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Washington State Fairs Association Members –

WA Fairs- Legislative Update
The 2023 Legislative Session ended Sunday April 23rd at about 10:30 pm. In one of their last
actions, the House and Senate passed the operating budget along with a handful of bills that
had remained in dispute over the final week. This session we saw 2304 bills introduced with
just over 350 passing the Legislature. Over the next three weeks the Governor will be acting on
those bills. Will be interesting to see which bills are vetoed or partially vetoed, there are always
a few surprises.

Housing was the dominant issue for lawmakers this year. While the Budgets do make
significant investments in housing, about $1 billion, two proposals that received discussion up
until the end did not pass. An increase in the REET, that included a local option, and the
Governor’s “Housing Bond” received significant attention until the last days of session but
ultimately didn’t have the votes. The housing policy bills that passed include “Middle Housing”,
ADU incentives with mandates to allow them, permit timeline reductions, and the condo
liability bill.

Another issue that received considerable press attention was on the law enforcement side. The
House and Senate did come to an agreement on police pursuit legislation to provide clarity for
law enforcement for when a police chase is lawful. Late in session, in what was easily the most
shocking development of 2023, the House voted against the “Blake Fix” leaving the issue of
drug possession an open question. Current law has penalties in place but only until July 1.
There has already been talk of a special session for the legislature to come back and pass a bill
to deal with this but the timeline on that is unknown. You have likely been hearing about this in
the news.

The Operating Budget passed by the legislature is a $69.8 billion two-year spending plan,
funded within existing resources. Total spending for this “no new tax” budget is nearly 9%
higher than the 2021-23 biennial budget, and more than double the 2013-15 budget. This
budget, like those of the recent biennia, is supported by unprecedented levels of revenue
growth. Still, the pace of revenue growth has slowed and other indicators such as inflation and
interest rates portend challenging fiscal times ahead. Within the budget the necessary transfer
from the General Fund to the Fair Fund takes place to ensure assistance flows to Fairs.

Within the Capital Budget we received great news. The Fair Capital Grant program was fully
funded at $8 million. We can anticipate a similar application process from the Department of
Agriculture this fall. Also, another item that might be of interest, FFA received a $5 million
grant for chapters to apply for grants to purchase equipment and supplies.

Following up on a few policy bills that were introduced this year, neither of which passed.
Ticketing legislation did receive a hearing and moved from committee but failed to pass the
House floor. The bill would have placed several requirements on ticket sellers to provide
protections for consumers. The other bill that was introduced but never received consideration
dealt with exotic animals, we had some concerns with how the bill would impact entertainment
at Fairs. Though both bills failed to pass they will both be alive next session when the
legislature reconvenes next January.

Please contact me if you have any questions or comments.
Links –
District Finder – Washington State Legislature
Email Contact Roster - Washington State Legislature
Mike Burgess
MJB Consulting Inc.
Government Affairs

Additional issues

Below are two links to information from L&I with regard to employer/employment laws with information about minimum wage and ag overtime changes. Also, there are details on wage/benefit information that is now required in job postings.

This first link is a broad look at L&I changes. The second provides specificity about the wage/benefit info that is now required in job postings.

Laws affecting workers start Jan. 1 (govdelivery.com)


Andrea Thayer, CFE
WSFA President

2022 Session Recap:

Washington State Fairs Association – 2022 Legislative Report

The 2022 legislative session adjourned sine die on March 10, ending on the 60th day of session, a second session conducted entirely virtual. We continue to see significant numbers of bills introduced, with approximately 2000 pieces of legislation introduced in the 2021-22 Biennium, including 1050 in 2022 alone. With the overall challenges of the remote session, the volume of legislation during the 2021-22 Biennium was approximately three-quarters of what was introduced in 2019-20 Biennium.

Broadly, this session will be remembered for the passage of a new round of transportation spending with investments in road projects, transit, and electrifying the states ferry fleet. Soon, legislators will shift toward campaigning as this fall every member of the House and approximately half of lawmakers in the Senate will be up for election. Several lawmakers have announced that they will not run again, and we anticipate many new faces in the Legislature in 2023. A Supplemental Operating Budget proposal was agreed to in the final week of the session. Overall, General Fund spending increased by $5 billion when compared to the biennial budget adopted last year. That brings the total spending to just over $64 billion for the 2021-23 biennium, that’s an increase of almost 25% over the previous biennium.

Issues/Legislation of interest to WSFA –

Free Fair Admission – Late in the budget process an amendment was placed in the Senate budget that sought to make fair admission free in Washington. The amendment set aside $20 million dollars within the Department of Agriculture to reimburse fairs that chose to offer free admission to fair attendees. The proposal was a surprise to WSFA. The original language had a technical issue in that area fairs were excluded, that issue was taken care of as the Budget was passed from the Senate. Additionally, we had concerns that the $20 million would not have been enough to cover the concept if all fairs chose to offer free admission. To alleviate that concern we suggested language to budget writers that would have narrowed the scope of free admission to “youth”. It was our belief that amendment would protect a given fairs ability realize reimbursement. Throughout the final weeks of session WSFA made considerable outreach to legislators to protect fairs viability if the free admission language were to be part of the final budget. In the end the proposal was not included on the final budget agreement.

SB 5643 – Youth Development – This legislation provides that certain organizations representing the social and economic interests of farm and ranch families at the local, state, and national levels may sponsor youth development programs to promote participation in agricultural fairs, youth shows, and exhibitions. Additionally, the bill attempted to set in statute specific general fund support for youth development programs described in the bill. The bill passed the Senate but failed to pass the House.

SB 5531- Unclaimed Property - Unclaimed property is money or intangible property owed to an individual or business. Property is considered unclaimed after it has been held for a period of time with no owner contact, and a good faith effort has been made to locate the owner. Certain entities are required to report unclaimed property to the Department of Revenue (DOR), including banking and financial institutions, utilities, businesses, and governments. Unclaimed property is eventually given to the state to support the general fund. The bill modernized the statue to account for new forms/technologies such as electronic gift and reward cards. This issue matters to Fairs because premiums fall under the definition of money or property. Historically, premiums had been exempted from the unclaimed property statute. The original version of this legislation didn’t include the premium exemption but was later amended to maintain the status quo. Simply put, nothing changes for fairs regarding premiums that aren’t deposited or claimed. The bill passed the legislature and is awaiting signature by the Governor.

HB 1928 – Equine Industry Support – The bill created the “Washington Equine Industry Reinvestment Account” in the State Treasury. Resources going into the Reinvestment Account consist of any funds appropriated or transferred to the Reinvestment Account at the direction of the Legislature. Funds can be used for nonprofit race meets, grants to support equine activities, and equine health and safety programs and research and facility improvements and maintenance. The bill was reliant on a general fund transfer into the newly created account. The bill passed the House but failed to pass the Senate.

Looking to the remainder of 2022 and the 2023 legislative session Fairs will need to continue their outreach to legislators and build relationships. We will want to tell legislators about how important the Capital Budget support from last session is for fairs. That will help set the table for the grant program to continue next biennium. Look for WSFA to provide members with some “homework” to do with their legislators later in this spring.

Mike Burgess
MJB Consulting Inc.
Government Affairs

Driving Directions

  • Feel free to to drop by the Capital and speak with your legislator's office, or the Governor's office.
  • From I-5 Southbound: Take 'Exit 105 to State Capitol,' keep left for Exit 105A, and continue for 0.6 miles. Merge with traffic on the left and continue in the left hand lane of 14th Ave SW through the roundabout (Jefferson St.) and under the tunnel 0.4 mi to Capitol Blvd. Continue across Capitol Blvd to the Capitol Building on Sid Snyder Ave SW (14th Ave becomes Sid Snyder Ave).
  • From I-5 Northbound: Take Exit 105 and bear left for the State Capitol/City Center exit. Cross over Interstate 5 and keep in the left lane on 14th Ave SE. through the roundabout (Jefferson St) and under the tunnel 0.4 mi to Capitol Blvd. Continue across Capitol Blvd to the Capitol Building on Sid Snyder Ave SW (14th Ave becomes Sid Snyder Ave).

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