Olympia Update: What the heck happened this session?

March 28, 2014

Despite the short legislative session, the Coalition was working on a number of priority items. We’re pleased to report to you that this session offered some success.

This legislative session, the Coalition had 4 priorities (If wonk-talk puts you straight to sleep, feel free to skim):

1. Promote stewardship of the outdoors in your backyard. Good stewardship of our state’s outdoors is one of our top priorities at the Coalition. This year, we worked to create a pilot public land ombudsman position. Basically, this is someone who the general public could call with questions or concerns about how state resource lands were being maintained.

While it was not funded this year, we received a number of comments from legislators who are excited by this idea, which bodes well for the future.

2. Increase funding for State Parks. We were pleased that the legislature agreed to a modest increase in funding to maintain your favorite state parks.

3. Pass the State Parks Partnerships bill (SB 6034), which would allow the Agency and the State Parks Foundation to promote volunteerism and raise money through limited advertising. We are delighted to report that the bill passed.

4. Reform State Payments in Lieu of Taxes (PILT), a complicated budget procedure that, in essence, helps make sure that state resource lands don’t affect local property taxes. Ensuring strong funding for PILT (which was frozen at the start of the recession) is a top priority of ours. Without PILT, some counties have a difficult time supporting recreation and conservation projects. A limited bill reforming PILT (SB 6446) passed, but a more comprehensive reform bill (SB 6551) didn’t make it this year.

We’re grateful to the Washington State Association of Counties for all of their great work on the bill this year and look forward to working with them again in 2015.

So overall, while only half of our priorities actually passed, we still feel a great sense of success. Having proactive conversations about how we can do more to protect and steward our state’s public lands, and more importantly, how we can take roadblocks to funding off the table, did much to set us up for a successful Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program campaign in 2015.

Additionally, Governor Inslee announced the creation of a Blue Ribbon Task Force on Outdoor Recreation. We will be working with the Task Force to elevate the understanding of the economic benefits of our great outdoors.

Thanks for giving us the opportunity to protect your great outdoors!