S-2630.1  _______________________________________________


                    SUBSTITUTE SENATE BILL 6172



State of Washington      57th Legislature     2001 Regular Session


By Senate Committee on Transportation (originally sponsored by Senators Patterson, Horn, Haugen, Finkbeiner, Costa, McDonald, Prentice, Constantine, Kohl‑Welles, Eide, McAuliffe, Fairley and Jacobsen)



Authorizing creation of regional congestion relief districts.

    AN ACT Relating to regional transportation governance; amending RCW 84.52.043; and adding a new chapter to Title 36 RCW.




    NEW SECTION.  Sec. 1.  The definitions in this section apply throughout this chapter unless the context clearly requires otherwise.

    (1) "Regional congestion relief district" or "district" means a quasi-municipal corporation created pursuant to this chapter.

    (2) "Transportation projects" or "projects" means major capital facility improvements of such significant impact to the district that without regionally raised new revenue, coupled with state funds, the improvements could not be accomplished.

    (3) "Funding qualification" means designation as congestion relief projects by the district and inclusion in the transportation plan of the state, a regional transportation planning organization, or a metropolitan planning organization whose primary goal is to relieve congestion.

    (4) "Project sponsor" means the state department of transportation.

    (5) "District formation committee" or "committee" means the body responsible for drafting the plan which is submitted to the voters for approval and includes a person appointed by the governor and the county executive, or chair of the county commissioners of each county included in a proposed district.

    (6) "Directors" means individuals appointed by the governor to direct district affairs; however, the secretary of the department of transportation and the chair or vice-chair of the metropolitan planning organization of the region, or his or her designees, shall be ex officio, nonvoting, noncompensated directors of districts created pursuant to this chapter.

    (7) "Congestion relief plan" or "plan" means a document which sets forth projects which meet funding qualification requirements and which makes provision for financing such projects, including proposed taxes.


    NEW SECTION.  Sec. 2.  The legislature finds that:

    (1) The capacity of many of Washington state's transportation facilities have failed to keep up with the state's growth, particularly in major urban regions;

    (2) The state cannot by itself fund, in a timely way, many of the major capacity and other improvements required on state and interstate highways in urban regions;

    (3) Providing a comprehensive multimodal transportation system which provides efficient mobility choices for persons and freight requires a partnership between the state, local, and regional governments, and the private sector; and

    (4) Timely construction and development of congestion relief projects can best be achieved by establishing regional congestion relief districts.


    NEW SECTION.  Sec. 3.  A county executive or chair of a county commission, except those counties identified in section 4 of this act, may convene a committee to form a district by providing written notice to eligible members of the district formation committee, the governor, and the chairs of the transportation committees in the senate and house of representatives.  If the members agree to activate the committee, it shall have the following duties and powers:

    (1) To set the boundaries of the proposed district which reasonably incorporate areas benefited by the projects proposed in the plan;

    (2) To appoint such advisors and conduct such public meetings as needed to assure active public participation in the development of the plan;

    (3) To adopt a plan which shall include projects that meet funding qualifications and provide for the financing for those projects;

    (4) To forward the proposed plan to the cities within the district.  Sixty percent of the cities within the district representing a minimum of seventy-five percent of the cities' and towns' population, by action of the cities' and towns' legislative authorities, must respond within sixty days of receiving it.  The cities shall not alter the plan; they may approve or disapprove the plan as submitted to them;

    (5) To submit to the governor, at the time a plan is certified to the ballot, the names of three nominees for each director position set forth in the plan;

    (6) To submit a plan to a general election ballot for approval or rejection of the voters.  If the board submits a plan to a general election, it shall draft a ballot title, give notice as required by law for ballot measures, and perform such other duties as may be required to put the plan before the voters of the proposed district.


    NEW SECTION.  Sec. 4.  If the voters approve the plan and taxes, the district shall be declared formed.  The county election official of a county, or if the district is composed of more than a single county, county election officials jointly, shall, within fifteen days of the final certification of the election results, publish a notice in a newspaper or newspapers of general circulation in the district declaring the district formed, and shall mail copies of the notice to the governor, secretary of transportation, members of the committee, and to the treasurer of the county or, if the district is multicounty, the treasurer of the largest county who shall thereafter serve as the treasurer of the district.  Any party challenging the formation of a voter-approved district must file his or her challenge in writing by serving the prosecuting attorneys of each county within the district and the attorney general within thirty days after the final certification of the election.  Failure to challenge within the time provided shall forever bar further challenge of the district's valid formation.


    NEW SECTION.  Sec. 5.  Each district shall have three directors to manage its affairs.  Directors shall be appointed by the governor from a list of nominees provided by the district formation committee.  The initial nominees list shall be submitted to the governor not less than twenty days after the district is declared formed.  Thereafter, the district formation committee shall convene at the call of the county executive or chair of the county commission of the county or, if a multicounty district, by the chair or executive of the largest county, to provide the governor with additional nominees to fill vacant positions.  The governor shall, in making initial appointments, number the positions and stagger the terms of the positions so that approximately one-third of the member's terms shall expire each year.  Except for initial terms, or to fill a vacancy where the term has not expired, appointments shall be for three-year terms.


    NEW SECTION.  Sec. 6.  Directors shall be residents and registered voters within the districts and shall be free of conflicts with project sponsors.  Directors may, by resolution, set a meeting fee of not more than one hundred fifty dollars per official meeting, but total compensation may not exceed five thousand dollars in any calendar year.  Directors may be reimbursed for reasonable and necessary expenses when traveling on authorized district business outside the district's boundaries.


    NEW SECTION.  Sec. 7.  The directors constitute the governing board of the district and are responsible for the execution of the voter-approved plan.  The board shall:

    (1) Adopt bylaws to govern its affairs which may include:

    (a) The time and place of its regular meetings;

    (b) Rules for calling special meetings;

    (c) The method of keeping records of its proceedings and official acts;

    (d) Titles of district officers and terms and method of election;

    (e) The requirements for hiring employees and consultants;

    (f) Procedures for the safekeeping and disbursement of funds; and

    (g) Any other provisions the directors find necessary to include in the district bylaws;

    (2) Provide for the levying and collection of taxes authorized by the voters;

    (3) Request from time to time, that a new committee with membership as provided for the district formation committees, to place on a ballot for voter approval a new or revised plan with additional projects and taxes;

    (4) Hire such employees, professional service providers, or contractors as may be required for district purposes.  However, it is the legislature's intent that projects be contracted with the project sponsor;

    (5) Enter into agreements with state, local and regional agencies, and departments as necessary to accomplish district purposes and protect the district's investment in projects;

    (6) Accept gifts, grants, or other contributions of funds which will support the purposes and programs of the district;

    (7) Monitor and audit the progress and execution of projects to protect the investment of the public and make public its findings; and

    (8) Exercise such other powers and duties as may be reasonable related to carrying out the mission of the district.


    NEW SECTION.  Sec. 8.  The district shall accomplish its purposes by entering into agreements with the project sponsor as to who will acquire, construct, or develop projects approved by the voters.  The district shall negotiate reasonable terms and conditions to assist project sponsors in funding projects.  The overall plan of the district must leverage the district's financial contributions so that project sponsors and other revenue sources continue to fund major congestion relief and transportation capacity improvement projects in the district.  The plan submitted to the voters shall provide funding estimates for each priority project.  The plan may also list additional projects that may be funded if the district has a surplus because a priority project is abandoned or curtailed by the project sponsor, or surplus revenues become available for any other reason.  Plans submitted to the voters must provide that ninety-five percent of all funds raised will fund projects in the plan including environmental improvements and mitigation.  Not more than five percent of funds authorized by the plan may be used for the administrative costs of the district.


    NEW SECTION.  Sec. 9.  (1) The district's plan may recommend within its geographic boundaries the imposition of some or all of the following revenue sources:

    (a) A regional sales and use tax as a percent of the selling price, in the case of a sales tax, or value of the article used, in the case of a use tax.  The tax authorized under this section is in addition to the tax authorized by RCW 82.14.030 and must be collected from those persons who are taxable by the state under chapters 82.08 and 82.12 RCW upon the occurrence of a taxable event within the taxing district;

    (b) A vehicle license fee of up to seventy-five dollars for each vehicle registered in the district, except commercial vehicles as defined in RCW 46.04.140, per year on motor vehicles and trailers or trailing units.  The department of licensing shall administer and collect this fee on behalf of a district and remit this fee to the custody of the county treasurer, who shall distribute it as directed by a district;

    (c) A commercial vehicle fee of up to one hundred fifty dollars for each commercial vehicle as defined in RCW 46.04.140 registered in the district.  The department of licensing shall administer and collect this fee on behalf of a district and remit this fee to the custody of the county treasurer, who shall distribute it as directed by a district;

    (d) User fees on projects improved under this chapter;

    (e) A charge based upon the miles traveled by a vehicle registered in the district;

    (f) The county property levy provided in section 14 of this act.

    (2) Taxes may not be imposed without an affirmative vote of the voters within the boundaries of the district on a referendum as set forth in this act.  Money collected under this section must be used only to implement the district plan in accordance with this act.  A district may contract with the state department of revenue or the department of licensing for administration and collection of any of the taxes or fees authorized in this section.


    NEW SECTION.  Sec. 10.  The district may not issue any debt of its own for more than two years duration.  A district may, when authorized by the plan, enter into agreements with the project sponsor to pledge taxes or other revenues of the district for the purpose of paying in part or whole principal and interest on bonds issued by the project sponsor.  The contracts pledging revenues and taxes shall be binding for the term of the agreement, but not to exceed twenty-five years, and no tax pledged by an agreement may be eliminated or modified if it would impair the pledge of the agreement.


    NEW SECTION.  Sec. 11.  A district once formed shall continue so long as projects are being actively developed or taxes levied to meet continuing district obligations.  When a district is no longer engaged in a project's development or levying taxes to fund projects, the directors shall submit to the county legislative bodies of the district a resolution of dissolution.  Such resolution shall be published in newspapers of general circulation within the district at least three times in a period of thirty days.  Creditors must file claims for payment of claims due within thirty days of the last published notice or such claim shall be considered extinguished.  The district treasurer shall within ninety days of the last published notice forward remaining funds in the accounts of the district to the motor vehicle fund to be used to fund state transportation projects within the former district boundaries.


    NEW SECTION.  Sec. 12.  To assure accountability to the public for the timely construction of the transportation project or projects within cost projections, the district shall issue a public report every six months from the date the project begins to the date it concludes.  In the report, the district shall detail the progress of the project in two areas:  (1) Whether the project or projects costs-to-date are within the amount of revenue raised for the project or projects under the vote of the people as provided in section 3 of this act; and (2) whether the project or projects are proceeding in accordance with the original construction schedule.  If the progress of the project is inconsistent with either the cost projections or timeliness, the district shall provide the public with a plan to move the project or projects back into compliance with the original construction schedule and cost projections.


    Sec. 13.  RCW 84.52.043 and 1995 c 99 s 3 are each amended to read as follows:

    Within and subject to the limitations imposed by RCW 84.52.050 as amended, the regular ad valorem tax levies upon real and personal property by the taxing districts hereafter named shall be as follows:

    (1) Levies of the senior taxing districts shall be as follows:  (a) The levy by the state shall not exceed three dollars and sixty cents per thousand dollars of assessed value adjusted to the state equalized value in accordance with the indicated ratio fixed by the state department of revenue to be used exclusively for the support of the common schools; (b) the levy by any county shall not exceed one dollar and eighty cents per thousand dollars of assessed value; (c) the levy by any road district shall not exceed two dollars and twenty-five cents per thousand dollars of assessed value; and (d) the levy by any city or town shall not exceed three dollars and thirty-seven and one-half cents per thousand dollars of assessed value.  However any county is hereby authorized to increase its levy from one dollar and eighty cents to a rate not to exceed two dollars and forty-seven and one-half cents per thousand dollars of assessed value for general county purposes if the total levies for both the county and any road district within the county do not exceed four dollars and five cents per thousand dollars of assessed value, and no other taxing district has its levy reduced as a result of the increased county levy.

    (2) The aggregate levies of junior taxing districts and senior taxing districts, other than the state, shall not exceed five dollars and ninety cents per thousand dollars of assessed valuation.  The term "junior taxing districts" includes all taxing districts other than the state, counties, road districts, cities, towns, port districts, and public utility districts.  The limitations provided in this subsection shall not apply to:  (a) Levies at the rates provided by existing law by or for any port or public utility district; (b) excess property tax levies authorized in Article VII, section 2 of the state Constitution; (c) levies for acquiring conservation futures as authorized under RCW 84.34.230; (d) levies for emergency medical care or emergency medical services imposed under RCW 84.52.069; (e) levies to finance affordable housing for very low-income housing imposed under RCW 84.52.105; ((and)) (f) the portions of levies by metropolitan park districts that are protected under RCW 84.52.120; and (g) levies for county transportation projects under section 14 of this act.


    NEW SECTION.  Sec. 14.  (1) A county may impose additional regular property tax levies in an amount equal to fifty cents or less per thousand dollars of the assessed value of property in the county.  The tax will be imposed (a) each year for six consecutive years, (b) each year for ten consecutive years, or (c) permanently.  A tax levy under this section must be specifically authorized by a majority of at least three-fifths of the registered voters voting on the proposition and the number of persons voting "yes" on the proposition must constitute three-fifths of a number equal to forty percent of the total number of voters voting in the county at the last preceding general election.  Ballot propositions must conform with RCW 29.30.111.  A county must not submit to the voters at the same election multiple propositions to impose a levy under this section.

    (2) A county imposing a permanent levy under this section must provide for separate accounting of expenditures of the revenues generated by the levy.  The taxing district must maintain a statement of the accounting which will be updated at least every two years and will be available to the public upon request at no charge.

    (3) A taxing district imposing a permanent levy under this section must provide for a referendum procedure to apply to the ordinance or resolution imposing the tax.  This referendum procedure must specify that a referendum petition may be filed at any time with a filing officer, as identified in the ordinance or resolution.  Within ten days, the filing officer will confer with the petitioner concerning form and style of the petition, issue the petition an identification number, and secure an accurate, concise, and positive ballot title from the designated local official.  The petitioner will have thirty days in which to secure the signatures of not less than fifteen percent of the registered voters of the county, as of the last general election, upon petition forms which contain the ballot title and the full text of the measure to be referred.  The filing officer will verify the sufficiency of the signatures on the petition and, if sufficient valid signatures are properly submitted, will certify the referendum measure to the next election within the county if one is to be held within one hundred eighty days from the date of filing of the referendum petition, or at a special election to be called for that purpose in accordance with RCW 29.13.020.

    (4) Any tax imposed under this section must be used only for the provision of county road or other transportation purposes.

    (5) The limitations in RCW 84.52.043 shall not apply to the tax levy authorized in this section.

    (6) If a ballot proposition approved under subsection (1) of this section did not impose the maximum allowable levy amount authorized for the county under this section, any future increase up to the maximum allowable levy amount must be specifically authorized by the voters in accordance with subsection (1) of this section at a general or special election.

    (7) The limitation in RCW 84.55.010 shall not apply to the first levy imposed pursuant to this section following the approval of such levy by the voters pursuant to subsection (1) of this section.


    NEW SECTION.  Sec. 15.  Sections 1 through 12 and 14 of this act constitute a new chapter in Title 36 RCW.


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