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Posts by Bob Meinig

2016 Legislature Adds to the Monetary Penalty for an OPMA Violation

2016 Legislature Adds to the Monetary Penalty for an OPMA Violation

May 11, 2016 by Bob Meinig
Category: Open Public Meetings Act

A violation of the Open Public Meetings Act (OPMA) can result in a number of consequences, one of which is a monetary penalty for each member of a governing body who attends a meeting knowing that it is being held in violation of the OPMA. Responding, in part, to concerns that Washington State lags behind many other states regarding penalty amounts for open meetings law violations, that the amount of this penalty hasn’t changed in over 40 years, and that an increased personal penalty on officials would more effectively deter OPMA violations, the Legislature increased the existing $100 civil penalty, effective June 9, 2016, to $500 for a first violation and $1,000 for each successive violation. Note, too, that there are other consequences resulting from an OPMA violation.

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Supreme Court Lets Stand King County Metro Bus Ad Rejection

Supreme Court Lets Stand King County Metro Bus Ad Rejection

March 11, 2016 by Bob Meinig
Category: Court Decisions and AGO Opinions


You may have seen the news that, on March 7, 2016, the US Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal of a Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals decision, AFDI v. King County, refusing to enjoin King County Metro’s 2013 rejection of an ad, titled “Faces of Global Terrorism,” for display on its buses. Metro had concluded that the ad failed to meet its advertising guidelines, and the plaintiff American Freedom Defense Initiative (AFDI) sought to overturn Metro’s decision on free speech grounds. This action by the Court will likely be significant for local governments as they consider the extent to which they can enact and enforce similar restrictions.

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Municipalities Now Responsible for Addressing View-Obstructing Roadside Vegetation

Municipalities Now Responsible for Addressing View-Obstructing Roadside Vegetation

February 4, 2016 by Bob Meinig
Category: Streets and Sidewalks

In a short, unanimous opinion issued last week, the Washington Supreme Court concluded that a municipality – a city or county – can be held liable for hazardous conditions on its roads created by naturally occurring roadside vegetation.

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Deadline Looms for Posting Disclosure Requirements and Ordinances!

Deadline Looms for Posting Disclosure Requirements and Ordinances!

December 16, 2015 by Bob Meinig
Category:

As was emphasized in our 9/25/2015 blog post, New Property Disclosure Requirements Will Impact Some Cities and Counties, cities and counties that impose requirements on landlords or sellers of real property to provide information to a buyer or tenant “pertainin...

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State Supreme Court Says Advisory Committees Are Not Subject to the OPMA

State Supreme Court Says Advisory Committees Are Not Subject to the OPMA

October 6, 2015 by Bob Meinig
Category: Open Public Meetings Act

The Washington State Supreme Court last week, in Citizens Alliance v. San Juan County, finally confronted head-on the Open Public Meetings Act (OPMA) issue of when a committee of a governing body “acts on behalf of” the governing body so as to have to comply with the OPMA. It did so by adopting, in a 6-3 decision, the reasoning of a 1986 attorney general opinion, concluding, among other things, that the OPMA does not apply to purely advisory committees of a governing body. The court’s opinion also touches on related OPMA issues that merit attention.

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Utility Latecomer Agreements – Legislature Gives Municipalities an Alternative

Utility Latecomer Agreements – Legislature Gives Municipalities an Alternative

July 8, 2015 by Bob Meinig
Category: Finance

The 2015 Legislature enacted legislation (SSB 5795) providing municipalities (defined for this purpose as cities, towns, counties, and drainage districts) the authority to initiate an assessment reimbursement area to finance all the costs of a water or sewer improvement and to become the sole beneficiary of the reimbursements.

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New Legislation Subjects City Assumption of Water-Sewer District to Possible Referendum

New Legislation Subjects City Assumption of Water-Sewer District to Possible Referendum

June 16, 2015 by Bob Meinig
Category: Water-Sewer Districts

Under chapter 35.13A RCW, a city council may, by resolution or ordinance, assume jurisdiction of (basically, take over) all or part of a water-sewer district, with the extent of that assumption of jurisdiction based on how much of the area or assessed value of the district lies within the city.

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State Supreme Court Says Cities Can Ban Collective Gardens, but the Legislature is Replacing Them with Medical Marijuana Cooperatives

State Supreme Court Says Cities Can Ban Collective Gardens, but the Legislature is Replacing Them with Medical Marijuana Cooperatives

May 21, 2015 by Bob Meinig
Category: Marijuana

The Washington State Supreme Court today issued a decision (Cannabis Action Coalition v. City of Kent) upholding the constitutionality of the city of Kent’s ordinance banning collective gardens as a valid exercise of the city’s zoning authority. But, in a related development, the Washington State Legislature . . .

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New Legislation Provides Some Flexibility for County Legislative Bodies as to Meeting Locations

New Legislation Provides Some Flexibility for County Legislative Bodies as to Meeting Locations

May 7, 2015 by Bob Meinig
Category: Legislative Body


In one bill, the 2015 Legislature addressed the issue considered in a 2014 attorney general opinion that was discussed in a December 2014 MRSC blog post, May a County Legislative Body Meet Outside its County to Hold a Joint Meeting with the Legislative Body of Another County? That attorney general opinion, AGO 2014 No. 7, concluded that, absent specific statutory authority, the legislative authority of one county may not meet outside its borders with the legislative authority of another county. HB 1145 (Ch. 74, Laws of 2015) amends state law to provide that specific statutory authority when the legislative bodies want to address matters of mutual interest.

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Ongoing Public Employer Investigations of Alleged Employee Misconduct: PRA Issues

Ongoing Public Employer Investigations of Alleged Employee Misconduct: PRA Issues

April 8, 2015 by Bob Meinig
Category: Public Records Act

The Washington State Supreme Court issued an interesting decision last week addressing, primarily, whether the names of public employees that are the subject of ongoing investigations of unidentified, alleged misconduct are exempt from disclosure under the Public Records Act (PRA).

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What are “Land Use Control Ordinances” for Purposes of Subdivision Application Vesting?

What are “Land Use Control Ordinances” for Purposes of Subdivision Application Vesting?

February 11, 2015 by Bob Meinig
Category: Subdivisions and Planned Developments , Vested Rights

Photo courtesy of Ann Walsh.

Note: In December 2016, the Washington Supreme Court issued a significant decision interpreting the statutory vested rights doctrine and further clarifying the term “land use control ordinance” in the vesting statutes. For more information, see Read more


Indigent Defense Standards – Misdemeanor Caseload Limits Take Effect Soon

November 21, 2014 by Bob Meinig
Category: Courts, Criminal Justice and Corrections

On January 1, 2015, the misdemeanor caseload limits for public defense attorneys adopted by the Washington State Supreme Court in the new Standards for Indigent Defense take effect. The court had in 2013 delayed the implementation of the caseload limits until that date, to provide time for...
 

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Second Superior Court Ruling Upholds City Pot Ban, and Other Pot News

Second Superior Court Ruling Upholds City Pot Ban, and Other Pot News

October 22, 2014 by Bob Meinig
Category: Court Decisions and AGO Opinions , Marijuana

A Chelan County Superior Court judge issued a ruling last week that upheld the City of Wenatchee’s moratorium on the issuance of permits for the production and sale of marijuana and its business licensing provision, as applied to marijuana businesses, that licenses may not be issued for activities that are unlawful under federal law. This ruling follows on the heels of a similar ruling in August..

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De-Annexation of Property from a City – How Does That Happen?

September 12, 2014 by Bob Meinig
Category: Annexation

Every once in a while we get asked how property may be “de-annexed” – removed from city boundaries. Whenever I’m asked this question, I say in my response that it rarely occurs. It’s a lot easier in Washington State for property to get annexed to a city than it is for the opposite to occur. This blog discusses why that is the case.
The main reason it’s rare for property to be de-annexed...

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Court Decision Clarifies Vested Rights Doctrine as Entirely Statutory

August 27, 2014 by Bob Meinig
Category: Vested Rights

In Potala Village Kirkland, LLC v. City of Kirkland (August 25, 2014), Division I of the state court of appeals issued a significant decision regarding the vested rights doctrine. The court held that the doctrine is entirely statutory, with the statutory doctrine replacing, rather than supplementing, the common law (court-made) vested rights doctrine. In the first sentence of its...

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Update (Correction) on New Laws that Affect City/Town Annexations

June 26, 2014 by Bob Meinig
Category: Annexation

In my June 10 blog post, New Laws that Affect City/Town Annexations, I discussed the implications of 2013 legislation, SSB 5444, which amended RCW 84.40.175 to eliminate the requirement that county assessors annually value tax-exempt government-owned properties. I interpreted the practical result of this legislation as being that government-owned property will no longer count towards the 100...

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New Laws that Affect City/Town Annexations

June 10, 2014 by Bob Meinig
Category: Annexation

Washington cities and towns should be aware of the one law affecting annexation of territory that was enacted by the 2014 Legislature and that will be effective on June 12, as well as one enacted by the 2013 Legislature that may have escaped notice.  The former has to do with the notice of an annexation, and the latter has to do with the valuation of publicly-owned property.
The 2014...

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Important New Court Decision on a City's Utility Tax Authority

May 20, 2014 by Bob Meinig
Category: Revenues

In a decision issued today (5/20/2014), Division III of the state court of appeals decided that a code city has the legal authority to impose its utility tax on the revenues of a public utility district's provision of water service to customers within the city limits, except to the extent that the district's revenues "were derived from governmental activities." The court's decision in

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SEPA Rule Changes Take Effect on May 2014!

May 7, 2014 by Bob Meinig
Category: Environmental Policy

The Department of Ecology (DOE) has finalized new State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) rules that update existing rules, and these new rules take effect on May 10. The 2012 Legislature tasked DOE with the responsibility of amending the SEPA rules in chapter 197-11 WAC to implement the parts of SEPA legislation enacted during the 2012 session that address issues such as increasing categorical...

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Explaining the Open Government Trainings Act

April 16, 2014 by Bob Meinig
Category: Open Public Meetings Act , Public Records Act

Recognizing that, “whether due to error or ignorance, violations of the public records act and open public meetings act are very costly for state and local governments,” the Legislature enacted and the Governor signed ESB 5964 (Laws of 2014, ch. 66), named the “Open Government Trainings Act.” This new law, effective on July 1, 2014, mandates that persons filling certain state and local...

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Can Local Governments Pass on Credit Card Fees to Customers?

Can Local Governments Pass on Credit Card Fees to Customers?

March 19, 2014 by Bob Meinig
Category:

As a result of a 2013 settlement agreement in a federal district court anti-trust case in New York State, yes, they can. However, that settlement was reversed and remanded in 2016 and is pending further litigation.

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What is the Nature of a Public Right-of-Way?

January 2, 2014 by Bob Meinig
Category: Streets and Sidewalks

I often come across misconceptions that local government officials have regarding the nature of a city or county right-of-way – the improved part termed a “street” if located in a city and a “road” if located in the unincorporated county. These misconceptions center on the issue of ownership.

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Court Rules Cities' Public Defense Systems Constitutionally Inadequate

December 5, 2013 by Bob Meinig
Category: Courts, Criminal Justice and Corrections

A federal district court judge ruled on December 4th that the public defense systems provided by the cities of Burlington and Mount Vernon violated the U.S. Constitution's Sixth Amendment guarantee of effective assistance of legal counsel to indigent persons charged with crimes.

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Changes to Two Annexation Methods Enacted by 2013 Legislature

July 10, 2013 by Bob Meinig
Category: Annexation

The 2013 Legislature has in two separate bills enacted changes to the "unincorporated island" method of annexation, though only as it applies to code cities, and has in one of those bills also enacted changes to the interlocal agreement method of annexation of areas served by a fire district, as it applies to all cities. I'd like to explain what these changes, which are effective on July 28,...

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Cities and Towns: Don't Forget to Notify Your County When You Annex Territory

June 19, 2013 by Bob Meinig
Category: Annexation

It's come to my attention that cities and towns sometimes do not notify their county (as well as fire and library districts, where applicable) when they annex territory. Notification to the county treasurer and assessor is required by state law, and lack of notification will prevent some property tax revenues collected from annexed territories from reaching their annexing cities and towns.

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The Deadline for Filing for Final Plat Approval and the Vesting Period for Final Plats – the Rules Change Once Again

June 6, 2013 by Bob Meinig
Category: Subdivisions and Planned Developments

The 2013 legislature extended the time period for filing a final plat up to 10 years from the date of preliminary plat approval, depending on when the preliminary plat was approved and whether the plat is subject to the Shoreline Management Act.

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Caseload Limits for Indigent Defense Standards Delayed Until January 1, 2015

April 10, 2013 by Bob Meinig
Category: Courts, Criminal Justice and Corrections

As part of the new Standards for Indigent Defense, caseload limits were to take effect on September 1, 2013, while the rest of the standards took effect on October 1, 2012. However, the state supreme court has now delayed the implementation of caseload limits until January 1, 2015, to provide time for the Washington State Office of Public Defense to conduct a "statewide attorney time study" and...

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Are Donations to Local Governments Tax Deductible?

Are Donations to Local Governments Tax Deductible?

March 27, 2013 by Bob Meinig
Category: Revenues

Local governments may accept donations, but are those donations deductible from the donor’s federal income taxes? In most cases, yes.
A gift to a local government entity is tax deductible if it is solely for “public purposes." The...

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New SEPA Regulations Implement 2012 Legislation

February 6, 2013 by Bob Meinig
Category: Environmental Policy

In my blog post of July 18, 2012, I discussed the 2012 amendments to the State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) that directly affect local governments, and I noted that “[t]he amendments concerning increasing categorical exemptions for certain minor construction projects and authorizing flexibility in the SEPA checklist require rulemaking by DOE for full implementation.” The Department of...

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What Can You Do at a Special Meeting?

January 3, 2013 by Bob Meinig
Category: Open Public Meetings Act

Special meetings of local governing bodies are called for a specific reason - to do what is stated in the notice of the special meeting.  But can a governing body, say a city council or board of county commissioners, do anything else at a special meeting?

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State Supreme Court Issues Ruling on Municipal Debt

November 1, 2012 by Bob Meinig
Category: Debt

On October 25, the state supreme court issued a plurality decision in In re Bond Issuance of Greater Wenatchee Reg'l Events Ctr., holding that city of Wenatchee would exceed its debt limit if, without voter approval, it entered into a "contingent loan agreement" (CLA) with the Greater Wenatchee Regional Events Center...

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Removal of a City Councilmember for Three Consecutive Unexcused Absences

October 10, 2012 by Bob Meinig
Category: Administrative and Elected Officials

You don’t hear about this very often, but it happened last month in Lynnwood when a councilmember was removed from office by a vote of the city council because she had missed three consecutive regular council meetings without being excused for those absences by the council. (She also missed a lot of other meetings.) Removal of a city councilmember from office for this reason is specifically...

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Utility Billing and Termination in the Landlord/Tenant Context

August 29, 2012 by Bob Meinig
Category: Utilities - Billing and Collection

MRSC frequently receives questions regarding the responsibilities of city utilities, particularly water, where the utility service is provided to a tenant. Here are some general considerations and some specific requirements that apply in this context that a city utility should be aware of to ensure compliance with state law and to respect the rights of both landlord and tenant:

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Changes to SEPA Effective on July 10, 2012

July 18, 2012 by Bob Meinig
Category: Environmental Policy

This year, the legislature passed amendments to the State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) that directly affect local governments.  In Part Three of 2ESSB 6406 (Laws of 2012, 1st Spec. Sess., ch. 1), the legislature enacted a number of changes to SEPA that are designed to make this environmental law work better for cities, counties, and project applicants by coordinating it more effectively with...

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Can a Majority of the Members of a Governing Body Call a Special Meeting Without Violating the OPMA in Doing So?

June 5, 2012 by Bob Meinig
Category: Open Public Meetings Act

Good question!  RCW 42.30.080, which deals with special meetings, starts out by stating that "A special meeting may be called at any time by the presiding officer of the governing body of a public agency or by a majority of the members of the governing body . . . ." Obviously, while in a regular or special meeting, a governing body may decide to hold a special meeting in the future - no Open...

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Public Records Disputes – Co-Mediate Instead of Litigate

May 3, 2012 by Bob Meinig
Category: Open Public Meetings Act

You’d think that many Public Records Act (PRA) cases could be resolved quickly and inexpensively through mediation instead of through litigation.  But it's virtually impossible to find a mediator who knows the PRA and who would be trusted by both sides - the public agency and the records requestor - in a PRA dispute.
Enter Ramsey Ramerman and Greg Overstreet.  They have formed a...

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