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If a road is dedicated to the public in a subdivision within the unincorporated county, does that make the road a county road? Or, does the road still need to the established pursuant to chapter 36.81 RCW?
Reviewed: 01/17

If a road is dedicated to the public in a subdivision within the unincorporated county, that road is a county road. The process in chapter 36.81 RCW would thus not be used. AGLO 1970 No. 46 addresses the methods by which a county road may be established:

In our opinion there are several methods by which a highway may become a county road. One method is, of course, by means of the formal procedure set forth in chapter 36.81 RCW.

A second method is by dedication of roads in a plat duly approved by county authorities.

See also AGO 1952 No. 307 (“When the county commissioners by appropriate action approve a proposed plat without reservation concerning the roads designated therein, those roads become county roads.”).

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May sewer lines cross rural lands to serve another portion of a UGA without violating RCW 36.70A.110(4)?
Reviewed: 01/17

RCW 36.70A.110(4)’s prohibition against extending urban services to rural areas does not prevent a jurisdiction from allowing urban governmental services to traverse a rural area to service another UGA. In Heikkila v. City of Winlock, the Western Washington Growth Management Hearings Board (WWGMHB) addressed a challenge to a jurisdiction’s planning policies that would allow the extension of urban services from one UGA to another UGA that required the infrastructure to pass through rural land. The WWGMHB concluded that such services could pass through rural lands so long as they did not provide service in the rural areas. In relevant part, the WWGMHB wrote:

The prohibition in RCW 36.70A.110(4) does not apply to urban services in urban growth areas. Urban growth areas by definition are allowed to have urban levels of growth and should have the urban services to support that growth. See RCW 36.70A.030(17), (18), and (19). Nor can the statute be read to mean that water service lines cannot pass through rural lands. The reason for the prohibition in RCW 36.70A.110(4) against providing urban services to rural areas is that urban services in the rural areas would create pressure to urbanize the rural areas and create sprawl. Thurston County v. Cooper Point Association, 148 Wn. 2d 1, 57 P. 3d 1156 (2002). If the Winlock water lines just traverse the rural areas and do not serve them, it will not violate RCW 36.70A.110(4).

The Petitioner does not point to any statutory prohibition against providing water services from one UGA to another. The burden is on the Petitioner(s) to demonstrate why the challenged amendments violate the GMA. The legislature has directed the boards to grant deference to counties and cities in how they plan for growth, consistent with the goals and requirements of the GMA. RCW 36.70A.3201. Comprehensive plan amendments are presumed valid upon adoption. RCW 36.70A.320. Here, as the Central Board stated in Gain v. Pierce County, CPSGMHB Case No. 99-3-0019 (Final Decision and Order, April 18, 2000), “Petitioners offer no statutory provisions to support their assertion that sewer [or water] lines must be confined within the boundaries of UGAs and cannot pass through rural areas.” RCW 36.70A.110(4) does not preclude municipalities from providing water service from one UGA to another.

Conclusion: RCW 36.70A.110(4) does not prohibit a municipality from extending water service from its own UGA to another GMA-compliant UGA. Because we find that non-compliance has not been proved, there can be no finding of substantial interference with the goals of the GMA based on RCW 36.70A.110(4). . . .

For more information, see Heikkila v. City of Winlock, WWGMHB No. 04-2-0020c. Order on Motions at 6 (Jan. 10, 2005). See also Fallgatter v. City of Sultan, CPSGMHB Case Nos. 06-3-0003, 06-3-0034, 07-3-0017 Combined Order of Compliance at 11 (Nov. 10, 2008) (“[T]he Board has previously found that sewer lines extending beyond the UGA into the rural area to re-connect with the UGA or another UGA is not prohibited under the GMA, so long as connections to such a line in the rural area are prohibited.”).

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Do reelected public officials need to be sworn in?
Reviewed: 01/17

Yes, an elected official must take the oath of office every time he or she is reelected. For purposes of the election statutes, RCW 29A.04.133 defines the term “qualified,” when pertaining to a winner of an election, to mean that for such election:

(1) The results have been certified;

(2) Any required bond has been posted; and

(3) The winner has taken and subscribed an oath or affirmation in compliance with the appropriate statute, or if none is specified, that he or she will faithfully and impartially discharge the duties of the office to the best of his or her ability. This oath or affirmation shall be administered and certified by any officer or notary public authorized to administer oaths, without charge therefore.

We have a very good publication addressing this issue, which will give you more detail. It is called Getting into Office: Being Elected or Appointed into Office in Washington Counties, Cities, Towns, and Special Districts.

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Can the city surplus and sell an old city vehicle as a “direct sale,” or does it legally have to go to bid?
Reviewed: 12/16

A “direct sale” is permissible provided that the city council declares the property to be surplus and authorizes the manner of sale. There is no requirement that surplus city property be offered to all, or put up at auction, or that bids be requested. Cities do not have required procedures for the disposal of surplus property as do counties in chapter 36.34 RCW. The property can be sold to a specific individual, if that is what council wishes to do. However, the council should still declare the property surplus to the city's needs and set a price below which it will not be sold. Obviously, if the council has adopted a policy regarding sale of surplus property, that policy should be followed.

For more information, please see our Sale of Surplus City or Town Property topic page, which includes general information and sample policies.

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Is there a comprehensive list of what type of uses constitute an "essential public facility?"
Reviewed: 12/16

There is a fairly comprehensive description of an “essential public facility” in RCW 36.70A.200(1) (emphasis added):

The comprehensive plan of each county and city that is planning under RCW 36.70A.040 shall include a process for identifying and siting essential public facilities. Essential public facilities include those facilities that are typically difficult to site, such as airports, state education facilities and state or regional transportation facilities as defined in RCW 47.06.140, regional transit authority facilities as defined in RCW 81.112.020, state and local correctional facilities, solid waste handling facilities, and inpatient facilities including substance abuse facilities, mental health facilities, group homes, and secure community transition facilities as defined in RCW 71.09.020.

A more detailed list is set forth in WAC 365-196-550(1), which states in relevant part:

(d) The following facilities and types of facilities are identified in RCW 36.70A.200 as essential public facilities:

(i) Airports;

(ii) State education facilities;

(iii) State or regional transportation facilities;

(iv) Transportation facilities of statewide significance as defined in RCW 47.06.140. These include:

(A) The interstate highway system;

(B) Interregional state principal arterials including ferry connections that serve statewide travel;

(C) Intercity passenger rail services;

(D) Intercity high-speed ground transportation;

(E) Major passenger intermodal terminals excluding all airport facilities and services;

(F) The freight railroad system;

(G) The Columbia/Snake navigable river system;

(H) Marine port facilities and services that are related solely to marine activities affecting international and interstate trade;

(I) High capacity transportation systems.

(v) Regional transit authority facilities as defined under RCW 81.112.020;

(vi) State and local correctional facilities;

(vii) Solid waste handling facilities;

(viii) In-patient facilities, including substance abuse facilities;

(ix) Mental health facilities;

(x) Group homes;

(xi) Secure community transition facilities;

(xii) Any facility on the state ten-year capital plan maintained by the office of financial management.

This seems to be a fairly comprehensive list, but this regulation makes clear that the primary components of the definition of an essential public facility is that it (1) provides a public service; and (2) is difficult to site. See WAC 365-196-550(1)(f). Thus, there may be other uses that fall within the definition, even if they do not appear on this list.

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Can cities go out for a Maintenance & Operations (M&O) levy?
Reviewed: 12/16

Yes. There are a few options available to cities with regards to property tax levies:

  • 1 year M&O levy (also known as the excess levy). Here is a link to our Revenue guide and the section on excess levies for general government purposes. You will note that an excess levy can only be run for one (1) year and it requires at least a 60% approval from a voter turnout of 40% of the numbers of people voting in the last general election (or the equivalent of those number of yes votes in the event that you have less than 40% turnout from the last general election).
  • Banked capacity. Does the city have any banked capacity? If it’s unclear, the city should review the DOR’s tax levy detail report for levy year 2015 and discuss the issue with its county assessor.
  • Levy Lid lift. This is another option available to cities in the event that there is no banked capacity available. A levy lid lift requires a vote, but if the city has sufficient levy capacity available to meet the M&O needs the lid lift can be for multiple years rather than just one year like the excess levy. Here is a link to our topic page on levy lid lifts and the various options for the number of years that a levy lid lift may be imposed.

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Can time-limited parking be enforced in ADA parking stalls? We are enacting a three-hour time limit on parking in our downtown area and need to know if that limit may also be applied to ADA stalls.
Reviewed: 12/16

The minimum time limit for a person parking a car with a disability placard or license plate is four (4) hours, and that applies to all nonreserved, on-street parking spaces, whether they are ADA spaces or not. RCW 46.19.050(5).

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We are interested in creating a meal/refreshments policy for employees in local work-related meetings and training; do you have some good sample policies?
Reviewed: 11/16

Please see the following sample policies:

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When a public records request comes in for records related to a specific employee, must the agency notify the employee whose records have been requested of the request?
Reviewed: 11/16

There is no legal requirement under the PRA that an agency notify employees of such a request. However, RCW 42.56.540 gives agencies the option to provide what is referred to as "third party notice" to allow the third party (here, the employee) to seek a court injunction to block disclosure.

Providing third party notice may be advisable in circumstances where it's unclear whether a specific exemption applies because the PRA is to be construed in favor of disclosure, and an agency could be subject to mandatory penalties if a court finds that the agency improperly withheld non-exempt information. So, the purpose of third party notice is to give the third party (e.g., the employee) a chance to seek a court order preventing the disclosure, while reducing the likelihood that the agency will incur penalties under the PRA.

To provide third party notice, an agency would inform the PRA requestor in writing that it will provide the requested records, subject to appropriate redactions, if any, but will delay release of the records (and so inform the requestor) to give the affected parties the opportunity to seek court protection of possibly exempt information under RCW 42.56.540. See also WAC 44-14-040(4), part of the PRA model rules, which states:

Protecting rights of others. In the event that the requested records contain information that may affect rights of others and may be exempt from disclosure, the public records officer may, prior to providing the records, give notice to such others whose rights may be affected by the disclosure. Such notice should be given so as to make it possible for those other persons to contact the requestor and ask him or her to revise the request, or, if necessary, seek an order from a court to prevent or limit the disclosure. The notice to the affected persons will include a copy of the request.

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What are the public hearing requirements associated with raising a utility rate?
Reviewed: 11/16

Outside of your typical council procedures for adopting ordinances (which is how rate increases are typically established), there are no state law requirements for notice of, or public hearing or comments regarding, utility rate increases, with the exception of solid waste (detailed below). Although cities often hold public hearings and provide prior notice on utility rate increases, state law does not require published notice and a public hearing. Note that there is one exception to this general rule: RCW 35A.21.152 (also stated in RCW 35.21.157), which requires that the public be notified at least 45 days in advance of a proposed effective date of the rate increase for a solid waste utility, either by mail or by publication once a week for two consecutive weeks.

Although state law may not require it for most utilities, there may be political reasons for holding a public hearing before changing a utility rate.

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How often are cities required to adopt or approve their capital facilities plan?
Reviewed: 11/16

A capital facilities plan should be updated at least every two years. Under the Growth Management Act (GMA), the capital facilities element of the comprehensive plan must include “at least a six-year plan that will finance such capital facilities within projected funding capacities and clearly identifies sources of public money for such purposes.” RCW 36.70A.070(3)(d) As per WAC 365-196-415(2)(c)(ii):

The six-year plan should be updated at least biennially so financial planning remains sufficiently ahead of the present for concurrency to be evaluated. Such an update of the capital facilities element may be integrated with the county's or city's annual budget process for capital facilities.

RCW 35A.63.073 requires plan amendments to be processed the same way as adoption of the plan, and RCW 35A.63.070 requires the "planning agency" (typically a planning commission) to hold a public hearing (at least one) and RCW 35A.63.071 requires the planning agency to forward its recommendations on the plan or amendment to the city council. Generally, amendments to the comprehensive plan may only occur once per year. However, the GMA provides exceptions for the capital facilities plan when “amendment of the capital facilities element of a comprehensive plan . . . occurs concurrently with the adoption or amendment of a county or city budget.” RCW 36.70A.130(2)(a).

You may also find our Capital Facilities Planning topic page helpful as well.

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Do newspaper publishers or distributors have any legal rights to place newsracks or newspaper pay boxes in the public right-of-way? Can the city have them moved or at least placed on private property?
Reviewed: 10/16

The U.S. Supreme Court has held that the placement of newsracks (newspaper pay boxes) on sidewalks is “speech” subject to First Amendment protections. City of Cincinnati v. Discovery Network, Inc. , 507 U.S. 410 (1993); Lakewood v. Plain Dealer Publishing Co., 486 U.S. 750 (1988). But, the Supreme Court has not squarely addressed whether a complete prohibition on the placement of newsracks on city sidewalks would be constitutional. See International Caucus of Labor Comms. v.City of Montgomery , 111 F.3d 1548 (1997) (“there is no Supreme Court holding that deals with the constitutional implications of a complete ban of newsracks one way or the other.”). The Washington Supreme Court has also not addressed that question, though in one case it refers to the Cincinnati case as “invalidating city ordinance prohibiting newsracks on public property.” Nelson v. McClatchy Newspapers, Inc. , 131 Wn.2d 523, 537 n. 11 (1997). (The Cincinnati case invalidated a city ordinance that banned only those newsracks that contained certain commercial publications.) That being said, we think it would be constitutionally risky to adopt a complete prohibition on news racks on city sidewalks.

What is clear is that a city may impose reasonable time, place, and manner restrictions on the placement of newsracks on public sidewalks, as long as those restrictions are “content neutral” and are “narrowly tailored to serve a significant government interest, and leave open ample alternative channels of communication." Plain Dealer Publishing Co. v. City of Lakewood, 794 F. 2d 1139, 1143 (6th Cir. 1986), aff’d, 486 U.S. 750 (1988). The city may, for example require permits for news racks, as long as the permitting authority is guided by objective and definite standards. Licensing fees are permissible if they cover only administrative costs. For more information on permissible requirements, see the IMLA [International Municipal Lawyers Association] Model Newsrack Ordinance (1997), starting at page 11.

Here are some examples of city code provisions regulating newsracks on public sidewalks:

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Are local governments required to maintain specific reserve fund balance levels? Should a local government continue adding to its operating reserve if it has already met the requirement of the policy?
Reviewed: 10/16

This is always a good topic of conversation and the answer is almost always “it depends.” Financial policies are considered a best practice by the GFOA and at the top of the list of recommended financial management policies by the SAO.

There is no statutory requirement for fund balance levels, nor is there any specific reference within the SAO BARS manual that states that a municipality (whether it’s a county, city, or special purpose district) has to have a specific level of operating reserves (also known as “beginning” or “ending” fund balance). The 15% figure was a previous recommendation made by the GFOA for the general fund. This percentage has since been updated with the 2015 release of the GFOA best practice paper on Appropriate Level of Unrestricted Fund Balance in the General Fund. The recommendations made by the GFOA now speaks of several factors that would lead an entity to adopt a policy that addresses these factors in a way that is specific to them. An excerpt from the best practice paper states:

In establishing a policy governing the level of unrestricted fund balance in the general fund, a government should consider a variety of factors, including:

  1. The predictability of its revenues and the volatility of its expenditures (i.e., higher levels of unrestricted fund balance may be needed if significant revenue sources are subject to unpredictable fluctuations or if operating expenditures are highly volatile);
  2. Its perceived exposure to significant one-time outlays (e.g., disasters, immediate capital needs, state budget cuts);
  3. The potential drain upon general fund resources from other funds, as well as, the availability of resources in other funds;
  4. The potential impact on the entity’s bond ratings and the corresponding increased cost of borrowed funds;
  5. Commitments and assignments (i.e., governments may wish to maintain higher levels of unrestricted fund balance to compensate for any portion of unrestricted fund balance already committed or assigned by the government for a specific purpose). Governments may deem it appropriate to exclude from consideration resources that have been committed or assigned to some other purpose and focus on unassigned fund balance, rather than on unrestricted fund balance.

Depending upon the answer to the above questions, a local government may find that 15% is not adequate to meet their needs. Or to the contrary, a local government may determine that 15% of the operating budget would be more than sufficient.

You additionally asked whether a local government should continue to add to its operating reserve if it has already met the requirement of the policy. This question can only be answered by the policy adopted. You may want to consider expanding your current policy to define such things as “use and replenishment.” You will note that the GFOA best practice paper has a section that speaks to this issue.

Budget is a great time to review financial policies currently in place and to fine tune those policies to meet current fiscal needs.

Here is a link to our Financial/Budget Policies topic page, where you will find some excellent samples of what other jurisdictions are doing in this area of fiscal management. Additionally, here is a link to the SAO - FIT (Financial Intelligence Tool) that will assist in evaluating the financial condition of the county and provide you with fiscal data for your analysis of appropriate fund balance.

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Do you have any examples of city code updates to allow for small cell or distributed antenna systems (DAS)?
Reviewed: 10/16

We have several examples of code provisions adopted pursuant to the new FCC rules stemming from federal legislation requiring local governments to allow for small cell or distributed antenna systems:

A quick look at these examples seems to indicate that they’ve largely followed either the National League of Cities (NLC) and the National Association of Counties (NACo) model ordinance, or the Kenyon Disend PLLC law firm model ordinance.

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Can a city require fencing to limit access to an individual's medical cannabis grow?
Reviewed: 10/16

Cities can require that outdoor medical marijuana grows be fenced or screened in some way if that is necessary to keep the plants from being readily visible. Review RCW 69.51A.260(2), which reads as follows:

Neither the production nor processing of marijuana or marijuana-infused products pursuant to this section nor the storage or growing of plants may occur if any portion of such activity can be readily seen by normal unaided vision or readily smelled from a public place or the private property of another housing unit.

Most medical marijuana patients or designated providers have a natural incentive to screen plants from view so the plants do not become the targets of thieves.

In addition, WAC 314-55-410(1)(k) requires that outdoor medical marijuana production “be enclosed by a sight obscure wall or fence at least eight feet high.” Note, however, that WAC 314-55-410(1)(k) only applies to cooperatives, not to medical marijuana being grown by a sole medical marijuana patient or designated provider.

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Under RCW 70.48.100, are jail records held in confidence only while the person is actually confined in jail?
Reviewed: 10/16

The confidentiality requirements in RCW 70.48.100 regarding jail records apply to persons that were but are no longer confined in jail - in addition to those currently confined. In Cowles Publ'g Co. v. Spokane Police Dep't, 139 Wn.2d 472, 481 (1999); the state Supreme Court held:

Cowles' argument that the statute [RCW 70.48.100] does not apply because the defendant was not in jail at the time of the request is not persuasive. Nothing in the statute suggests that confidential jail records suddenly become open to public inspection when the jail term ends and the defendant is released.

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How many budget hearings are cities required to hold?
Reviewed: 09/16

We believe the number is no less than three. Our Budget Hearings: How Many Do You Need to Hold? blog post additionally speaks to these requirements. Here's a quick overview of the three required hearings:

  • The first public hearing that cities must hold is the revenue hearing (also known as the property tax levy setting). This hearing is required under RCW 84.55.120.
  • The second public hearing is required under RCW 35.33.057, which states that cities and towns must hold hearings on the budget, or its parts, prior to the final budget hearing.
  • RCW 35.33.071 then requires a final budget hearing to be held on or before the 1st Monday in December.

A city may desire to hold more public hearings then state law requires, or it may want to hold additional budget workshops. All of these meetings and hearings are certainly allowed. It's just important to have a minimum of three public hearings in order to meet the requirements under state law.

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Must a jurisdiction follow the procedures set forth in RCW 35.94.040 (including resolution, hearing, etc.) for disposal of surplus property that was used by a public utility if the property has no value?
Reviewed: 09/16

There are some items that have no or even negative value; that is, no one likely would buy it and it is costing the city space to hold on to it. Such property can likely be disposed of without sale. However, it will be important to make a record as to why the property has no value (and advise council of the facts). A policy establishing how a determination of no-value is made is advisable. In drafting such a policy, every jurisdiction will want to make sure constitutional issues (i.e., gift of public funds) are carefully considered and accounted for.

Below is some language from two city policies. These policies don't contain a lot of detail, but both allow for disposition of property with little or no value by more flexible means: If there is a determination that property has no value, then the council, under both sample policies below, may allow the administration to dispose of the equipment by disposal, donation, recycling, or some other method without specific council action.

We don't think that this analysis changes because the property was originally acquired for a public utility. RCW 35.94.040 sets out a procedure for passage of a resolution and a public hearing for property that is "to be leased, sold, or conveyed." Presumably, if an item is of no value and is simply being disposed of, it is not being "leased, sold, or conveyed."

Fife Municipal Code Sec. 1.28.075 (Emphasis added):

Personal property - Method of disposition.

A. If the estimated value of the surplus property is $10,000 or less, the city manager may dispose of the property by informal procedures in any manner deemed to be in the city's best interests.

B. If the surplus property has an estimated value greater than $10,000, it may be disposed of in one of the following methods:

  1. Public auction;
  2. Solicitation of written bids;
  3. Negotiated sale to one or more designated buyers;
  4. Transfer to another agency of government; or
  5. Trade-in upon the purchase of a like article. . . .

Poulsbo Municipal Code Sec. 3.68.020 (Emphasis added):

H. Methods of Disposition. If the surplus property is not required by any department of the city, the finance director may utilize one of the following methods of disposition:

  1. Public auction;
  2. Solicitation of written bids;
  3. Negotiated sale to one or more designated buyers;
  4. Transfer to another agency of government at or below reasonable market value;
  5. Donation to a charitable or nonprofit organization.

If after attempting to dispose of the property under one or more of the preceding methods, if the finance director in his or her discretion determines that due to damage, deterioration or obsolescence the property no longer has a market value or such market value is exceeded by the cost of repair, the finance director may authorize disposition of the property through nontraditional methods of sale including a city-wide garage sale. If the continued cost of storage or the need of the city for existing space makes the continued storage of valueless items impracticable, the finance director is authorized to direct the salvaging of any recyclable material and the disposition of the remainder as refuse through appropriate methods of waste disposal. Nothing herein shall be interpreted to authorize the gifting of any item of value to a city employee or other private person.

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If a councilmember willfully discloses confidential information, do the remedies in RCW 42.20.080 and .100 apply, such that such disclosure could be a gross misdemeanor?
Reviewed: 09/16

RCW 42.20.080 (which relates to willfully disobeying any provision of law regulating official conduct "other than those specified in said section" and which refers to "every officer"), and RCW 42.20.100 (which more generally applies to duties enjoined by law on "any public officer or other person holding any public trust or employment"), can, in our opinion, be applicable to a situation involving disclosure of confidential information by a local government official, including a city councilmember who willfully and unlawfully discloses confidential information gained through an executive session. RCW 42.20.080 provides that a violation of that provision is a gross misdemeanor, and RCW 42.20.100 provides for a misdemeanor penalty.

In the context of executive sessions and violations of confidentiality, RCW 42.23.070(4) ("No municipal officer may disclose confidential information gained by reason of the officer's position . . .") may also apply to such situations; the penalties for violation of that statute are set out in RCW 42.23.050. Note that RCW 42.23.050 explicitly provides that its penalties are "[i]n addition to all other penalties, civil or criminal."

We reviewed several cases and attorney general opinions related to the applicability of the provisions of chapter 42.20 RCW to local governments, and there are several examples of court decisions and attorney general opinions indicating that RCW 42.20.100 and other provisions in that chapter apply to local governments. See, e.g., In re Recall of Washam, 171 Wn.2d 503 (2011) (county assessor and RCW 42.20.080); State v. Twitchell, 61 Wn.2d 403 (1963) (county sheriff and RCW 42.20.100); State v. Torgeson, 19 Wn. App. 17 (1978) (county commissioner and RCW 42.20.100); AGO 1963 No. 63 (port commissioner and RCW 42.20.080), RCW 42.23.030, and RCW 42.23.050 - "If a contract is executed in violation of RCW 42.23.030, the contract is void and the penalty upon the public officer in question is prescribed in RCW 42.23.050 and 42.20.080.").

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If a position has a salary range from $43,400-$56,600, can the local government maintain the position as FLSA-exempt under the newly-revised DOL regulations that change the salary test for exempt employees?
Reviewed: 09/16

The new Department of Labor (DOL) rule, effective on December 1, 2016, raises the salary threshold to qualify to be exempt from FLSA overtime requirements to $47,476 annually, no matter the duties the employee performs. So, whether an employee paid in the salary range of $43,400-$56,600 is exempt depends on where exactly within that salary range they are paid. At a minimum they must be paid more than $47,476 to be FLSA-exempt. If the salary of an employee in that position reaches $47,476, they could then be exempt, if they meet the duties test.

For more information on this new rule, see the MRSC blog posts, New Overtime Rule Issued for White Collar Workers and New FLSA Regulations Proposed Regarding Who is Subject to Overtime.

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Request for sample council rules of procedure that help to maintain and support effective  discussion and debate during council meeting without wasting valuable time on personal or off topic-issues.
Reviewed: 09/16

You've described one of the those sensitive situations where style can get in the way of working together even when the parties involved may not be that far apart on the substance of the discussion. During the course of the meeting, it is the presiding officer's responsibility to keep the discussion on track, but it can sometimes be difficult without hurting feelings or getting the procedural process wrapped up in the issue.

Often it is best to discuss ways to improve the flow of meetings in a less formal setting, such as during a retreat or workshop, when there is not an actual issue before the legislative body. If the legislative body has not adopted rules of procedure, consider doing so in a setting that will allow members to talk about how to make meetings more productive, when the pressure to finish a meeting agenda is off.

The MRSC web site has a page devoted to Council/Board of Commissioners Rules of Procedure. It includes examples from various jurisdictions of rules of procedure governing how the members of the legislative body work together. Here are three sample rules of procedure that illustrate different approaches:

This MRSC Insight blog post by Ann MacFarlane may also be helpful: 4 Bad Habits to Avoid at Council Meetings. Ann is a specialist in parliamentary procedure and has written several articles for our blog that may offer more helpful tips.

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Does the LTAC need a quorum to vote and make recommendations?
Reviewed: 08/16

Yes, the LTAC needs a quorum before it can take any action, including voting and making recommendations. This conclusion is based on the general rule that any such public "governing body" needs a quorum to take action. See RCW 42.30.020(3) (“Final action” means “a collective positive or negative decision, or an actual vote by a majority of the members of a governing body when sitting as a body or entity, upon a motion, proposal, resolution, order, or ordinance." [Emphasis added]).

So, if you have two members who are often absent, three of the five members may make lodging tax recommendations on behalf of the LTAC. As an option with respect to absent members, the LTAC could authorize participation by absent members in LTAC meetings by speakerphone, Skype, or similar technology, as long as there is two-way communication regarding members participating remotely and those LTAC members who are physically present at the meeting.

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What must applicants for funding from the lodging tax include in their applications to the LTAC?
Reviewed: 08/16

In accordance with RCW 67.28.1816(2), applicants for lodging tax funding must submit their applications to the LTAC in cities, towns, or counties with more than 5,000 in population. The application must include the following information:

Estimates of how any moneys received will result in increases in the number of people traveling for business or pleasure on a trip:
(i) Away from their place of residence or business and staying overnight in paid accommodations;
(ii) To a place fifty miles or more one way from their place of residence or business for the day or staying overnight; or
(iii) From another country or state outside of their place of residence or their business.

The LTAC then reviews the applications, selects the candidates for funding from the applicants, and provides a list of the candidates and recommended amounts of funding to the legislative body of the city, town, or county. Based on RCW 67.28.1817(2), there must be a 45-day time period between submission of the application to the LTAC and when the city, town, or county legislative body can take final action on or passage of the proposal.

A post-event report must also be submitted by those awarded funding evaluating the actual benefits from the estimated benefits in the application.

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Does a project have to be included in the transportation plan element of a city, town, or county's comprehensive plan in order to be funded by a transportation benefit district (TBD)?
Reviewed: 08/16

Not necessarily. To be paid for with TBD funds, a project within the district must be contained in the transportation plan of the state, a regional transportation planning organization, or a city, county, port district, county transportation authority, or public transportation benefit area.

Under RCW 36.73.020(1), a TBD may only be established (emphasis added):

for the purpose of acquiring, constructing, improving, providing, and funding a transportation improvement within the district that is consistent with any existing state, regional, or local transportation plans . . .

And RCW 36.73.015(6) similarly defines "transportation improvement" to mean:

A project contained in the transportation plan of the state, a regional transportation planning organization, city, county, or eligible jurisdiction as identified in RCW 36.73.020(2) [i.e. port district, county transportation authority, and public transportation benefit area].

One such "transportation plan" would be the transportation plan element of a city, town, or county's comprehensive plan, given its predominance as the jurisdiction's "blueprint" for future transportation planning.

This analysis is the same even for a jurisdiction that has assumed its transportation benefit district pursuant to chapter 36.74 RCW.

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