Riccelli Bill to Give Spokane a Seat at the Spokane Regional Emergency Center Table Passes House

OLYMPIA – A bill to require Spokane County and the City of Spokane to sign an interlocal agreement regarding the collaborative operation of a regional communications system and distribution of revenue from a local emergency communications sales & use tax is one step closer to becoming law. House Bill 1155, sponsored by Rep. Marcus Riccelli (D-Spokane), would correct a timing issue in the current law and ensure that the City of Spokane has a seat at the table for the regional emergency communications system. It passed the House with a 56-41 vote today.

Current state law requires any county with a population of over 500,000 to sign an interlocal agreement with any city over 50,000 on the distribution of revenue generated by a local-option sales tax for a emergency communication. However in current law these population thresholds are measured before the sales tax is sent to the voters. Spokane County’s tax was sent to the voters in 2017, mere months before its population topped 500,000.

“Spokane County’s current use of these funds does not meet the needs of its largest city; increases in dispatch time have put first responders in danger and the quality of service has decreased,” Riccelli said. “This bill ensures that the City of Spokane has a seat at the table when deciding how to spend these funds, the majority of which are generated in the city. I have faith that the City and County can negotiate an interlocal agreement in good faith that will result in better public safety for everyone in Spokane.”

The bill simply fixes the timing issue and requires that any County between 500,000 and 1,500,000 imposing a the emergency communication sales and use tax enter into an interlocal agreement with any city in their county that operates emergency systems if at any time the population of that city exceeds 50,000.

“The City of Spokane strongly supports a regional emergency communications system. House Bill 1155 fixes a technical problem in the existing language that keeps large cities like Spokane from fully participating in a unified regional system with a fair allocation of the tax receipts that are generated within the City,” said Spokane City Council President Breean Beggs. “Today’s approval by the House is a huge step forward towards a safer community for all taxpayers and the first responders who serve them.”

The bill now heads to the Senate for consideration.