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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Several goals achieved on Spokane Valley’s legislative agenda

Spokane Valley reached three major goals on its legislative agenda during the 2018 session: laws addressing nuisance homes as well as state funding awards for Appleway Trail amenities and the Barker Road grade separation project.

The city’s lobbyists from Gordon Thomas Honeywell said at a Spokane Valley City Council meeting on Tuesday that a record number of bills were introduced during the 60-day legislative session, and the state’s operating, capital and transportation budgets were all adopted.

Gordon Thomas Honeywell Vice President Briahna Murray said the 2017-19 capital budget stalled in the Legislature last year because it was tied to the Supreme Court’s Hirst decision, which addressed water rights.

The Legislature in January was able to reach an agreement on the Hirst hurdle and enact the budget, which includes $540,000 in funding for Appleway Trail amenities.

“It’s really a reflection of a lot of the advocacy work that (the city) did, and we did in Olympia during the 2017 session,” said Murray. “It just finally got over the finish line in 2018.”

Chelsea Hager, also with the lobbying firm, said in addition to Appleway Trail funding, the I-90/Barker to Harvard road project will receive $500,000 in funding with ongoing support from the legislative delegation to advance the construction schedule.

A bill that addresses nuisance properties passed the Legislature this session, which allows banks to enter a nuisance property that’s in midforeclosure.

Murray said they’ve been working on this piece of legislation on behalf of the city for a number of years and had success in getting a first priority lien for up to $2,000 to help with the city’s cost recovery.

Murray said the Legislature over the past two years had renewed interest in the subject because the Supreme Court ruled in Jordan v. Nationstar Mortgage, LLC that financial institutions could no longer access homes midforeclosure.

Financial institutions approached the Legislature for a resolution, which then opened up discussions on how cities can address abandoned and nuisance properties

“It is a substantial improvement for the tools provided to you all as cities in addressing nuisance properties and getting better cost recovery,” Murray told the City Council. “I’m just incredibly pleased that all the stakeholders that participated in the development of this legislation were able to get to an agreement and were able to get something that goes across the finish line.”

The bill allows the city to determine if a home is abandoned, in midforeclosure and a nuisance. If those three criteria are met, the financial institution then may access that home and secure the property, she said.

The hope is that the bill allows the main property maintenance burden to fall back to the financial institutions, she said.

“If the financial institution is absent, nonresponsive, or doesn’t take on that duty of maintaining the property, then the city is able to step in and exercise existing abatement and get full cost recovery,” she said.

Three of the city’s legislative priorities that failed this session were reforming the state’s regulatory burden, indigent defense funding and parental rights legislation.

Four House bills reforming the state’s regulatory burden that included reducing SEPA redundancies, peer review of ecology rulemaking, transparency of rulemaking and alternative rulemaking all did not advance.

An indigent defense bill sponsored by Rep. Matt Shea, R-Spokane Valley, passed the Legislature, which implements a $30 civil arbitration filing fee for indigent defense costs. However, a bill that would have increased indigent defense funding to local governments by 10 percent a year failed in the appropriations committee.

A bill to rename Appleway Trail for Sen. Bob McCaslin did not advance.

Three bills addressing parental rights – prevention of vaccines with mercury, vaccination risk information distribution and requiring notification to parents for vaccination exemptions – also did not advance.

Hager said if bills have bipartisan sponsorship they are more likely to get hearings.

“The bills listed had predominantly Republican sponsors,” she said. “Additionally, with the shortened legislative session, there’s difficulty getting more challenging big policy ideas across the finish line.”

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