On this Friday, March 3rd, I went to Olympia, with my classmates Feifei Deng and Sharon Gao, to visit the Washington State Capitol and had a meeting with Cindy Chen, the assistance to District 43 representative Frank Chopp, to talk about the House Bill 1797, Concerning encouraging affordable housing development and preservation by providing cities limited sales tax remittance for qualifying investments, providing cities and counties authority to use real estate excise taxes to support affordable housing, and providing cities and counties with councilmanic authority to impose the affordable housing sales tax.
We arrived around 7:30 AM, and tried to find the right room to attend the public hearing of the day. After inquiring the gate guard and the consultant at the building, we finally got the right place which is the Hearing Room A on the first floor of John L. O’Brien Building. One thing I noticed about the staff of the WA State Capitol is that they are all extremely nice and warmhearted to help us and solve our problems. We were totally unfamiliar with the processes of this hearing and we did some research before the hearing began. There were 5 bills in total were to be discussed including one I have particular interest in which is the HB 1797.
HB 1797 would allow a city that acquires or builds affordable housing to receive a one-time remittance from the department of revenue that is the equivalent of 4.37 percent of the sales or use tax on the construction or purchase of such affordable housing. The bill would require the residential units for which the city’s remittance application was approved to remain affordable housing for at least twenty-five years after the date of the application approval.
In the discussion of HB 1797, Representative Larry Springer stated that this is one of serious bills to address housing affordability, and this bill gives local jurisdiction more flexibility in terms of using it in some cases the tax revenue they already have as well as providing them with some additional tax revenue in the form of additional percent. It excises tax and uses some portion of the state sale tax for certain qualifying affordable housing projects. It’s part of attempt to recognizing we do have a serious housing affordability crisis and he recommended a yes vote.
Representative J.T. Wilcox claimed that he will be supporting the bill in part of the recognition that there is a great deal of flexibility in this bill and he thinks this should be rewarded, and he wants this to go further and have a chance to be perfected further.
The Chief Representative Kristine Lytton said she is also going to be supporting this one since there are many counties across the state are struggling with affordable housing outside the king county and she thinks they need a further discussion on the bill.
Finally, this substitute house bill 1797 is reported out of the committee with further do-pass recommendation with 9 ayes, 4 nays and 0 excuses.
After that, we still had plenty of time of the day and we went to the Capitol Building to attend the Caucus debate, during the break, I successfully made a meeting with Cindy Chen (Assistant to Rep. Frank Chopp, D-43) and talked to her about her opinion on HB 1797, she said Representative Frank Chopp and herself are strongly supporting this bill since it will stimulate city government to approve more affordable housing projects. She also reconfirmed that HB 1361, one bill I am also concerning about, aiming to removing the license of certain occupations including landscape architects, did not pass out of the House Business and Financial Services committee in time for the policy cutoff. It is highly unlikely that it will move any farther in the legislative process this year. The conversation didn’t last long, but she really appreciated my concerns about these house bills. After talking to her, I returned to the gallery on the 4th floor and witnessed part of the caucus debate of the day which is HB 1060 concerning the administration of marijuana to students for medical purposes.
I have to say, this visit is overall very meaningful and inspiring, this is my first time to attend a public hearing in State legislation and I have witnessed a caucus debate in TV show before but never in my real life. This visit helps me understand the procedures of how a bill becomes law and get to know the representative’s attitude toward certain bills I am concerning about.