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Last week top officials from Whatcom County, the City of Bellingham and the Port of Bellingham joined together in Olympia to promote shared goals for this legislative session.
“When we can stand shoulder-to-shoulder and demonstrate our shared interests, we are much more effective,” said County Executive Jack Louws. “Our state delegation made it clear that they appreciate our efforts to bring forward one set of priorities.”
This year - for the first time - Whatcom County government, the City of Bellingham and the Port of Bellingham have developed a shared set of legislative priorities and contracted with a government affairs firm to represent local issues in Olympia during this important two-year budget writing legislative session.
“This partnership is possible because we've worked hard to collaborate on many community issues,"said Mayor Kelli Linville. “During my time in the Legislature, I always preferred when people, organizations, and agencies worked together."
Last week Louws, Linville, and Port Executive Director Rob Fix arranged to spend a day in Olympia meeting with all legislative members of the 40th and 42nd District, as well as other legislators. The trip focused on discussing the shared county/city/port objectives, learning about the budget issues and commenting on legislation that may impact the local community.
“We know the state is facing a challenging budget and we think this is a way to be efficient and effective,” Fix said. “Plus our whole community benefits from our discussions in developing a shared agenda.”
The shared legislative agenda (see second page) includes eight top issues regarding general budget funding, retaining Public Works Trust funding for city and county projects, retaining Model Toxic Control Act environmental cleanup funding, gaining approval for a fourth Superior Court Judge, and other issues.
In January, the three governments approved an Interlocal Agreement and collaborated in a competitive selection process that resulted in the city contracting with McBride Public Affairs. Each government will pay $30,000 for the annual government affairs services.
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2013 LEGISLATIVE OBJECTIVES City of BellinghamWhatcom CountyPort of Bellingham
• Budget. Maintain adequate funding for local governments, avoid new unfunded mandates and provide relief in the form of common sense policies, such as efficient, consistent and predictable permitting requirements.
• Public Works Trust Fund. Preserve full funding of the Public Works Trust Fund. Retain full funding for projects that are underway/scheduled and provide family wage jobs in Whatcom County.
• LIFT. Expand Local Infrastructure Financing Tools for projects that create jobs in Whatcom County.
• MTCA. Fully fund the Model Toxics Control Act. This dedicated funding source for toxic cleanup and prevention, including stormwater projects, is at risk. Protect the MTCA account and maintain focus on the core uses of these funds.
• Transportation. Support new statewide transportation funding that will sustain our ferries, highways and freight mobility capacity, including much needed investments in local roads and transit.
• Aquatic Invasive Species. Assist in development of a federal led statewide Aquatic Invasive Species eradication program.
• Marine Tourism. Support legislation that will aid efforts by cities, counties and ports to attract out-of-state boaters to our waterfront communities. Expanding the permitted length of stay for “entity-owned” vessels from 60 to 180 days creates greater sales tax revenues to waterfront economies.
• Judiciary. Fund a fourth Superior Court Judge for Whatcom County.