SB 6203, the governor’s carbon tax bill, passed the Senate Ways & Means Committee last week and will go to the Senate floor. The vote on the floor will be very close, with some Democrats opposing and a handful of Republicans supporting. If it does pass the Senate, the bill is not expected to have the votes to pass the House, where a number of rural Democrats and nearly all Republicans are expected to vote against it.
- SB 5450, which requires the State Building Code Council (SBCC) to adopt rules for the use of mass timber products for building construction, passed House 91-6. Although the bill will not impact what is currently allowed to be built with wood, it will help with future efforts to encourage the inclusion of taller wood buildings in state code.
- Legislation to provide greater funding to the State Building Code Council, HB 1622, unanimously passed the Senate Ways and Means Committee and is headed to the Senate floor. After three years of negotiating this bill with other stakeholders, this year we are seeing little to no opposition.
- HB 1325 on the scoring and prioritization of capital budget projects at Washington’s community colleges and universities passed the Senate Committee on Ways & Means and is in the Senate Rules Committee waiting to be sent to the Senate floor. AIAWA continues to have concerns about its attempt to establish standard cost estimates given the multiple variables that impact costs.
- SB 6015 to broaden the number of plaintiffs who can sue for wrongful injury or death benefits passed its House committee and is headed to the House floor. AIAWA has opposed this bill and is supporting an amendment that will be offered on the floor to strip out joint and several liability (where a plaintiff may recover all the damages from any of the defendants regardless of their individual share of the liability) from the bill.
- HB 1851, requiring public agencies and institutions of higher learning to perform a cost-benefit analysis comparing the cost of having the work done by agency staff to having it done by a private entity when contracting for any services, also looks to be headed to the Senate floor. An effort to exempt architecture, engineering and other services is still underway, but we are not sure it will be successful. This bill was introduced at the behest of public employee unions, so it has very strong Democratic support.
- AIAWA had a new bill introduced to make a minor change to the statute governing the practice of architecture by aligning our statute with current National Council of Registration Boards (NCARB) policies. NCARB works towards uniform laws in all 50 states with respect to regulation of architects. Most states have made changes to their registration laws to bring them in conformance with the NCARB policy to make it easier for architects to get reciprocal licenses in other states. This bill will allow the Washington State Board for Architects to make some minor changes in the Washington Administrative Code, which will bring our regulations in line with the NCARB national standards. HB 2994 was introduced late in the session to make it easier to pass the bill in 2019.
Tax, Budget, Education
- SB 6531, to amend the program that funds construction of new schools and modernizes existing facilities, appears to be dead. However, because it is a fiscal bill, normal rules do not apply and the legislation could be resurrected at the last minute. The bill expands state funding for schools by increasing the space allocated per student and the dollar per square foot amount to more realistic levels.
For more information about these or other legislative issues, contact Kirsten Smith, manager of policy and advocacy, at email@example.com or 206-488-4938 x401.