May 30, 2014

Lessons from Legislators


The biggest news this month in the government affairs arena revolves around the April 16 legislative luncheon sponsored by the Building Industry Group PAC and the Greater Vancouver Chamber of Commerce.  At this event, Senators Benton, Cleveland, and Rivers, and Representatives Orcutt, Vick, Pike, and Harris gave their impressions of the 2014 legislative session.  From their perspective the divided chambers are working, but they recognize some serious challenges coming next year including; transportation, education, and regulatory reform.  We thank them for taking the time to share their thoughts.rnrn rnrnEach also provided some practical advice on communicating with them that I thought I would share.rnrn rnrn1)  They prefer handwritten or non-form letters.  It isn’t necessarily the volume of letters they receive on a particular matter that gets their attention, but rather those that take the time to craft an individual letter with independent thoughts that grab their attention to stop and ponder an issue.rnrn rnrn2)  Work on an issue before session.  The time to begin working on issues is during the summer and fall before session starts.  The pace of session places constraints on time to get something passed.rnrn rnrn3)  Speak with one voice.  If a business community as a whole can coordinate a single message it carries more weight than merely one group going it alone.rnrn rnrn4)  Engage the legislators through their “kitchen cabinets.”  Legislators like to hear from their constituents and engaging them through their kitchen cabinets can be productive.rnrn rnrn5)  Call ahead for office time.  If you think you are going to be in Olympia be sure to call ahead and try to schedule a few minutes to see your legislator in their office.rnrn rnrn6)  Some legislators like to receive emails.  Although some fear that emails may easily be forwarded on a controversial topic, they are cognizant of this and do take due care.rnrn rnrnIn other news, the County continues to press forward with the Growth Management Act update.  The County continued a hearing on job projections until April 29, with the next decisions turning to the vacant buildable lands model.rnrn rnrnThe County is also seeking public comments on the draft stormwater manual and county code.  Comments are due May 5th.  As has been explained here, the County must incorporate low impact development into its manual and code, and the changes will create dramatic shifts not only to the built environment, but also to project economics.  On April 24, I presented a continuing legal education course to the BIAW legal trust committee to inform them of some issues on which to prepare comments while the stormwater codes are being updated.rnrn rnrnThe next government affairs committee meeting will be held onMay 12 at 3:30 at the BIA offices.  We will have a discussion around these issues and many more.  Please email me if you have any questions at

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