Olympia seeks marijuana money and more in 2015 legislative agenda

The Olympia City Council wants more revenue sharing from the state along with funding for mental health resources, substance abuse treatment, youth prevention programs and more.

Its 2015 legislative agenda was approved at Tuesday’s meeting and includes a list of priorities for state lawmakers that target tax money, marijuana and more. The list will be presented to the 22nd District legislators at a meeting next Tuesday.

Olympia is asking for the state to share tax revenue from legalized marijuana with local governments. In addition, the council urges state lawmakers to address the legal gray area between recreational and medical marijuana. The council also requests that the state restore local liquor revenue sharing, remove the 1 percent annual limit on property tax increases and give cities the power to raise the Transportation Benefit District fee.

The agenda includes a request for a statewide moratorium on neonicotinoid pesticides, which have been banned or restricted in other countries because of the pesticide’s effect on the environment. Other issues on the list call for clarifications in state law related to body cameras for police as well as relieving the city from providing medical care for felony offenders when the responsibility belongs to the county, according to a staff report.

In other council action Tuesday:

The council spent a significant chunk of time discussing regulations for alleys — specifically, whether to require alleys with new home construction or simply encourage alleys when they are feasible. The council ultimately approved the term “require,” which Councilman Steve Langer said will ensure that alleys are constructed whenever possible instead of only being considered optional.

The city has been working on updating the comprehensive plan since 2009, and a final document is expected to go before the council for consideration Dec. 9.

Although the city manager presented a balanced budget for 2015, there are several unfunded projects and programs. In addition, Olympia faces a rising deficit that could exceed $3 million by 2019 if the city cannot find more revenue sources or reduce expenses. The budget is slated for council adoption Dec. 16.

Councilman Jim Cooper, who serves on the city’s finance committee, discussed options for budget sustainability and priorities. Among those priorities is the creation of a “rainy day fund” to help offset the 2016 budget. Other recommendations dealt with the readjustment of funding sources to address some of the shortfalls.