As we enter the fifth week of the sixty-day legislative session, we are now halfway to scheduled adjournment. This week marks a big cutoff in the transportation and capital budget worlds, the last day for bills to receive executive action in their committee of origin. After Tuesday, February 11, any bill that has not received action in the transportation or capital budget committees is considered dead. This process weeds a significant number of bills out of the mix and allows us to narrow our focus on what is still active.

The early part of the week will be dedicated to last-minute public hearings and executive sessions, while the latter half will focus on Senate and House floor action. A couple of transportation bills of significance that will receive a public hearing this week include:

Local Revenue Option Legislation

HB 2362/SB 6652, Rep. Bill Ramos (D-Issaquah)/Sen. Joe Nguyen (D- White Center), concern local transportation revenue options. Specifically, these bills would broaden local revenue levying authority. These new authorities include:

  • Improvements and expansion to the local gas tax option:
    • Allows counties and cities to concurrently impose a local gas tax up to 10-percent of the state gas tax (or 4.94 cents/gallon).
    • Allows half the allowable tax rate (or 2.47 cents/gallon) to be imposed councilmanically, with the additional half requiring voter approval.
  • Improvements to the TBD sales tax:
    • Allows the tax to be imposed by a city or county council.
    • Increases the sunset from 10-years to 20-years.
    • Increases the allowable tax rate from two-tenths to four-tenths of one percent.
  • New transportation utility tax for cities

HB 2676, Rep. Shelly Kloba (D-Kirkland), concerns the regulation of the testing of autonomous vehicles (AVs). The bill requires that entities testing AVs hold liability insurance and require them to work closely with WSDOT in the testing process. This bill comes out of recommendations from the Transportation Commission’s Autonomous Vehicle workgroup of which WSACE’s Eric Pierson (Chelan) and Todd O’Brien (Adams) are members.

What to expect moving forward

As we look to the second half of the legislative session, transportation and capital budget chairs will begin hearing bills from their opposite houses and will focus their attention on final budgets. We are continuing to pursue a federal swap exchange process for our Surface Transportation Program. If we are successful in achieving this effort it will show up via a proviso in the transportation budgets. Expect the first drafts of budgets to be rolled out in the next couple of weeks.