Approximately 20 elections bills are pending in the Legislature this year, and we are following them both individually and collectively to ensure that any enacted will work together. The biggest change under consideration is SB 5597, a sweeping voting rights omnibus bill modeled on pending federal legislation. We and other stakeholders (such as AWC) have been working with the sponsors and staff to get workable language and definitions so that, irrespective of the policy aims, the bill will operate as expected and can be implemented by local governments. In particular, we’re working to make sure we are not stuck with an unworkable set of new mandates. There are also election bills that would move primary elections to May (SB 5540), implement discretionary ranked-choice voting (SB 5584), and eliminate odd-year elections (HB 1727). We’re working on all of these to express concerns and ensure that, if enacted, they work with other laws, programs, and processes as well as with each other.
Last week, we testified with concerns on HB 1819. This bill, along with a proposed constitutional amendment, would raise the personal property tax exemption from $15,000 to $100,000. Counties are heavily dependent on property tax revenue, and we closely follow any potential shift or revenue loss. The bill could cost counties over $2 million per year in lost revenue and also shift tax liability onto other taxpayers. We are working with the sponsors and stakeholders for changes that could mitigate this loss, and, pending some expected fiscal information, we should be close to a deal, and the bill is expected to be voted out of committee on February 1.
Finally, HB 1982 is a follow-up to the delinquent property tax interest and penalty reform bill from last year (HB 1410). The bill would make changes to rates, application, and time periods to ensure consistency and mitigate any loss of revenue that could have come from the earlier change. There are aspects to the policy that WSAC disfavors, but much of this was already passed in the compromise last year, and all that is under discussion presently are technical changes. This bill was passed out of committee this week and is awaiting further action on the House Floor.