Becky Bogard and Kathryn Hedrick
First, we want to give a big shout-out to those who attended the Tourism Summit and met with their legislators. We have been getting excellent feedback from both you and the legislators. You helped make legislators realize there is a much grassroots support for reinstating a statewide tourism marketing program!
There are now identical bills in the House and the Senate that reflect the agreement of the legislative tourism working group. The bills are HB 1123 and SB 5251, respectively.
Sponsors of the House bill, HB 1123, include Reps. Condotta (R., Chelan), Ryu (D., Shoreline), Barkis (R., Lacey), Kirby (D., Tacoma), Wilcox (R., Yelm), Tarleton (D., Seattle), McBride (D., Kirkland), Smith (R., Whidbey Island), Muri (R., Lakewood), Frame (D., Seattle), Tharinger (D., Sequim), Morris (D., Mt. Vernon), and J. Walsh (R., Longview). Sponsors of the Senate bill, SB 5251, include Sens. Takko (D., Longview), Warnick (R., Moses Lake), Rolfes (D., Bainbridge Island), McCoy (D., Tulalip), Zeiger (R., Puyallup), and Chase (D., Shoreline). If any of these are your legislators, please thank them for their support!
The House bill is the first to move. It was referred to the House Community Development, Housing and Tribal Affairs Committee where the bill had a hearing on Wednesday, January 25th, the day after the Tourism Summit. All who testified supported the bill. In addition to representatives from WTA, there was support expressed from the ports association, cities association, Washington Wine Institute, some destination marketing organizations and others. It should be noted that two of the members of the interim working group are members of this committee, Reps. Ryu and Barkis. They were clear to their colleagues about support for the bill. You can view the hearing here. This is the TVW location of the hearing on the bill.
On Thursday, January 26th, the same House committee took executive action and voted the bill out of committee unanimously. There were some technical amendments. One allows matching contributions to be from non-state rather than only private sources. This opens up the possibility of contributions from such organizations as ports, tribes, and DMO’s. Another amendment clarified the source of the public funding for the special tourism marketing fund. A final amendment changed that fund from a non-appropriated fund to an appropriated fund. This is technically necessary since the source of the proceeds in the fund are tax revenues.
So what’s next? As of this writing we know that the House bill was referred to the House Appropriations Committee, with no hearing scheduled yet. Please keep checking the website for the latest on the path of the bill so you know which legislators are important to contact.
In the Senate, we anticipate that the Senate Agriculture, Water, Trade and Economic Development Committee will have a work session about tourism. Many of the members are new to the committee and would like to have a briefing about the industry before considering the bill. A hearing has been scheduled February 9th at 8am.