Legislative Progress Report

Yesterday we passed a major cutoff in the state legislature. All bills had to be out of their originating house by 5:00pm, so we spent the last 3 days doing everything we could to get bills pulled from rules and on the floor calendar and then voted on in their respective chambers.
Nathan Gorton

All in all we are in pretty good shape heading out of the first cutoff. Now that this cutoff is behind us, the Legislature will quickly turn their thoughts to the State Budget. We anticipate a budget proposal from the House sometime the week of March 22.  We are ready to aggressively defend our members and their clients from tax increases in the 2015-2016 budget.
 
Washington REALTORS helped create a coalition of like-minded business interests called Recover Washington.  This group is sponsoring radio ads now playing in several moderate districts to remind legislators that we are watching as they put the budget together. Listen to the ad here.
 
We had several noteworthy wins this week to tell you about:
 
Our bill to continue the fee to fund the Washington Center for Real Estate Research passed the Senate last week 47-2. We were pleased with that strong, bipartisan vote coming from the Senate. The bill now moves over to the House, where they have already had a hearing on the Senate bill. We anticipate that House bill moving very quickly through the process.

Staying in the Senate, last night just before the cutoff the Senate voted for the bill we have worked on with the Master Builders, AWB (Association of WA Businesses), and NAIOP(National Association of Industrial Office Parks), on vesting. Recent court cases have chipped away at how vesting has been understood and put into practice in every community across the State. The Senate voted 29-20 to move out our vesting bill, which simply puts into code the common law practices of vesting permits. It's a complicated topic, and there are one or two opponents to this bill, so we will face a bit of an uphill climb in the House, but we have a good coalition and we look forward to working the issue in the House.
 
The Senate also gave us our only significant loss this cutoff. We worked with WCIC (Washington Construction Industry Council) on a bill that would attempt to jump-start the Condominium market by taking some liability away from builders. Essentially the bill would require that owners who are unhappy with something that happened in the building of their condo to allow the builder of the condo to present them with a proposal of how to fix the problem before they are allowed to sue. We think that bill walks the line between encouraging development and consumer protection. Unfortunately, though we believe we had the votes in the Senate, it did not make it to the Senate floor for a vote and is now dead, but we will explore this concept again next session.
 
Over in the House we had several wins as well. Our bill to allow REALTORS® to list and sell floating homes passed the House 98-0. Additionally our bill to change the procedure in a case of disputed earnest money passed by the same 98-0 vote.   We believe those bills should have quick action in their Senate Committees and will work to pass those bills quickly.
 
On the tax front, the Transportation Package, which we supported, moved out of the Senate on a strong bipartisan vote. The House has said that they are going to wait to pass their version until we get closer to the end of session. That ensures it will be a part of the final negotiations on the Operating Budget. Overall several of the new revenue sources that have been suggested do not appear to have any legs.
 
 A new Capital Gains tax bill has not yet come up for a vote, but it doesn't appear to have staying power. The same can be said for a carbon tax, though we will wait to see how strong the push on that is in the house.
 
The Senate continues with its mantra that we have nearly 3 Billion in additional revenue over the 13-15 budget, an almost 9% increase in revenue. Recent revenue forecasts, including the monthly numbers released just yesterday, show that the state is collecting revenue ahead of what the forecasts were, only strengthening their argument. We are headed for a showdown soon between the House and Senate on the budget, and it will be interesting to see where that goes.
 
All in all things have gone relatively smoothly this session. We will continue to keep you all in the loop as we move forward.



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