Story Summary

Bills in the 63rd Legislature

Here are stories about some of the bills in the 63rd Washington Legislature, which opened its session on Jan. 14, 2013. The regular session adjourned April 28. A special session was called to complete work on the state budget; the special session began May 13, 2013.

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TACOMA — At the Washington State Patrol’s Tacoma headquarters, Gov. Jay Inslee signed a new DUI bill into law Thursday morning alongside legislators, law enforcement and victim’s family members.

DUI-DefenseSenate Bill 5912 cracks down on repeat DUI offenders in a number of ways: A second offense will land drunken drivers in jail until they see a judge, and repeat offenders will have an ignition interlock device installed on their cars within five days of arrest.

The new law also tries to address a root cause of our DUI crisis — problem drinking. Washington is the fourth state to require 24-7 sobriety monitoring for repeat offenders; North and South Dakota and Montana have similar laws in place.

“You will have to wear either a bracelet or a different type of technology that shows you are not drinking. If you drink you will go to jail for six months,” Inslee said.

There are also stronger penalties for driving the wrong way while impaired or having children under the age of 16 in the car.

Dan Schulte’s parents were killed and his wife and infant son severely injured this spring when a repeat DUI offender hit them down as they crossed the street in Seattle’s Wedgwood neighborhood.

Schulte’s primary focus is making sure his son and wife get better, but he is also passionate about keeping drunken drivers off the road.

“If I can somehow take what happened to my family and use it in a positive way, I hope to do that,” he said.

The bill officially becomes law Sept. 27 — 90 days after the end of the Legislature’s special session.

OLYMPIA — Gov. Jay Inslee on Sunday signed a $33.6 billion state budget that averted a government shutdown that would have occurred Monday if the Legislature had not finally passed a compromise spending plan.

(State Rep. Dawn Morrell, D-Puyallup, talks about the bill in the video above)

OLYMPIA — The state House gave final legislative approval Thursday to a DUI bill that would require suspected DUI drivers with a previous DUI conviction to be booked into jail and an ignition interlock device installed on their cars before they ever go to trial.

Gov. Jay Inslee said he will sign it into law.

DUI-DefenseThe bill would also impose new limits on deferred sentencing, and increase treatment options for some DUI offenders.

It would also require repeat DUI offenders to wear electronic monitors around the clock.  But that monitoring program will only be in a few cities and counties, as a pilot program.

The bill is a far cry from earlier, harsher proposals. An earlier proposal would have prohibited three-time DUI offenders from buying alcohol for 10 years, would have required all DUI suspects be arrested, charged  and have their cars outfitted with ignition interlocks.  Another part of the proposal would have made a DUI a felony on the fourth conviction rather than the fifth.

It all came down to the prohibitive cost for courts, jails, and implementing the proposed changes.  The original provisions would have cost up to $100 million a year. The bill that was passed by the Senate Wednesday night and the House Thursday will cost only about $2 million a year.

“The bill passed today is one that focuses rightly on repeat offenders with mandatory booking and jail time for second and subsequent offenders, enhanced ignition interlock requirements, increased funding to help prosecutors speed up the filing of charges, and a 24/7 sobriety program so we can electronically monitor repeat offenders,” Inslee said in a news release.

“While this doesn’t do everything we need or everything I hoped, this is an important step to saving more lives,” he added. “I look forward to continuing our efforts to crack down on those who choose to endanger the lives and livelihoods of others by choosing to drive while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.”

Local News
06/26/13

State Senate passes, sends House bill to toughen DUI laws

DUI-DefenseOLYMPIA — The state Senate unanimously approved and sent the House legislation Wednesday aimed at trying to keep first-time DUI offenders from driving drunk again.

Under the measure, Senate Bill 5912, would require an automatic arrest for a second DUI offense, and those booked on suspicion of a second DUI would need to have ignition-interlock devices installed on their vehicles before their cases even go to trial.

In addition, the legislation features the introduction of a 24/7 sobriety pilot program in three counties and two cities, which will be used in place of or in addition to electronic home monitoring.

“This (bill) should help repeat DUI offenders to stay sober, or at least avoid getting behind the wheel again when they’re under the influence,” said state Sen. Mike Padden, R-Spokane Valley, the sponsor of the measure.

“This bill is less about punishment than it is about preventing DUI offenders from harming others – and adding another conviction to their records,” Padden said. “I hope the House moves this bill through and on to the governor’s desk.”

OLYMPIA — New economic forecasts Tuesday show that lawmakers will have $320 million more to spend over the next two years than they thought, which means the threat of a state government shutdown at the end of the month appears unlikely.

capitol1The added money is expected to break the months-long impasse between the House and Senate that has so far prevented a state budget deal.

“It’s great news,” said state Sen. Rodney Tom, D-Medina, the Senate majority leader. “Certainly I see no reason why we shouldn’t be able to come to an agreement today with that amount of revenue on the table.”

Tom said he hoped lawmakers could be out by the end of the week.

The $320 million in extra money comes from an improving economy, including a better housing market. The figure also includes $90 million in unexpected savings from reduced caseloads, including school enrollment and Medicaid recipients.

In light of Tuesday’s news, Tom said his caucus is now dropping any insistence that the Legislature pass policy reforms, including a controversial workers compensation bill.  He said the House should follow suit and drop its insistence on new taxes after Tuesday’s report.

“If you get $320 million, why do you need any more revenue?” he asked.

House Democrats were much more cautious about the new economic forecast. They stopped short of saying they would abandon their fight for more taxes in a budget deal.

“We look at the problem, not just for this biennium, but for the next two biennia as well,” said state Rep. Ross Hunter, D-Medina, chairman of the House Appropriations Committee. “We have a very, very large problem in adequately funding our education system.”

But the new revenue numbers have taken the urgency out of the Democrats’ plea for more taxes.

“It’s hard for anyone to imagine a solution to that that doesn’t involve new revenue,” said Hunter.  “You’re either going to add it now or you’re going to add it later. This defers that discussion.”

Most expect that Tuesday’s forecast will lead to a quick deal.  The unexpected $320 million seems to be what was needed to break the budget logjam.  A shutdown now seems pretty much out of the question and a formal agreement is expected in the next few days.

OLYMPIA — With three kids in Seattle Public Schools, Stephanie Jones has met her fair share of teachers. Most have been great, but in elementary school, there was one she did not care for.

teachers“The parent community felt like we were losing trust that the educational team was not serving our kids’ best interest. It was really a lose-lose situation all the way around,” said Jones.

There is a push in Olympia to weed out so-called ‘lemon’ teachers by changing the way hiring works.

“Principals need to absolutely have the ability to decide who is on the team at that school to make sure the teachers are on board with the plan, vision and goal for the school,” said Liv Finne with the Washington Policy Center.

Senate Bill 5242 shifts hiring power from the central district office to the principals; it would allow them to decide if a displaced teacher is a good fit for their school. The teacher would also have to agree.

“We believe this legislation will provide chaos for HR departments, and at best create legal liability for districts,” said Lucinda Young with the Washington Education Association.

The state teacher’s union is concerned about a portion of the proposed law that would end a teacher’s contract if they are displaced for more than a year.  But some teachers are actually in favor of the idea.

“We have a terribly broken system where teachers who don’t care are rewarded with having a classroom full of kids. I care very much where I teach and with whom I teach,” said Kristin Bailey-Fogarty, a Seattle Public Schools teacher.

Parents like Stephanie Jones feel this legislation would be game-changing and improve the learning environment in schools.

“We’re not talking about widgets. This is not machinery. These are human lives, these are kids. This is their education and we shouldn’t think just anybody can fit into these spaces,” said Jones.

Tacoma Public Schools already has a similar policy in place where principals and teachers can match up at job fairs.  If this bill passes, it wouldn’t go into effect until the 2015-16 school year.

typingOLYMPIA — You’ll never have to share your Facebook or other social media passwords with your employer in Washington state, thanks to a privacy bill signed into law Tuesday by Gov. Jay Inslee.

 

Senate Bill 5211 makes it illegal for any employer or potential employer in the state to request a password or account information for the purpose of gaining access to a social networking site maintained by an employee or prospective employee.

The bill was sponsored by Democratic Sen. Steve Hobbs of Lake Stevens.

“I’m pleased that all sides were able to come together, work out their differences and agree on a bill that protects everyone involved,” Hobbs said. “Privacy shouldn’t be a thing of the past that we are forced to sacrifice every time technology moves forward.”

Washington is now the eighth state to have this type of law on the books.  Similar measures are being considered in 33 other states.

 

mandrinking1

(Photo: U.S. Coast Guard)

OLYMPIA — Gov. Jay Inslee signed a bill Thursday that changes Washington’s boating safety laws and gets tough on boaters operating under the influence, with offenders facing up to a year in jail or a maximum fine of $5,000.

The changes go into effect July 28.

The bill strengthens Washington’s boating under the influence (BUI) law by making the penalty for BUI a gross misdemeanor punishable by a maximum fine of $5,000 and 364 days in jail. Additionally, the law now allows for implied consent, which means an officer can require a boat operator to take a breath or blood test if the officer believes the operator is boating under the influence. If the operator refuses, he/she could be issued a $1,000 civil infraction.

“Washington has a long history of being a maritime state. We need to keep boating safe and fun, and this legislation will help us do that. I’m delighted that by working with our state partners and boating stakeholders, we were able to develop legislation that everyone could agree to,” said Washington State Parks Director Don Hoch.

The new law also gives marine law enforcement officers the ability to hold negligent or reckless boaters accountable and the authority to issue citations for vessel accidents they did not witness.

“This is a great change and something we’ve needed for a long time. We’ve had this authority on land, but we lacked it on the water. I think this is really going to help us educate boaters about the importance of the boating rules of the road,” said Ed Holmes, Mercer Island police chief and president of the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs.

According to State Parks data, alcohol is a factor in 30 percent of boating fatalities. The law change was intended to deter BUI by increasing the penalty and introducing implied consent in the form of a monetary penalty – not tied to the driver’s license.

Other changes to the law include the following:

  1. Testing language consistent with driving under the influence (DUI) procedures: The statute was updated to reference the breath and blood testing procedures used in DUI cases. These procedures have been thoroughly tested in court.
  2. Marijuana references added: The statute was updated with marijuana references that mirror language in Initiative 502, which made the recreational use of marijuana legal.
  3. Test refusal is not admissible in court: The statute makes it clear that a boater’s refusal to submit to either a breath or blood test cannot be used as evidence in a court of law.
  4. Recreational vessel rentals: The statue makes it clear that rented vessels must have all safety equipment, be properly registered and meet all other state requirements.

For more information on boating regulations, visit www.boat.wa.gov

Politics
05/09/13

Washington’s gun bill one of few in the country to pass

gunOLYMPIA — A bill aimed at keeping guns out of the hands of criminals was signed into law by Gov. Jay Inslee Thursday, making Washington one of the few states in the country to pass new gun legislation.

The bill sponsored by State Rep. Mike Hope, R-Lake Stevens, would require people with felony gun convictions to register in a statewide database twice per year with local law enforcement. This practice, Hope said, would allow police to become more familiar with registered gun offenders.

The registry – similar to a sex offender registry — will only be accessible by law enforcement agents. The database will be used primarily when officers make a Terry Stop, made when a police officer temporarily detains a person upon “reasonable suspicion” that the person has engaged in a crime.

“A common factor in the majority of gun homicides is that perpetrators had previous gun convictions,” Hope said. “If we can stop criminals now, before they escalate their behavior, then we can save lives.”

The law will become effective July 28.

For more information on the bill, click here.

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