E-News: Think every legislator puts the safety of children first? Think again

THM notice 

February 16, 2024

Hello Friends and Neighbors,

As of today there are 20 days left in this year’s session. With the exception of budget updates, we’re through with moving Senate bills across to the House of Representatives, and are back to meeting as committees – this time to consider bills moved over to us by the House.

Being the Republican leader on the Senate Ways and Means Committee, I was in the middle of the effort to block the majority Democrats’ proposed property-tax increase. With that battle over, at least for this year, I’ve turned my attention (when not working on the operating budget, that is) toward one of my priorities for this session: fighting the fentanyl epidemic sweeping our state.

On top of all that, there are new developments regarding the voter initiatives submitted to the Legislature!

Senate stands strong against fentanyl, while House falters

This past week brought the passage of more bills in the Senate Republicans’ “Recovery Washington” package. The most visible among them, literally, is my “One Pill Kills” legislation (SB 5906), which would launch a coordinated statewide education campaign aimed at sending a simple message, especially to young people: If you aren’t absolutely sure what’s in that pill, don’t take it! If you’ve seen a TV report about a parent grieving the loss of a child who unknowingly took a pill laced with a lethal dose of fentanyl – and there have been many such reports – that is the point of my bill. Click here for an update on the Recovery Washington legislation. SB 5906 was passed unanimously in the Senate and referred today to the House Appropriations Committee.

Earlier in the session the Senate sent my SB 5010 over to the House, for the second time in as many years. As the latest edition of my Rational Steps policy paper explains, this bill gives the Legislature an opportunity to protect children simply by adding fentanyl and other synthetic opioids to the list of drugs covered in the 2002 law that created the crime of “endangerment of children and dependent persons with a controlled substance.”

My previous report mentioned how the chair of the House Community Safety, Justice, and Reentry Committee was balking at moving the bill forward, also for the second time in as many years, and had not responded to my multiple requests for a hearing on the bill. This week I pressed the issue by reaching out to him by phone, and was amazed to hear him claim that no one in the 58-member House Democratic Caucus would support this simple update in the law. I question that, knowing there are six House Democrats on the bipartisan, bicameral Public Safety Caucus that wants action on my bill.

The Seattle Times, in this editorial from Tuesday that calls for the passage of my bill, quotes the chair as saying something different: That no member of the 9-member community-safety committee would support SB 5010. Again, I question that, knowing the three Republicans on the committee certainly would vote yes.

For perspective, take a look at the House bills the chair did move forward, and ask yourself if they’re more important than the welfare of innocent babies and children:

  • HB 2178: Would let sex offenders off of community supervision.
  • HB 2065: Would retroactively resentence criminals who are serving a longer sentence due to crimes they committed as juveniles.
  • HB 1994: Would allow a court to dismiss misdemeanor and gross-misdemeanor charges if certain conditions are met; creates barriers to full accountability and gives defendants new ways to escape accountability if they have a clever attorney.
  • HB 1396: Would reduce sentences for certain criminals serving life without parole sentences, including aggravated murderers.
  • HB 1268: Would reduce time served for sentencing enhancements for violent offenders, firearms offenses, and gang members.
  • HB 2001: Would reduce prison sentences for violent offenders.

Republicans on the committee opposed every one of these bills. All six Democrats voted yes on each. In what universe do they think any of these bills would make Washington safer?!! Why such concern for offenders and total disregard for the rights of victims? These are little babies and helpless children we’re talking about! I’m disgusted that HB 2001 and HB 2065 went on to be passed by the House and have now come to our Senate Law and Justice Committee, with the latter scheduled for a hearing Monday and vote on Tuesday.

If you believe the House should join the Senate in this effort to discourage fentanyl use and protect children, here’s how you can help:

  • Contact the committee chair, Rep. Roger Goodman, and tell him to have his committee move SB 5010 forward: roger.goodman@leg.wa.gov or 360.786.7878
  • Contact Speaker of the House Laurie Jinkins and tell her to bypass the committee chair (Rep. Goodman) and bring SB 5010 straight to the floor of the House for a vote: laurie.jinkins@leg.wa.gov or 360.786.7930

The drugs preferred by users have evolved over the past 22 years. SB 5010 would bring our law into 2024, simply by adding fentanyl and synthetic opioids to the list of substances it covers. In doing so, we allow our legal system to adapt to these changes and address the threat more effectively, while offering innocent babies and children who are endangered by drugs the justice they are being denied.

with Sen. Short

Conferring with Sen. Shelly Short, our floor leader, who is one of the busiest people in the Senate chamber when we’re debating and voting on bills all day long. She serves the 7th Legislative District in northeast Washington.

Eight Wilson bills sent to House before Senate voting deadline

SB 5010 and SB 5906 are among the eight of my bills passed before this past Tuesday’s “cutoff” for moving Senate legislation forward. I’ve mentioned most if not all in previous reports, but here they are in one place:

  • SB 6291 would start reforming how the State Building Code Council does business. This bill would, for instance, improve how timelines are set for adopting, changing and repealing building codes. I testified in support of it before the House local-government committee this morning.
  • SB 6234 would support screening of newborns for BCKDK… “branched-chain ketoacid dehydrogenase kinase deficiency.” This is a treatable neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by autism, intellectual disability and microcephaly. The bill won unanimous Senate approval and is before the House Health Care and Wellness Committee.
  • SB 5590 would create a Mount St. Helens special license plate. The House Transportation Committee had a public hearing on it Wednesday.
  • SB 5836 would add a 12th seat to the Clark County Superior Court bench, a reflection of how Clark’s population is the fastest-growing of any county in Washington. Passed 49-0 by the Senate, it’s scheduled for a hearing in the House Civil Rights and Judiciary Committee next Tuesday, and a committee vote Wednesday!
  • SB 6263, passed unanimously by the Senate, would double the funeral benefit for firefighters covered by pre-1970 pensions. This benefit has been $500 since its creation in 1955. It also has been referred to the House Appropriations Committee.
  • SB 5835, my “plain talk” bill, had a public hearing in the House State Government and Tribal Relations Committee this morning. The bill would require agency rule-making webpages to include a plain-language summary of 100 words or less detailing each rule proposed or adopted within the past 12 months, whether it’s a permanent rule or an emergency rule. As rules carry the force of law, let’s make them easily understood to those who must comply! Passed 49-0 by the Senate, SB 5835 is already scheduled for a committee vote Tuesday.

Senate operating-budget proposal to receive public hearing Monday

Since this session began in early January the Senate Republican operating-budget team – Sen. Chris Gildon of Puyallup and me – has met regularly with the Democrat budget team to develop the supplemental operating budget that will come before the Ways and Means Committee on Monday. This is not a rewrite of the budget adopted in 2023, but a set of adjustments to carry state government through until a new biennial budget is developed in the 2025 session.

Other senators are engaged in the same process with the capital and transportation budgets, and the House will prepare and pass its own proposals. The final supplemental budgets for operating, capital and transportation must be adopted before the Legislature adjourns March 7.

The supplemental budget adopted in 2022 was an anomaly, because there was still federal COVID-relief money to appropriate; I came into the session focused on bringing the supplemental operating budget to its traditional purpose: respond to unanticipated changes in caseloads, like school enrollment or social services; deal with emergencies, like the COVID-19 pandemic; and address opportunities that wouldn’t be available if we waited for the next biennium.

On Wednesday the state Economic and Revenue Forecast Council adopted this year’s first quarterly forecast of state-government revenue. It confirms the wisdom of keeping a firm grip on spending in the supplemental operating budget. Click here for the statement I issued following the council meeting.

Democrats agree to committee hearings on only three voter initiatives

The section of Washington’s constitution that describes the people’s power to propose legislation through initiatives goes on to include this: “Such initiative measures, whether certified or provisionally certified, shall take precedence over all other measures in the legislature except appropriation bills and shall be either enacted or rejected without change or amendment by the legislature before the end of such regular session.”

The “take precedence” part seems perfectly clear to me. In other words, legislators should have been considering the initiatives ahead of every other bill except spending bills (like the budgets). Yet here we are, two-thirds of the way through the session, and only now is the majority side responding.

Earlier this week the top Democrats in the Senate and House told reporters they won’t give any consideration to two of the six: I-2117, which would repeal the cap-and-trade law that is driving up everyone’s gasoline and natural-gas costs; and I-2109, which would repeal the tax on income from capital gains.

During debate in the Senate chamber this past week on a bill related to the state’s long-term care trust program – the target of I-2124 – the chair of the Senate Labor and Commerce Committee mentioned she intends to hold a work session on the initiative. A work session is different from a committee hearing in that the public may not testify.

This afternoon the same top Democrats announced there will be joint Senate/House hearings week after next on three initiatives: I-2113 (police pursuits), I-2111 (income-tax ban) and I-2081 (parental bill of rights). I have no question this is due to the pressure Republicans have been applying all session long.

The bottom line, then, is that the majority will let the public be heard on only half of the six initiatives. I want to hear from you about all of them, however, so if you haven’t already taken my initiative survey, the hyperlink and QR code are below. It’ll take just a few minutes, and I plan to share the results in my next report.


QR code

Take my online survey about the six voter initiatives submitted to the Legislature this session!

Scan the QR code or click here to begin

initiatives box


I hope you will reach out whenever you have a comment or question about your state government. Have an amazing day!

Yours in service,

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