The 2020 legislative session kicked off on January 13th and we’re officially down in Olympia five days a week advocating for the smart, responsible and equitable land use policies Washington needs. This month’s Wonkabout Washington will present an overview of Futurewise’s legislative priorities for the 2020 session, with a look ahead to 2021. 

First a quick primer on Washington’s state legislature: Washington has a part-time legislature that meets yearly starting in January. We alternate between short (60 day) sessions in even years and long sessions (105) in odd years, when the legislature passes the budget. This year is a short session which creates a pressure cooker and short-time frame to get priority bills passed. 

Now, let’s talk about Futurewise’s overarching policy goals. We organize our legislative work into three main areas: land use and the Growth Management Act, transportation, and housing and affordable housing. Below are our guiding principles and policy strategies for each.

Land Use/GMA Goal – State and local jurisdictions plan for climate change, our limited agricultural and forests lands are conserved, and cities grow sustainably and equitably through adoption and implementation of mutually beneficial rural, natural resource, and urban land use and environmental policies. Our policy strategies include:

  • Strengthen the urban growth area regulations to further prevent sprawl. 
  • Support opportunities for cities and urban areas to grow through equitable investment in infrastructure and access to opportunity.   

Transportation Goal – Our transportation system is resilient and built to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through equitable access and expansion of transportation choices. Our policy strategies include:

  • Require consistency between the state transportation plan and Washington State’s greenhouse gas reduction goals. 
  • Support expansion of multimodal improvements and complete streets that support land use strategies to provide resiliency and access for all residents regardless of age, race, gender, mobility, income, and location.   

Housing/Affordable Housing Goal – Housing options are available in all communities that meet the needs of all people. Our policy strategies include:

  • Support a comprehensive and strategic package of affordable housing legislation that includes revenue, policy, and tax incentive options. 
  • Support affordable housing in conjunction with partner efforts that aim to increase access to services that move people out of homelessness. 

With those big goals in mind, here are the top priority bills we have our eyes on this session: 

Bills to Watch: 

  • Pass HB 1544 to close the vesting loophole. Current law allows counties to expand their urban growth boundaries and cities to annex new land even if the expansion is later found to be illegal under the GMA. It’s time to close this loophole and ensure that our communities are climate resilient, transit-accessible and don’t convert valuable farm or forest land.
  • Pass HB 2343 to build on the success of HB 1923. Thanks to the success of HB 1923 passed last session, together 52 communities have received $4 million to invest in housing affordability. HB 2343 builds on that bill’s success with changes to parking requirements and extends the period in which cities are protected from certain types of appeals to 2023. 
  • Oppose HB 2342 which would extend the period for comprehensive plan updates to 10 years instead of 8 years. We know that it’s important for cities and counties to be responsive to changes in their economies, environments and communities which is why we’re opposing extending the update period for comprehensive plans. 

These are just a few of the bills we’re working on this year in Olympia. For a full run down, be sure to check out the legislative preview we did with Senator Patty Kuderer and Representative Joe Fitzgibbon, which you can find on our Facebook page. You can stay up-to-date on our statewide legislative advocacy with our weekly updates that we post to our blog and send out to our email list

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