On Seattle’s state lobbying agenda

Just a quick update on this eve of the election, covering today’s Council Briefing.

Today’s Council Briefing included a presentation about the City’s lobbying agenda with the state legislature. The next session of the Washington State legislature is scheduled to begin on January 11, and Seattle has a lobbying team to represent its interests.

This year the team has heard that lawmakers have three priorities: the budget (like Seattle, the state is facing a revenue shortfall due to the pandemic), COVID relief, and police reform. The legislature is still working out the logistical challenges of being in session during a pandemic, and as such, they are focused on only a few issues and will probably be passing less legislation than normal. There is hope that CMs can be more effective advocates for the City’s interests since so many of the meetings will be remote.

Lawmakers are saying nothing is off the table when it comes to progressive taxation to raise additional revenue, with a possible capital gains tax or tax on excess income being seen as the most likely. There are also rumors that the state might preempt the JumpStart tax, but there has been no definitive movement on that front. In terms of transportation, the team is pushing for more progressive options but adding a local option of a gas tax is gaining momentum. There is also talk of a carbon pricing system as a potential funding source. They are also waiting to see what happens with the election, as that will determine the amount of federal funding that might be expected.

In terms of police reform, there are currently over sixty bills on police reform being introduced. Obviously some of these bills will be eliminated or combined into omnibus packages. There is a decertification proposal led by Senator Pedersen and Representative Goodman that is a significant piece of legislation, as well as legislation pertaining to qualified immunity. Much of the legislation being discussed is for reforms that have already been adopted in Seattle at the city level. Both CM Herbold and CP Gonzalez spoke about the possibility of legislation related to arbitration that could change the police union negotiation process; this legislation will be worth following closely come January.

Another presentation on the lobbying agenda will be taking place at Council Briefing on November 30 (aka after budget season), with a final vote on the agenda expected in December.

A reminder about the remainder of budget season: We might get a new revenue forecast sometime this week. CM Mosqueda will present her rebalancing package next week on Tuesday, November 10th. Then the CMs have a chance to turn in Form Cs by November 12th, which must be self-balancing. The CMs will discuss these Form C amendments the following week, with a final vote on the budget scheduled for Monday, November 23, which is a few days before Thanksgiving. Remember that the budget vote generally requires a 3/4 majority instead of the normal 2/3. And, were the Mayor to veto the budget, the Council would need to decide whether to sustain or overturn the veto sometime in December.

Meanwhile, next Monday SDOT will be attending Council Briefing to give a presentation on the West Seattle Bridge.

And tomorrow is Election Day. Whatever the results, there will be a lot of work to continue to do, and I look forward to doing that work with all of you.

Be safe, and during this time of high stress, embrace patience and kindness if you can, both for others and for yourself. I’ll see you next week.