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Transportation & Public Works Legislative Update (4-24-17)

The 105-day regular legislative session ended yesterday with no state operating budget adopted. The Governor has called them back into a special 30-day session starting today. Most legislators will head for home, leaving budget negotiators in Olympia to resolve the differences between the House and Senate proposals.

The state transportation budget was adopted in the waning days of the session. The budget provides little in the way of new projects or funding, primarily focusing on updating of schedules for projects and increased funding to cover transportation-related labor agreements.

For counties, the 2017-19 budget funds the amounts promised to counties with the adoption of the Connecting Washington Act adopted in 2015. The act provides an increase of $70 million to the County Road Administration Board spread out over 16 years and $187.5 million in direct distribution to counties, again spread out over the same 16-year period. The distribution to CRAB for 2017-19 is $4.844 million, each, for the rural arterial program and the county arterial preservation program. Counties will receive $25.1 million in direct distribution quarterly from the state treasurer.

The House version of the transportation budget provided $5 million in funding for fish barrier removal projects, but the funding was left out of the final adopted budget. Funding for fish barrier removals has been included in the capital budget, but the capital budget has not yet been adopted.

Overall, there were few transportation related bills that were passed this session. On of the most significant transportation related bill was the passage of SSB 5289, which further restricts texting and while driving. The bill, which goes into effect January, 2019, prohibits holding a personal electronic device in either hand, using your hand or finger to compose, send, read, view, access, browse, transmit, save, or retrieve email, text messages, instant messages, photographs, or other electronic data, and watching video on a personal electronic device. The bill has not yet been signed by the Governor.

Bills that have passed and have been signed by the Governor include SHB 1838, regarding all-terrain vehicles. The bill allows wheeled-all-terrain-vehicles (WATVs)to cross roads and highways with speed limits up to 60 miles per hour. There are several restrictions on where these crossings can take place. The bill doesn’t change the local process for determining on which roads WATVs can operate. The new law goes into effect July 23, 2017.

The Governor has also signed SB 5734, regarding state contracting and bonding. The bill brings Washington’s contracting procedures in compliance with federal requirements with respect to small works projects. Under the new law, the contractor or general contractor/construction manager has the option to have the public entity retain 10 percent, instead of 50 percent, of the contract amount in lieu of the bond requirement for public works contracts up to $150,000, instead of $35,000. The threshold amount for contracts from which the public entity may accept full payment and performance bond from an individual surety is increased from $100,000 to $150,000.

Several bills have been passed by the legislature and await the Governor’s approval, including ESHB 1538, regarding subcontractor bonding, which allows a subcontractor to request that the prime contractor provide a bond for the subcontractor’s portion of the retainage; SB 5049, regarding relocation assistance, removes the local option to not offer relocation assistance on all projects; and SSB 5301, which adds further bidder eligibility requirements.

More details on these and other bills can be found on the bill summary list. A listing of bills that died during the legislation can be found here. If you have any questions on bills, please contact me.