With a short legislative session on the horizon for 2020, King County is opting to focus its lobbying efforts on a handful of broad topics.
The King County Metropolitan Council will vote Nov. 20 on draft of these topics. The top five items are protecting and enhancing local transportation options, securing funding for roads and bridges, increasing affordable housing, increasing funding for behavioral health services, and protecting public health.
Mac Nicholson, director of government relations for the county, said the county reassessed its top priorities following the passage of Initiative 976, which will reduce state funding for transportation projects. This is likely reflected in the county’s goal of protecting local transportation, he said. Nicholson also said that it being a short legislative session, some bills may not make it to a vote this year.
The county is also facing a significant shortfall in funding for roads and bridges. It is set to run out of money for capital projects in roughly five years, a problem that is credited to restrictions on property tax increases as well as incorporation taking away portions of the county’s tax base.
There are other priorities, but King County Councilman Larry Gossett said that for the first time in several years, there weren’t any criminal justice reform items on their top priorities. These items include bail reform for low-income people and expungement of records.
“Why did criminal justice as an issue not reach the threshold to be on our agenda?” he asked.
Councilmember Jeanne Kohl-Welles also questioned why a top priority wasn’t lobbying to change the taxing structures to factor in inflation and population growth.
The item was passed without a recommendation and could be approved and altered by the county council on Nov. 20. The Washington State Legislature will begin meeting Jan. 12 for at least 60 days. That time could be extended if needed. Gov. Jay Inslee will release his proposed budgets in December.