Government Affairs: Monthly Update

Jamie Howsley, BIA Government Affairs Director


Marching into March

Well the first two months of 2017 seem to have gone by extremely quickly between the terrible weather this winter and the frantic pace that is happening in both Washingtons’ governments.  Here are some highlights from the past month.


President Trump issued an Executive Order on February 28 which seeks to roll back some of the authority of the federal government on what land is subject to the Clean Water Act.  As a result of many years of litigation including cases up to the U.S. Supreme Court the Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers tried to define waters of the United States to include isolated wetlands and other hydrogeologically connected water sources.  The National Association of Home Builders and other business organization saw this an a clear overreach of regulations.

While the Executive Order takes aim at the rule, the rule itself cannot be overturned through an Executive Order that must occur through the rulemaking process or through the Courts.  But this rule is already on hold due to a stay issued by the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and being challenged by many States as an overreach.

I will editorialize here for a second to say that if I am a betting man, I think we will see the EPA move to withdraw the rule shortly.

Washington Legislature

Well the legislative process continues. The bill committee cut off occurred on February 17 and the fiscal bill cut-off occurred on February 24.  Based upon the climate in Olympia seasoned professionals believe that the session will go until the end of June with many decisions on the bills below being wrapped up in the budget discussions.

Vesting Bill

Senator Wilson’s vesting fix bill passed the floor of the Senate on February 28 with some BIA and BIAW supported floor amendments.  SB 5212 seeks to clarify the states vesting rule and ensure that vesting applies to regulations adopted by the local governments that are mandated by the state.  We thank Senator Wilson for championing this bill.

Six Year Building Code Cycle

SB 5500 would move Washington’s building code cycle to a 6-year cycle and would mandate additional reforms of the State Building Code Council.   This bill sits in the Senate Rules Committee as of this writing.

Agency Review Bill

Another Senator Wilson bill, supported heavily by the business community in SW Washington, is SB 5214 which would provide an avenue for the legislature to review rules, policies and guidance documents created by state agencies.  The joint administrative rules review committee would review a rule if 15 or more legislators petition, if the rules have a significant financial impact ($10 million+) or if 5 or more local governments request review.

Hirst Fix

BIAW and the local associations went to the hill on February 28 to bring the message to the legislature to fix hirst.  Here is great website which has more information and news about the Hirst issues.  SB 5239 is one supported by the BIA and BIAW and passed the Senate with a floor amendment on Tuesday, February 28th.

Local Governments and School Districts

A hearing on the County’s growth plan occurred on February 8 at the Public Service Center.  As discussed here previously, Futurewise challenged various aspects of the County’s plan including the necessity to expand Urban Growth Areas (UGAs) based upon the Office of Fiscal Management (OFMs) population data and Clark County Citizens United challenged the plan for the lack of available land for development in the rural areas of the County.  A decision is set for March 23….stay tuned.

Bond Campaigns

The Ridgefield and Vancouver School Districts passed their capital construction bonds.  The BIA endorsed both measures as a means of ensuring great schools while keeping school impact fees low.

The next government affairs committee meeting will be Monday, March 13 at 3:30 at the BIA offices.  We will have some guests from Vancouver Energy that will give an update on their project for the first twenty minutes.  And then we will update these matters and many more on our radar. Please feel free to contact me with any questions at