Industry News

Olympia Legislative Update - Week 4 in the books

Mon, 08 Feb 2016 14:21:00 -1000

Last week marked another successful Day On The Hill for RHA and our partners. Legislators and legislative staff have reported positive experiences with our members in their offices, and the evening event was a hit for those who attended. Special thanks is owed to the RHA staff for their efforts in getting lunches, schedules, hot sheets, and providing organizational leadership.
 
Friday the 5th marked the first major cutoff. All policy bills must be out of their respective committees, or they are dead for this legislature. This week will see long fiscal committees, followed by floor action, as we move towards the House of Origin cutoff on the 17th. 6413 passed out of committee unanimous. This is the compromise bill that RHA, and industry partners have been working on with tenant advocates. There were a few hiccups with this bill in executive session, where the courts wished to amend the definition of criminal history to include the Washington State Patrol database, after significant pressure from stakeholders; the courts have likely backed down.
 
SB 6239 is the multifamily tax exemption for exiting buildings is also moving forward. It came out of the Senate Housing committee with an odd amendment from Republican Senator Padden that gives cities the option to require work done on facilities taking the tax exemption pay prevailing wage to workers. His amendment is based off of an issue in Spokane where a mixed-use building was forced to use the commercial prevailing wage rate for rehab work on the property; even though the building had majority residential units. The City of Seattle testified against this amendment yesterday when the bill was heard in Ways and Means. This amendment will probably be removed and the bill will move forward. We have emphasized that whatever bill comes forward must have only incentives to landlords, not more restrictions.
 
HB 1565, a bill that seeks to make source of income a protected class and create a civil cause of action for discriminating against a prospective tenant simply because of a subsidy, has moved out of committee on a party line. Out industry will be working to firm up opposition to this bill for the House floor debate if it moves forward. I’ve been told this bill will have a difficult time in the Senate, but we would rather convince legislators in the House the dangers of this bill. The Senate version of the bill, SB 5378 died in
committee.
 
SB 5894, the trespass bill or squatters bill has gotten new legs since the Nelson family was able to get some press attention from King 5 news regarding a rental home they owned being taken over by squatters. They had changed the locks and wouldn’t move out at all. The Tacoma police said it was a civil issue and would help. Senators Roach and Benton were on King 5 and said we need a bill. That’s when we called their offices and said there is a bill in Rules! Its on the Senate floor calendar now and we hope will keep moving.
There are some concerns about the bill with tenant advocates but we will be working hard to see if we can fix any difficulties in the bill and get it over to the House. Another ally in this effort is Rep. Hans Zieger from Puyallup. He has a companion bill in the House that he is working hard to see if it can get legs on that side of the rotunda. He was on King 5 again with a follow up interview and story. Having the press interested in this bill will give us some help in making the case for this common sense legislation.
 
The Democrats, along with the Governor have revealed a new general budget ask of over 100 million dollars to end homelessness. This Senate effort, led by Senator Sharon Nelson, is buttressed by several lowincome housing policy bills; including a bill that would remove housing from the Department of Commerce and place it in its own state department. We will see if any of these ideas have any traction as the budget process comes together this week. Meanwhile, City of Seattle lobbyists and legislators continue to take heat from the socialists in the city and on Council who have seen no traction this session on a rent control policy. Baring a historic procedural maneuver by the proponents, the policy is “dead” in this legislature.