The Legislative Tracker Blog is a forum for our local state Senators and Representatives to provide information about the work they are doing in the 2011 Legislative Session which began on Jan. 10, 2011.
The Lakewood Police Officers’ Memorial Act was used for the first time this week to keep a dangerous suspect behind bars. The individual is the suspect in a rape, torture and kidnapping case. Though he has no previous felonies, the weight of his potential sentence – life in prison – and his serious risk to the public allowed the judge to deny bail based on last fall’s voter-approved House Joint Resolution 4220.
Rep. Mike Hope sponsored the new law and says he is disgusted with the case and is glad the suspect will remain behind bars.
“This was why we designed the Lakewood Police Officers’ Memorial Act – for individuals like this who pose a real and serious risk to public safety,” said Hope, R-Lake Stevens. “I was sickened to learn the details of this case and am glad the victim was able to escape. We must continue to protect the public from inherently dangerous individuals like this and that’s why I sponsored this new law.”
Earlier this month, the victim was taken from Seattle to the suspect’s home in Tacoma. After being restrained and tortured, the victim revealed she had help on the way if the suspect did not release her. The suspect verified a text message sent from the victim to her boyfriend. She was then released. The primary detective on the scene after the victim was released described a pre-made torture chamber with thick walls so the victim’s screams could not be heard.
The suspect was arrested and booked on three counts: first degree kidnapping, first degree rape, and second degree assault. With those charges comes a possible sentence of life in prison. The King County Prosecutor’s Office requested a $1 million bail. However, after the judge understood the gruesome details of the case, he denied bail based on the standards required under the new Lakewood law.
The Lakewood Police Officers’ Memorial Act was passed by the Legislature in March 2010. Because it amended the state constitution, it went to the voters in November, who approved it with an 85 percent margin.
King County Councilman and former federal prosecutor Reagan Dunn helped promote the measure and believes this is the correct use of the new law.
“This is the type of crime we envisioned for the application of the new Lakewood law, and shows exactly why we needed to give our judges more discretion to deny bail,” Dunn said.
Hope said he remains dedicated to protecting the public and keeping communities safe and will continue to work on common-sense reforms in the criminal justice system.
39th District lawmaker supports Senate version of his legislation to enact safety measures in independent corrections review
This week, the House passed Senate Bill 5907 to enact the recommendations made by the National Institute of Corrections in the wake of the tragic murder of Corrections Officer Jayme Biendl at the Monroe Correctional Complex. Rep. Kirk Pearson sponsored the House version of the legislation, House Bill 2036, to implement the NIC report recommendations to better protect corrections staff statewide and voted in favor of the Senate version as it passed the House.
“It was a good move to bring in the National Institute of Corrections because our correctional officers and staff deserve to have a high level of safety and know that the Legislature cares about their well-being,” said Pearson, Republican lead on the House Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Committee. “I am pleased this bill was brought forward. It will put in place some good, common-sense safety precautions for correctional staff that we know are needed when working around dangerous inmates.”
As passed and sent to the governor, Senate Bill 5907 will:
- Establish one statewide security advisory committee and local committees at each facility made up of institutional staff, including custody staff, to review policies and make recommendations to Secretary Eldon Vail at the Department of Corrections (DOC) and the governor;
- Require the DOC to establish multi-discipline offender classification teams at each facility to evaluate offender placement, job assignments and custody promotions;
- Require the DOC to develop training curriculum regarding staff safety at correctional facilities;
- Authorize a DOC pilot program for the use of personal body alarms and proximity cards, and mandate the hiring of a consultant to make recommendations about implementing a statewide system with the findings and recommendations presented to the governor and Legislature by Nov. 1, 2011;
- Require the DOC to hire a consultant to study the use of video monitoring cameras and make recommendations for statewide standards for the positioning and use of the equipment with the findings presented to the governor and Legislature by Nov. 1, 2011; and
- Authorize a DOC pilot program on the expanded use of pepper spray (OC spray) for certain staff within state facilities, the goal of which is to develop a comprehensive plan for the statewide deployment of the spray, which must be presented to the governor and Legislature by Nov. 1, 2011.
“As we begin to implement the recommendations and pilot programs, I will continue to work with my fellow legislators, corrections staff and the governor to follow through on these reforms and make sure the reports due later this year are acted upon in a timely and thoughtful way,” said Pearson, R-Monroe.
Senate Bill 5907 will now be forwarded to the governor for her signature.
Rep. Norma Smith, R-Clinton and lead Republican on economic development issues in the Washington State House of Representatives, issued the following statement on House Republicans’ attempt April 14 on a procedural motion to bring workers’ compensation reform, Senate Bill 5566, directly to the House floor for a vote.
“While today’s procedural motion failed with little attention, it is important our employers and workers know that we missed out on a tremendous opportunity to pass meaningful workers’ compensation reform legislation. The bipartisan Senate Bill 5566 would have been a big step in addressing a nationally recognized, key competitive disadvantage our employers and business climate face in Washington. It clearly would assist in improving our state’s economic recovery and providing our employers some needed stability and certainty.
“The Senate Bill would have lowered costs for employers and does not reduce benefits for workers, contrary to what opponents have claimed. It would also get injured workers back to work more quickly. Washington isn’t returning workers to the job. The average number of days an injured worker is at home collecting a workers’ compensation benefit check is more than twice the national average. We can do better, both in providing hard-working Washingtonians true choices, and managing the escalating cost for employers more reasonably.
“I have continually stressed that to improve our state’s economic recovery we need to create certainty, protect our competitive advantages, and work to improve on competitive disadvantages. We have one of the highest workers’ compensation pension rates in the country and our system will be insolvent in the near future if we do not take action.
“Both parties supporting this reform in the Senate demonstrates it can be done in the House.”
The procedural motion failed by a vote of 54-43.
10th District lawmaker is long-time member of the Navy League image
The Washington State House of Representatives recognized the contributions and importance of Navy personnel and their families through House Resolution 4648 April 13. The measure, prime sponsored by Rep. Barbara Bailey, R-Oak Harbor, observed Navy Day. The 10th District lawmaker gave a speech on the House floor that can be viewed here.
OLYMPIA – Sen. Nick Harper, D-Everett, saw his first two pieces of legislation signed into law Wednesday afternoon.
Senate Bills 5115 and 5574 are both aimed at consumer protection. SB 5115 does away with real estate transfer fees, while 5574 updates the rules and regulations surrounding debt collection.
“It’s exciting to see the process come to a conclusion,” Sen. Harper said. “What’s even better is that these two bills will really go a long way in making homes a little more affordable and debt collection a little less painful.”
SB 5115 will stop the practice of charging outrageous real estate transfer fees to boost the bottom line of developers and homebuilders. These fees, listed as deed restrictions on the mortgage, are attached to new homes in perpetuity. No matter how many times a home is sold, the fee goes back to the creator of the deed restriction.
SB 5574 maintains the rules regarding the amount of times a debt collector can contact a debtor, whether in person, by mail or by phone. The new stipulations include language regarding the amount of times contact can be made by cell phone or text message as a safeguard against running up a debtor’s phone bill.
House Bill 1150 extends Smith’s two-day grace period legislation from 2010 session to seven days
Owners of small businesses received some additional breathing room in dealing with thousands of duplicate and confusing state agency rules and regulations as House Bill 1150, sponsored by Rep. Norma Smith, was signed into law.
The new law allows companies who unknowingly are out of compliance with a state agency rule or regulation seven calendar days to come into compliance without a financial or civil penalty. Protections in the bill ensure the violations in question do not endanger employees or the public. The bill is an extension of the two-day grace period bill Smith was able to get passed last session.
The state’s leading small business association, National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB), praised Smith’s efforts on behalf of the state’s employers.
“House Bill 1150 allows small businesses a reasonable timeframe to correct unintentional rule violations before a fine or citation is issued, without jeopardizing workplace safety or health. We appreciate Representative Smith’s leadership and continuing efforts to improve our state’s regulatory climate to free up our small businesses to do what they do best — put people to work and grow our economy,” said Patrick Connor, NFIB’s Washington State Director.
Connor added he was pleased to work on Smith’s bill and said she continues to be one of the leader’s in the Legislature on small business issues.
“I would like to thank the National Federation of Independent Business and the Washington Policy Center for their research and assistance in moving this bill through the legislative process,” Smith R-Clinton. “Both these organizations are truly working for our employers and trying to make Washington a better place to do business and improve our economic climate.”
Smith added anything the Legislature can do to minimize the cost of doing business in Washington will help our employers keep their doors open while our economy remains stagnant.
“Small businesses provide jobs and support for our communities, families and individuals. They are the cornerstone of Washington state’s economy. It’s responsible and common-sense legislation that will provide much-needed relief and assistance,” said Smith. “I know there are a lot of hard-working business owners in my district and around the state. Anytime we can assist them with regulatory reform, and provide a more customer-service focus to enhance our economic climate, we need to take advantage of that opportunity.”
“This is just one small step, and it is imperative we continue work on policies to improve our business environment. State lawmakers must work together toward policies that keep our job-creators competitive, allow them to keep their doors open and get Washington working again,” Smith concluded.
The governor signed House Bill 1150 on April 11.
Monroe lawmaker objected to early release of offenders to balance budget
The House of Representatives April 9 passed House Bill 1087, the majority party’s $32.4 billion 2011-13 state operating budget. Citing his concerns with cuts to public safety despite record levels of spending, Rep. Kirk Pearson, R-Monroe, voted against the bill and issued the following statement:
“I know it’s difficult to write the state budget, particularly when it is larger than it has ever been. However, when I look at the budget passed today, I am disappointed that while we spend $2 billion more than the current budget, public safety is being compromised.
“The budget bill passed today includes more than $31 million in additional cuts to corrections. It includes a $26 million spending reduction by allowing at least 1,300 offenders convicted of all levels of crimes to be released from prison 120 days early. The plan also cuts $5.2 million by laying off 47 corrections staff, which is on top of the nearly 400 corrections staff cuts in the 2009-11 budget. Putting the safety of our communities at risk to save $31 million is basically balancing the budget on the backs of innocent citizens.
“The people of Washington expect public safety to be one of the Legislature’s top priorities. Unfortunately, this budget doesn’t treat it as such, so I could not support it.”
House Republicans unveil alternative budget solution
“As a budget leader, I have worked with my colleagues to develop budget solutions. Many of these concepts can be found in the House Democrats’ proposal. But we eventually arrived at a point in which our principles and priorities for the state were different. This ultimately led to a House Republican alternative budget solution.
“We began the process with a set of principles to guide our decisions, which included transparency, no new taxes, using a priorities of government model, not relying on one-time monies for ongoing programs, and budget sustainability. We also started with the premise that the budget is not just about the next two years – it’s about providing certainty to our economy and setting a course for our state’s prosperity for years to come.
“The most common question is how is our plan is different. Our proposal provides more state government reform, prioritizes education and services for the disabled, does not rely on one-time monies for ongoing programs, and is sustainable for the future. Our solution would reset, reform and reshape state government.
“We invite people to contrast the two alternatives, ask us questions and arrive at their own conclusions. We want to emphasize there are options here in the Legislature and that citizens have a say in the final outcomes.”
House Democrats passed their state operating budget bill from the Ways and Means Committee late last night and plan to bring it to the House floor Friday. You can view the debate from last night here, and watch future debates at http://www.tvw.org/. After the Senate passes its budget bill, Democratic budget leaders in the House and Senate will work out a final compromise in a conference committee. This final compromise will be voted on and sent to the governor to be signed.
House Republicans unveiled their alternative operating budget proposal yesterday.
For a more information on the House Republican budget, along with guiding principles and priorities, please visit: http://houserepublicans.wa.gov/current-issues/house-republican-budget/.
Please visit this link for more details on the two operating budget proposals: http://leap.leg.wa.gov/leap/Budget/Detail/2011/HOCompare0406.pdf.
The Washington State Senate on April 5 unanimously passed a bill sponsored by 44th District lawmakers to ease requirements on special education assessments.
Reps. Hans Dunshee and Mike Hope said they were pleased at the unanimous support in both chambers.
House Bill 1519 would ask the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction to help with the transition from the current portfolio assessment to a common-task assessment for students with severe cognitive disabilities.
“This was the number one thing teachers of students with severe disabilities told us they needed to do their jobs better,” said Hope, R-Lake Stevens. “The main goal here is for the teachers and students to spend more time progressing and less time completing lengthy assessments.”
“This is a good day for students, parents and teachers,” said Dunshee, D-Snohomish. “It’s a common-sense reform that will help kids.”
The bill now goes to the governor’s desk for her action.
OLYMPIA — A bill aimed at keeping private airports across Washington open and available for public use passed Monday in the House of Representatives and has gone to the governor for her signature.
Introduced by Sen. Val Stevens, R-Arlington, Senate Bill 5337 will allow privately owned airports to apply for state grants and loans funded from aircraft taxes and dealer license and registration fees.
“Many of the 138 private airports in Washington are available for public use,” Stevens said. “Often they provide the fastest lifeline over the mountains from a remote area or are the only airports available to local private pilots. As these airports struggle through this recession, my bill will allow them to apply for state grants and loans now available only to municipal and tribal airports.”
Aircraft owners and dealers pay a variety of taxes and fees into the state Department of Transportation’s aeronautics account, which also receives some federal grants.
At the bill’s Senate hearing in February, John Dobson, President of the Washington Pilots Association, said, “All the research shows that in the next 20 years, we’ll need every one of our airports and then some. Senate Bill 5337 will help assure that Washington communities have an airport for public use regardless of ownership.”