March 11, 2023
Hello Friends and Neighbors,
All session long, I and other Senate Republicans have made the police-pursuit issue one of our public-safety priorities. I co-sponsored not one but two bills that would reform Washington’s law on pursuits, to make it less criminal-friendly. Why, then, did I vote against one of those bills when it came to the floor of the Senate this week? The rest of that story is below.
Wednesday was the final day of this session for the Senate to vote on bills introduced by the 49 senators. There is an exception: bills that are tied to a budget – like the operating or transportation budgets – may be considered all the way up until we adjourn. That’s because the budgets are often handled as a package of policy/spending bills, and they are typically among the final pieces of legislation passed in any session.
|With Sen. Jeff Holy, R-Cheney, a retired Spokane police detective who for the past two years has prime-sponsored legislation to help our cities and counties hire more law-enforcement officers. I’m a co-sponsor of his SB 5361 and hope it is included in the final budget package adopted this year.|
Pursuit-reform bill approved by Senate is an improvement… but we can do better
A lot of things can happen to a bill between the time it’s introduced and when it comes to a vote, and not all of them are good.
Let’s say you sign on as a co-sponsor of someone else’s bill, because you like the policy it proposes or want to be part of the discussion. Next thing you know, some language in that bill is changed, through the amendment process, in a way that also changes your mind about supporting the legislation.
The trouble is, you’re still listed as a sponsor, because removing your name isn’t allowed. The bill comes up for a vote, now you’re a “no,” and people rightfully wonder: what’s going on?
All the way back in early December, a month before the session began, I signed on to co-sponsor Senate Bill 5034. It’s an all-Republican bill that would once again allow our law-enforcement officers to engage in vehicular pursuits, based on “reasonable suspicion” that the vehicle being pursued (or someone in it) was suspected in a crime. Since the law was changed in 2021, essentially banning pursuits except for when a violent crime, a sex crime, or a DUI is suspected, criminals have taken full advantage, as the car-theft statistics show.
A few days after this session began, one of my Democratic colleagues introduced SB 5352 – a similar piece of legislation. I signed on, as did six other Republican senators. We knew a bill filed by a member of the majority side would stand a better chance of moving forward.
Both of these good bills got blocked in the Senate Law and Justice Committee (the same thing happened to a number of bills I filed on other public-safety topics). The Democratic majority in the House of Representatives also balked on a pursuit-reform bill, as The Columbian noted critically yesterday. That led to Wednesday, when Republican efforts to bring a pursuit bill to the floor of the Senate paid off, and SB 5352 came up for a vote.
Unfortunately, the majority Democrats immediately proposed an amendment that weakened the bill considerably. No longer did SB 5232 get after car thieves and reckless driving, as it did when I signed on in January. The list of pursuable crimes would only expand to include vehicular assault and assaults related to domestic violence. During the debate, we offered amendments regarding vehicle theft and reckless driving that were rejected, then we voted. Soon after, I issued this statement, headlined “Wilson says Senate bill on pursuits falls short, votes no.”
If too many Senate Republicans had supported the bill, someone in the House might have gotten the idea that we’re just fine with the watered-down version. Not so. We provided enough votes to make sure the bill reached the House, because the Legislature absolutely needs to reform the pursuit law this year – but my “no” vote helps to let House Republicans know they should push to make the bill better. I also hope the House Democrats take note of how many of their Senate counterparts supported SB 5232, and don’t balk at voting on this bill. Because we can do better.
Mount St. Helens license plate wins committee endorsement
My SB 5590 was voted out of the Senate Transportation Committee Thursday. Because it has a budget tie, this bill is exempt from the session’s voting deadlines. Here’s the latest on some other bills of mine that were approved by the Senate:
- Exposure to fentanyl (Senate Bill 5010): This would expand how the crime of “endangerment with a controlled substance” is defined as it relates to dependent children and adults. Fentanyl overdoses in children are dramatically increasing, especially in children. This bill changes the law so that those that do expose children can be held accountable. It’s scheduled for a hearing before the House Community Safety, Justice, and Reentry Committee next Tuesday.Earlier this week I did an interview with Seattle’s KOMO-TV about this bill, which I introduced with the encouragement of Erik Podhora, senior deputy prosecuting attorney with the Clark County Children’s Justice Center. Click here to view the report.
- Diagnostic imaging (SB 5396): This legislation is about eliminating financial barriers for commercial insurance patients who require medically necessary diagnostic breast imaging beyond a mammogram, like an MRI or ultrasound to determine a cancer diagnosis. It received a public hearing yesterday from the House Committee on Health Care and Wellness and is scheduled for a vote Tuesday.
- Homecare aide certification (SB 5278): This legislation would identify and overcome the barriers to getting home-care aides trained and certified. With the silver tsunami of adults fast approaching, more home care aides are needed now more than ever. It’s been scheduled for a hearing Tuesday before the House Committee on Postsecondary Education and Workforce.
- Eliminating ‘obsolete’ accounts (SB 5295): This is a housekeeping sort of bill, to eliminate financial accounts that have been declared obsolete by the state treasurer. An example is the Stadium and Exhibition Center Construction Account, created after the 1997 passage of Referendum 48, which funded the creation of the football stadium now known as Lumen Field, where the Seattle Seahawks play. Nothing has been spent out of that account since the 2015-17 budget cycle.SB 5295 was passed by the Senate nearly a month ago, received a public hearing Thursday from the House Appropriations Committee, and is scheduled for a committee vote Wednesday.
Government mask mandate for care facilities ends April 3
You may recall that the end of Washington’s COVID state of emergency last Halloween did not mean the end of all government mandates connected to the pandemic. Just before that proclamation ended, the secretary of health issued an order requiring that masking continue in health-care and long-term care settings, and adult correctional facilities. Now that mask mandate is set to expire, as of April 3.
The Department of Health announcement points out that “local or tribal governments, facilities, and providers may choose to continue to require masks in these or other settings” and also mentions some workplace regulations that will still be in place from the Department of Labor and Industries. Click here for the details.
Now if Republicans can just get the majority Democrats to agree on ways to deal with the K-12 learning loss caused by the state-ordered classroom closures during the pandemic…
|This week it’s been a special privilege to sponsor Jack Fisher as a Senate page. Jack is 15 and a freshman at King’s Way High School in Vancouver. I’ve known his grandparents and mom for many years, and the family business – Evergreen Memorial Gardens – is where I go every December to participate in the Wreaths Across America program. In fact, that’s where and why I met Jack, when he was just a tyke!
I hope you will reach out whenever you have a comment or question about your state government.
Yours in service,
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