News

The City of M.I."s legislative wish list

By Wendy Giroux

Every year, city staff and City Council members compile a list of legislation they support -- or don't support -- for the coming legislative session.

Last week, the council approved this year's ``wish list'' to be sent to state Sen. Brian Weinstein (D-Mercer Island), Rep. Judy Clibborn (D-Mercer Island) and Rep. Fred Jarrett (R-Mercer Island).

The city's legislative priorities for the coming session, which started this week, include the following:

? Support legislation streamlining the state sales tax structure.

``If this is adopted in the 2005 session, that conceivably could solve just about any operating budget problem Mercer Island would face in the next 10 years,'' City Manager Rich Conrad said.

The proposal would send sales tax revenue from purchases to the city where the goods will be delivered, instead of keeping the sales tax with the place of purchase as the system requires now.

``If you go to Island Books and buy a book, Mercer Island gets the sales tax. If you go to Bellevue Square and buy a sofa to be shipped to Mercer Island, Bellevue gets the sales tax,'' Conrad explained.

``The state of Washington is one of the few that does point-of-sale sourcing rather than destination sourcing,'' he said.

A change could mean as much as $500,000 more in sales tax revenue per year, according to predictions from the state.

While Mercer Island stands to gain, other cities would lose sales tax revenue.

``Overall, it's in everybody's best interest because once the Legislature acts and sales tax is uniformly enacted on Internet sales, there will be sales tax increases for every city,'' Conrad pointed out.

? Tort reform: Support capping non-economic damages for local governments, businesses and healthcare providers; support exempting cities and towns from joint and several liability for acts of people at fault; support refining laws on condominium construction liability to treat builders and owners fairly and reasonably.

Councilman El Jahncke pointed out the condo issue as one that greatly affect Mercer Island.

``I believe that will have more influence on the nature of our downtown than just about anything else,'' Jahncke said.

? Ambulance utility fees: Support legislation to clarify cities' authority to create utilities in order to provide and fund ambulance services.

In response to a Supreme Court case, Mercer Island and other cities changed the way fees for ambulance services were collected. The new method put more financial burden on certain users, such as nursing homes and long-term care facilities. If the law is changed, it would provide more flexibility for cities to fairly distribute the costs, City Attorney Londi Lindell said.

? Municipal courts: Support the continued ability for cities to contract to provide court services for one another and the authority to appoint part-time judges.

Oppose the requirement to elect more judges.

Mercer Island's Municipal Court just opened for business this month. It will provide services to the city of Newcastle under a contract as well.

? Revisions to the Growth Management Act: Support changing the frequency of GMA reviews and updates from every seven years to every 10 years and allowing smaller and slower-growing cities to update their plans less frequently than larger and faster-growing cities.

Councilman Bryan Cairns said he would be interested in adding support of a legislative fix to allow the distribution of information before a vote about ``Eyman-type'' initiatives that would unevenly affect cities.

A citizen-led idea is in the works that would allow a panel of citizens to review any initiative, research the potential effects and present the information, Conrad said.

Cairns also proposed emphasizing the funding, implementation and completion of the transportation plan called R8a.

But Jahncke said he couldn't agree with that proposal.

``The status quo is our absolute best-case scenario,'' he said. ``For us to now be pushing or trying to accelerate R8a is not in our best interests. ... That's absolutely not something that I would support.''

City officials believe all of the issues on the priority list are likely to come up during the 2005 session.

Contacting your lawmakers

State Sen. Brian Weinstein

Office: 422 John A. Cherberg Building

Address: P.O. Box 40441

Olympia, WA 98504-0441

Telephone: (360) 786-7641

E-mail: weinstein.brian@leg.wa.gov

State Rep. Judy Clibborn

D-Mercer Island

Address: PO Box 40600

Office: 315 John L. O'Brien Bldg.

Olympia, WA 98504-0600

Telephone: 360-786-7926

E-mail: clibborn_ju@leg.wa.gov

State Rep. Fred Jarrett

R-Mercer Island

Address: PO Box 40600

419 John L. O'Brien Bldg.

Olympia, WA 98504-0600

Telephone: 360-786-7894

E-mail: jarrett_fr@leg.wa.gov

U.S. Rep. Dave Reichert

R-8th Congressional District

www.house.gov/reichert

Washington, D.C., office:

1223 Longworth House Office Bldg.

Washington, DC 20515

202-225-7761

District office:

2737 78th Ave, S.E.

Suite 202

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