Week of Jan 11: Legislative Session Update

January 12, 2021


Welcome to our first legislative update for the Washington Can’t Wait Campaign and Futurewise's other legislative priorities! Stay tuned for a new post every Monday to get information on our priorities as our various bills move through the legislature and any relevant calls to action that you can take to support these priorities.

Now, let’s dive into the GMA related bills Futurewise is working on this session. It’s a big year for Futurewise. In a typical session, we’d be the lead organization on one, maybe two bills. This year, we’re swinging big on four major GMA updates.

The Washington Can’t Wait Trifecta

We’re working on three individual bills under the banner of the Washington Can’t Wait campaign. Here’s a quick status update on each of them:

HB 1099 – Adding a climate goal and element to the GMA. Sponsored by Rep. Duerr and Rep. Fitzgibbon. Click here to read the bill language and sign up for email notifications!

This bill would require that the ten largest/fastest growing Counties/Cities plan for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions/vehicle miles traveled according to state goals for these measures. Additionally, the bill would require resiliency planning for all cities and counties to identify and protect areas most likely to be impacted by climate change or to mitigate against climate change.

Status: We are working closely with the sponsors of the legislation to get a hearing on the bill soon and will keep everyone updated once we get a hearing date.

Update to the Housing Element (bill number forthcoming)

We’re working closely with Rep. Peterson and are in the process of finalizing the details to update the GMA housing element. The crux of this update is focused on ensuring that cities are planning for housing available to families at all income levels, with a special focus on addressing racial disparities and fighting displacement of low-income communities and communities of color. The bill will require cities to have a plan and timeline for addressing racial disparities and exclusionary policies in their housing plans. Additionally, cities will identify places of high displacement risk and implement anti-displacement policies.

Status: We are finalizing the bill language and then will receive a bill number from the code reviser.

Environmental Justice in the GMA (bill number forthcoming)

 Futurewise is working closely with Front & Centered, who is taking the lead on a bill that would address issues of environmental injustice in comprehensive planning processes. This bill would ensure that comprehensive planning processes are engaging with and accountable to communities of color and communities impacted by environmental injustice (ex. pollution).

 Status: We are finalizing bill language and in talks with several legislators to sponsor.

 The GMA Vesting Bill Rises Again

 SB 5042Closing the GMA vesting loophole. Sponsor: Sen. Salomon and Sen. Billig

 For the last 12 years, Futurewise has worked to close a crucial loophole in the GMA known as the vesting loophole. You read that right – this bill was first introduced in 2008! But we’re feeling pretty good about our odds this year since we have Senate Majority Leader Andy Billig (D-Spokane) as a co-sponsor.

 What exactly is the vesting loophole? Under the GMA, counties can vote to expand their urban growth areas into farmland and natural habitat. Sometimes though, these UGA expansions are unnecessary and just contribute to excessive sprawl. In those cases, Futurewise might appeal the UGA expansion to the Growth Management Hearings Board and win a judgment that the UGA expansion was illegal under the GMA. However, under the current framework, any permits issued for new construction in the expanded UGA are still valid even if the UGA expansion is later ruled illegal.

 We want to make sure that we’re not seeing more sub-developments in farmland, which is why this bill would close the loophole by changing the date for specific actions such as UGA expansion or de-designating farmland until after the appeal period has expired or a judgment by the GMHB.

 Status: First committee hearing was on Tuesday, January 12th. 

How can you contribute?

1)     Join us, Climate Solutions and the Climate Reality Project for a ‘virtual’ postcard making party on Thursday, 1/14, from 5:30-6:30 PM

2)     Sign and share our petition.

3)     Help us to phone bank constituents in key districts on Fridays and Saturdays!

4)     Contact your legislators or set up a virtual lobbying meeting!

5)     Write an op-ed expressing why these issues matter to you.