Auburn tallies wins and losses in recent legislative session

At Monday evening’s Auburn City Council study session, Administrative Director Dana Hinman presented city leaders with the city’s scorecard for the recently-completed legislative session.

As the saying goes, some you win. But Hinman struck a positive tone.

“We were generally successful in our advocacy for the certain bills that were passed,” said Hinman.

Here are some of those bills.

SB8201 and SB5303: While lawmakers fully funded the state’s Public Works Revolving Assistance Account to $40 million, a measure to amend the state constitution by establishing the account in the state treasury failed. Had it passed, it would have moved all money beyond the grasp of lawmakers, who’ve shown a penchant in recent years for raiding the account to fill gaps in the state budget.

The amendment loss was no abstract thing for cities like Auburn. According to Public Works Director Ingrid Gaub, the PWRA is in effect the only account with money in it for local street improvements.

“We’re glad that it was fully funded,” Hinman said of the account. “The constitutional amendment did not pass, but we would advocate for that amendment to happen one of these days for sure.”

HB 1326: The city was neutral on this bill, Hinman said, which waives municipal utility connection charges for certain properties.

“This is one that sounds really good on paper when you’re waiving fees for things, but when you are waiving fees, it’s not free,” Hinman said. “That means we have to pay it back with our own general fund. So, that becomes even more expensive on our end when certain developments happen, and it removes the revenue source and takes money from our general fund.

“That bill did pass, so we will have to deal with that financial impact as it comes,” Hinman added.

HB 1582: The city opposed this bill, which would have disallowed right turns on red lights in certain areas to reduce car-pedestrian and car-bike collisions.

“This would have been an administrative nightmare,” Hinman said, quoting the public works director. “It would be confusing – you wouldn’t be quite sure which intersections that would fall under the prohibition. We argued that if you are going to do that, just prohibit right-hand turns everywhere. But just to … pick and choose spots would be very difficult to enforce. Different cities would have different areas where it was allowed and not allowed.”

HB1329: This bill proposed to prevent utility shut-offs in extreme heat, which passed. As Hinman explained, if a customer had their utilities shut off in a period of high temperatures, the change would have required cities to turn it back on. Auburn took a neutral stance on this bill.

“The standards were unclear, but they eventually amended the bill to make it more palatable to where the customer needs to contact the city in those cases. What I was told by our utilities folks was that it would be generally manageable to do those things,” Hinman said.