From the Edmonds Mayor: Preparing for 2017 Washington legislative session success

Edmonds Mayor Dave Earling
Edmonds Mayor Dave Earling

Even though many of you know our state 2017 legislative session is just around the corner, we here in Edmonds have been working toward our city legislative agenda for months, as well as working with Snohomish County Government, Snohomish County Cities, Economic Alliance Snohomish County and the Association of Washington Cities to identify common issues we can work on together during session. Our city agenda typically incorporates areas of common agreement with these groups.

In formulating the city agenda, we have considerable discussions at the staff level, then city council, as well as with our Olympia lobbyist, Jennifer Ziegler, who has her finger on the pulse of state legislative priorities. Then we blend all that input together to create what we hope will be a successful agenda during session.

This Legislature will of course have a broad list of priorities also as this is the “long” session, which is anticipated to last into late spring or early summer. The biennial budget is the main undertaking in any long session. This budget will be heavily impacted by the State Supreme Court mandate to fund adequate education throughout the state through the McCleary decision. We anticipate a very challenging budgetary process.

Our city legislative agenda will be presented to council next week for final approval. The agenda is divided into two sections; Edmonds high priority issues we will advocate for, followed by numerous other issues we will be supportive of.

Our five high priorities are: 1) an effort to move up a portion of the $10M transportation funding package awarded to Edmonds in the 2021-2023 biennium so that we are able to continue the work we have begun in the Highway 99 Corridor; 2) a capital request of $350K to replace the Frances Anderson Center roof; 3) secure funding for initial design and permitting work on the Waterfront At-Grade Crossing Alternative Project; 4) cost recovery for electronic public records requests; and 5) funding to address homelessness and affordable housing.

The list of “numerous other issues we will support” includes far-ranging issues such as: supporting additional funding for the new Senior Center; trying to deal with growing public defense costs; fiscal sustainability for local governments; and, dealing with the growing opiate epidemic.

During the session itself, councilmembers, senior staff, our lobbyist and I will be actively working with our local legislators, key legislative leaders, professional organizations and citizens by testifying at hearings in Olympia, placing phone calls and sending emails on issues that are important to the city, region and the state.

The “long sessions” are not for the faint of heart. Issues can and do pivot dramatically, in an afternoon, day or week. When you think an issue is moving along alive and well, or just old news, you find a piece of legislation has a dramatic change and demands immediate response. In the last long session, I’m sure I was in Olympia eight or 10 times to testify or work on a specific piece of legislation on behalf of Edmonds and the region.

In its early days the legislative session is at times quiet and orderly, but as we near the end of session, bills move quickly and chaos can ensue. The value of having a team of people including our local legislators, lobbyist, councilmembers and citizens cannot be overstated. Working together, we should have success in Olympia.

— By Dave Earling

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