The Kenmore City Council unanimously passed a motion, with amendments, to approve the city’s 2020 state legislative agenda at its Oct. 21 meeting.
The 2020 session of the Washington state legislature is considered a short session, lasting 60 days. The focus of the two-month-long conclave is to amend the 2019-21 operating, capital and transportation budgets, all of which were adopted this year.
Currently, the transportation budget is especially delicate since there’s a chance that, if passed, November ballot item Initiative 976 could detrimentally impact transportation funding in Washington. I-976 seeks to make vehicle registration renewal fees $30 across the board, among other revisions to the current model. These fees, as it stands, go toward various transportation projects.
Next year is the second year of the two-year legislative biennium.
Briahna Murray of Gordon Thomas Honeywell Governmental Affairs — which represents Kenmore at the state legislature — pointed out at the Oct. 21 meeting that it’s important to bear in mind that the 2019 and 2020 sessions shouldn’t be looked at as independent from each other.
“As cities, we have a tendency to think of the legislative session as the 2019 session as very separate from the 2020 session,” Murray said. “But from the legislature’s perspective, it’s a two-year process — the long session followed by a short session.”
She noted that for the upcoming 2020 session, it’s important to excise items from the previous agenda that have been tended to and keep intact priorities that still need to be worked on. Murray also said that it’s important to build on previous successes in order to maintain consistency and keep the agenda ultimately concise.
“We don’t want to give our legislative delegation and others whiplash as we struggle with where we want to go,” she said.
Kenmore’s proposed agenda for the 2020 session puts a priority on several items: additional funding for Walkways & Waterways transportation projects; funding to ensure that the Department of Natural Resources can implement safety buoys on Lake Washington; and aid for Kenmore’s structural deficit. For the latter priority, help would be put toward lifting a one percent annual growth cap on property tax revenue.
In terms of the capital budget, the city is requesting $1 million for a Lake Washington Loop Trail project, which would result in three miles of buffered bike lanes in both directions. The money would also be put toward a landscaped walkway on the trail’s eastern side, upgraded lighting, stormwater system improvements and wall retainment.
For the transportation budget, Kenmore is requesting $450,000 to assist with 68th Avenue Northeast pedestrian and bicycle safety refurbishings. The overall project entails a continuous, ADA-accessible sidewalk on one side as well as bike lanes on both sides. It would additionally result in enhanced street lighting, pedestrian crossings and a stormwater system. The stormwater system specifically would impact 1.5 miles of the avenue, between northern city limits and Kenmore’s downtown area.
Kenmore’s agenda is composed of two documents. The top page includes the elements to be especially focused on by legislative delegates. Policy statements on subjects including tax increment financing, product stewardship, affordable housing, human trafficking prevention and more are on the second page.
Several previous agenda items were ministered to this year.
“We did have a number of items on the 2019 Kenmore legislative agenda that we were able to accomplish in the first year of the biennium,” Shelly Helder of Gordon Thomas Honeywell noted.
The city saw several breakthroughs earlier this year at the long session, including budgeting successes for a Twin Springs Park project as well as a funding transfer benefitting the West Sammamish Bridge project.
Council approved the agenda at the end of the meeting with a couple of amendments made to language around funding and local maintenance revenue options for maintenance and preservation earnings.
The 2020 legislative session begins on Jan. 13. This month, amendments to the state legislative agenda are to be finalized. In December, the governor will release proposed budgets.
Kenmore councilmembers are encouraged to visit Olympia during the session.