Legislative Update - February 15, 2019

February 15, 2019

Thanks for tuning in to this week for an update on Futurewise legislative actions.  Next week will be the last week for committee hearings on policy-focused bills, meaning that all bills that aren’t moved out of committee by next Friday will be considered “dead”. The cutoff for bills with a fiscal impact is two weeks later, on March 1st.

 Here are a few of our priorities for this coming week:

 HB 1982 - Waiving groundwater fees for low-income housing.

 Bill Summary: This bill would exempt affordable housing from fees related to ground water withdrawal and mitigation requirements (the “Hirst-fix” bill requirements).

Futurewise Position: We oppose this bill.  We’re not opposed to waiving fees for certain low-income residents, but the process shouldn’t short-change water resources as a result.  A better way to address a threshold for fee waivers would be to build a mechanism into the soon-to-be developed mitigation plans for each water resource area that identifies a water rights set-aside for low income residents.  It’s possible to preserve groundwater and at the same time preserve affordability.


HB 1797 - Concerning local governments planning and zoning for accessory dwelling units (ADUs)

Bill Summary: Requires cities with a population of 2,500 or larger to adopt regulations that limit parking, height allowances, setbacks, entry ways, and other development regulations.

Futurewise Position: We oppose this bill – it’s possible to have too much of a good thing.  We agree that ADUs are one necessary tool for advancing affordability, but completely sweeping away limitations on their use – not to mention allowing them in places that would ratchet up vehicles miles traveled due to their lack of proximity to transit and services – is not the best tactic.  Encouraging ADUs everywhere also could potentially create a conflict or a barrier for implementation of other multi-family housing options that are needed to fill the missing-middle gap.


HB 1979 - Concerning the establishment of reasonable surface water flow levels.

Bill Summary: This bill prevents the Department of Ecology from enacting instream flow rules that exceed the highest non-flood flow documented during the same month at any time in the last fifty years as reported by the United States Geologic Survey. The Director of DOE must repeal any rule that doesn’t match the above requirement.

Futurewise Position: We oppose this bill.  Besides the fact that this is another bill that proposes an end-run around the “Hirst-fix” bill that aims to preserve groundwater and in-stream flows, there is another reason to oppose this bill – a lack of consistent data.  Not all rivers and streams have  been consistently measured around the state – and when the 50-year variable is tossed into the mix, the basis for rule-making outlined in this bill is inadequate for protecting wildlife and ensuring water for future generations.  Lastly, when it comes to issues that are impacted by climate change, past is not always prologue.    


SB 5802 - Establishing housing affordability zones.

Bill summary: Allows cities or counties to establish affordable housing zones, those are only allowed to permit single family homes.

Futurewise Position: We oppose this bill.  While there’s nothing wrong with limiting or waiving permit or other development fees for affordable housing through an “affordability zone”, the zones created by this bill would be exclusively for single family residences.  The Growth Management Act – as well as best practice – dictates that a range of housing options at varying levels of affordability are required in cities and counties.


HB 1853 - Developing and coordinating a statewide Don't Drip and Drive program.

Bill summary – This bill moves the responsibility for the Don’t Drip and Drive program – a proven social marketing initiative that encourages car owners to repair oil leaks - from the Department of Ecology to the WA Stormwater Center. It also provides $300,000 to start a statewide program and provide a report on implementation, and $300,000 to the Department of Commerce for grants to extend the current program.

Futurewise Position – We support this bill.  Futurewise was one of the early Don’t Drip and Drive partners, and also served on the task-force that developed the recommendations in this bill. We’re looking forward to seeing the program expand its capacity state-wide.


HB 1580 / SB 5577 - Concerning the protection of southern resident orca whales from vessels.

Bill Summary – These bills would enact crucial recommendations relating to vessel noise and disturbance made by the Orca Recovery Task Force. These same recommendations are also part of the Environmental Priority Coalition’s Orca Emergency Response.

Futurewise Position – We support these bills. The orcas need both more space and quieter waters. The mere presence of boats, even quiet ones, can change an orca’s behavior in ways that make an orca spend valuable energy. The proposed legislation would establish a “go slow” buffer around the Southern Resident orcas to quiet the waters, as well as a smaller “no go” buffer to give them space, and a permit system for whale-watching that could cap the number of commercial boats disturbing the orcas at any given time.

Thanks for reading, and we’ll have an update next week on progress being made on HB 1923, regarding increasing density in key Washington cities.