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Lawmakers Adjourn

March 16, 2020

A session that began with a focus on homelessness and a B&O tax increase ended with the COVID-19 pandemic. Lawmakers wrapped up their work Thursday by approving funding from the state’s “rainy day” fund to assist the crisis and help businesses most impacted.

Lawmakers worked to fill the $453 million hole created by the passage of I-976, a $30 car tabs initiative. They also approved a supplemental budget, leaving the state with a $2 billion reserve, which is anticipated to be tested in the current state of emergency.


The Good News:

Gov. Inslee’s priority to pass legislation overturning a State Supreme Court ruling limiting his agency’s ability to regulate indirect emissions failed. BIAW worked with lawmakers to delay the implementation of the energy code. Still, ultimately, without other movements on carbon reductions, those efforts were unsuccessful, as the tradeoff would have brought a low carbon fuel standard, local bans on natural gas, and broad authority for the state to regulate anything it deemed an “indirect emitter,” including new homes. California’s low carbon fuel standard has already raised the price of gas by over 13 cents a gallon, with those costs expected to increase exponentially. Increased fuel prices make the price of building housing rise and decrease a customer’s purchase power.

HB 2673 awaits the governor’s signature. Sponsored by Rep. Andrew Barkis (R-Olympia), this adds a local government categorical exemption option into the State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA). Now local governments can exempt growth from SEPA if it roughly meets the underlying comprehensive plan. This option will eliminate redundant planning and paperwork.

Per the settlement of BIAW’s lawsuit against the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries, preventing a raid on the Workers’ Compensation Fund to implement the governor’s 2019 Clean Energy Bill, the supplemental budget, as passed, corrects this and draws the funding from other sources. However, the budget also utilizes these same funds for other questionable uses.


The Bad News:

Energy Code Delay: Despite all of poignant builder member testimony and outreach on Hill Day, efforts to delay the implementation of the energy code were unsuccessful.

SB 6317/HB 2894, Concrete Pumping: Legislation died that would have fixed the Washington State Department of Revenue’s guidance issued last summer that would require concrete pumpers to pay sales tax even if their concrete would be resold as a part of the whole building. This amounts to double taxation on the product which previously did not exist.


Could be Worse, Could be Better News:

Net Ecological Gain: Several bills added, “net ecological gain” for land-use permitting. BIAW successfully stopped all of them. However, the concept was converted into a budget proviso study; the study workgroup excludes all property or development interests and has a very short timeline with a predetermined outcome. It also does not consider the legal ramification of takings.

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