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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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OLYMPIA — Every year one in 12 teens attempts suicide. Students like 13-year-old Zach from Sultan, who friends say was bullied for years.

SONY DSC“We need to get better at knowing what kids are dealing with, knowing how to help them, and when and how to intervene at the appropriate times,” said Sultan Public Schools Superintendent Dan Chaplik.

That is the hope of a new bill in Olympia.  It would require all teachers and school counselors be trained in how to recognize signs of suicide in students.

“These kids are already having issues in our schools and what we’re saying is we need to identify them and get them the help they need,” said Rep. Tina Orwall.

Randi Jensen is a licensed mental health counselor, who herself was suicidal as a child.  She feels it’s important for this issue to be on the radar of all school staff.

“Kids don’t want you to know this shameful secret.  They get it really quickly that something is wrong and will send out plenty of signs,” said Jensen.

Lauren David testified in favor of the bill.  She says she contemplated suicide while a sophomore at Issaquah High School.

“I would buy a large bottle of Tylenol and count the pills in my hand.  I would sit in the garage with the car running for a few minutes at a time and I wrote good-bye notes.  At school I exhibited signs of suicide slept during class, cried in class and my school counselor’s office,” said David.

It’s those types of behaviors lawmakers want teachers to pick up on and know exactly how to get them help.

“We know suicide is very preventable.  We need to make sure we have the tools in our schools and partnership with mental health providers to keep kids safe,” said Rep. Orwall.

After the Governor signs the bill, districts will work with the Department of Health this coming school year to come up with the training material, and identify mental health experts who are willing to take referrals.  It won’t be until the 2014-15 school year when this would all take effect.

duiOLYMPIA — Gov. Jay Inslee said Sunday night that “great progress” has been made on proposed drunken driving legislation and that a bill to toughen DUI laws is “95 percent complete.”

“We hope the Legislature will be able to pass it in the first few days of the special session,” which is set to begin May 13, Inslee said at a news briefing to announce the special session.

Inslee was hesitant to provide details, saying it is a bipartisan bill that will be announced by leaders of both parties later.

But the governor said there will be some increased jail time for repeat DUI offenders, that the number of offenses before it becomes a felony would be lowered from five to four, and “we will actually have a way to stop people from drinking alcohol after their second offense” through alcohol-detection bracelets that offenders would be required to wear.

Some offenders will be allowed to undergo alcohol abuse treatment rather than go to jail.

OLYMPIA – The Legislature’s Impaired Driving Group heard new suggestions Tuesday for trying to curb drunken driving, while state Rep. Roger Goodman, D-Kirkland, said he hoped to move a bill toughening the DUI laws onto the House and Senate floors by Sunday.

“The victims don’t get a second chance at life, and so we seem to be giving the drunk drivers a second chance to kill,” Goodman said of the current situation.

At an Impaired Driving Group meeting Tuesday, members discussed suggestions of possibly allowing the seizure of a vehicle after a driver’s third DUI or prohibiting someone from even entering an establishment where the primary commodity is liquor.

Meanwhile, Goodman said he hopes to have the current bill aimed at toughening DUI laws – HB 2030 and SB 5912 – onto the floor by the Legislature’s adjournment date of Sunday, April 28.

The bills would increase jail time so a second conviction would require an offender to choose either six months behind bars, or treatment and wear an alcohol-detection bracelet that would alert the court if the driver consumes any alcohol.  A third conviction would require seven months in jail and the same alternative for treatment.

Also on a third DUI conviction, an offender would be issued a vertical driver’s license, which would prohibit the offender from buying alcohol at a bar or store.

Goodman also wanted ignition interlock devices to be installed while the driver’s car is in impound immediately after they are arrested, but the ACLU raised constitutional concerns.

“Then you’re really relying on law enforcement to make that determination out in the field; that’s a situation where you could sweep in a lot of people who are innocent,” the ACLU’s Shankar Narayan said.

Some of the provisions are controversial but Goodman is committed to trying to keep impaired drivers off the road.

“I’ve heard a lot of cynical comments about people are going to get around this and find a way to get alcohol or drive someone else’s car.  Some people are going to do that, but we’re going to make it a lot harder,” said Goodman.

OLYMPIA — There are up to 40,000 DUI arrests every year in Washington and most are first-time offenders like Hannah Casar.

“I am very careful now going out; I think it’s really helped me, I think the one-time conviction,” said Casar.

King County prosecutor Dan Satterberg wants stricter DUI laws and believes resources should be spent on the 13% who are repeat offenders.

“I want to focus on repeat offenders, not try for everything for everybody,” said Satterberg.

The bill sets mandatory minimum jail times for second and third offenses, but offenders can avoid a six-month jail term on a second offense if they enroll in an approved sobriety program and wear a special bracelet that would alert authorities if they ingest any alcohol.

On a third offense, offenders would be sentenced to a year in jail and issued an identification card that would prohibit them from purchasing alcohol for 10 years.

It would also require that ignition interlock devices be installed during the mandatory 12-hour impounding of a vehicle after a DUI arrest — and before a conviction.

Top safety officials attending a hearing in Olympia Thursday said, however, that the new DUI bill, HB 2030, is too broad and focuses too much on first-time offenders.

State Rep. Roger Goodman, D-Kirkland, said he’s taking that advice to heart. Some say Goodman’s solution to rehabilitate repeat offenders is certainly bold.

“On your third DUI conviction, you will receive a special driver’s license that’s marked that will prohibit you from being sold or served alcohol,” said Goodman.

Under this bill, with a second DUI conviction, offenders will get the chance to pick between jail or taking a sobriety program.

“For the court to say you can’t drink alcohol anymore, that is a bold move; whether or not the courts are ready to enforce it or not is another question,” said Satterberg.

Lawmakers are discussing technology that could help supervise those who choose sobriety, including a special bracelet that can detect alcohol through the skin.  But the costs are big and Goodman said the expense will be fronted by the offenders, not taxpayers.

“Ordering people not to drink is a futile effort if you don’t have a drug treatment program,” said Satterberg,

Goodman said prison is not the answer and he hopes to emphasize treatment in the fight against DUIs.

“The thing now that’s most promising right now is that people are talking about DUI because, frankly, the answer is not the new laws but in the attitude,” said Satterberg.

For Casar, that attitude change unfortunately came with handcuffs but says she will never do it again.

“Have a plan of how you are going to get home,” advised Casar.

The ACLU said installing ignition interlock devices on people’s vehicles before they are convicted of a DUI could be a violation of rights. They want a judge to have probable cause before they mandate the device be installed.

Goodman said that is a good point and the bill will be rewritten to reflect that. But the Legislature is scheduled to complete business on April 28.

OLYMPIA — Gov. Jay Inslee and legislators announced a new bill Tuesday to increase penalties for DUI convictions, including mandatory arrest on a first offense and a choice of six months in jail or enrollment in a new sobriety program on a second offense.

Offenders will be sentenced to one year in jail on their third offense.

“There are no more free passes for those who choose to drive under the influence of drugs or alcohol,” Inslee said at a news conference with a bipartisan group of state lawmakers as they unveiled the new DUI bill, HB 2030/SB5912).

The governor’s office said the program, implemented in South Dakota, provides stricter accountability and substance abuse support that has proven to reduce recidivism.

Additional provisions in the bill include installation of ignition interlock devices on all DUI defendant vehicles, authorization to establish DUI courts in local municipalities, and increased funding for the state’s Target Zero program.

“Every accident and every death we see involving a DUI could have been prevented,” said Inslee. “People who choose to get behind the wheel must know that we are done giving them a free pass.”

The bill is supported by legislators in both chambers and on both sides of the aisle.

“As someone pointed out this past week at our joint committee work session, there is no crime more preventable than DUI,” said state Sen. Mike Padden, R-Spokane Valley, chairman of the Senate Law and Justice Committee. “This new Senate bill has a lot of things in it that should help prevent DUIs, including some approaches our committee brought to the table after talking with justice officials in other states.”

“We’ve worked hard to strengthen our DUI laws and with some success, reducing alcohol-related deaths and injuries on the roadways by more than 35%. The recent tragedies remind us that we have more work to do, so we need even tougher and smarter laws, especially to stop repeat offenders,” said state Rep. Roger Goodman, D-Kirkland, who heads the state’s Impaired Driving Work Group.

“Victims of drunk drivers don’t get a second chance at life, so it’s time we stop giving the drunk drivers a second chance. Governor Inslee has proposed strong new measures and although we only have a short time before the session ends, I know we have the political will to pass these important reforms into law,” Goodman said.

HB 2030 and SB 5912 are scheduled for a public hearing on Thursday in a joint session of the House and Senate.

SEATTLE — A hard push to stop drunken driving took place during a high-level meeting Thursday between top lawmakers and Gov. Jay Inslee in Olympia, just hours after the man charged in a fatal Seattle accident made an appearance in court.

Prosecutors contend suspect Mark Mullan drove his pickup truck under the influence on March 25 and killed a married couple and critically injured their daughter-in-law and infant grandson in the Wedgwood neighborhood in northeast Seattle.

Mullan pleaded not guilty to the charges Thursday. But if convicted, he could spend nearly two decades in prison.

“It is manslaughter …  it is recklessly engaging in behavior that you know, or should know, could kill somebody,” King County deputy prosecutor Amy Freedheim said outside the courtroom.

Prosecutors say Mullan’s blood-alcohol level was nearly three times the legal limit when his pickup struck the four pedestrians crossing the street.

Dennis and Judy Shulte were killed instantly. Their daughter-in-law and her newborn son remain in intensive care at Harborview Medical Center.

“If we learn anything from this tragedy, it is that choices we make daily affect the people around us. Every person must have accountability and be responsible to fellow citizens,” said Judy Schulte’s sister, Ruth Dwyer.

Accountability and responsibility were the focus of a closed-door meeting in Olympia between state lawmakers and the governor. They are looking to toughen the state’s DUI laws, including reducing the number of DUIs it takes (from five to three) for a felony charge and also speeding up the judicial process.

“There is this very dangerous window between the arrest (of a DUI suspect) and the final disposition of the case when there’s no (ignition interlock) device on the car and no accountability, so we want to close that window and make the roads safer that way. That is one of the most important provisions,” said state Rep. Roger Goodman, D-Kirkland.

Earlier Thursday, members of the House Law and Justice Committee heard ideas from judges, police and prosecutors.

Some called for tougher rules on interlock devices that prevent vehicles from being started by those who have consumed alcohol. Others want police sobriety checkpoints occasionally set up in Washington.

“I know that’s a controversial issue, but the one thing with that is the 39 other states that implemented those (sobriety checkpoints) have seen between a 20 and 25 percent reduction in fatal collisions involving an impaired driver,” Traffic Safety Commission member Darrin Grondel said.

A bill to impose longer sentences for repeat offenders was already passed last year. One of the supporters of that legislation was Freedheim, who is now prosecuting Mullan.

“It is the most preventable crime, there is no excuse, there is no excuse for driving impaired,” Freedheim said.

“Since these tragedies, we are moved now — spurred into action — to get important DUI legislation passed this year,” Goodman said.

He added that the third-time felony provision might be a tough sell because it would likely require building a new state prison at a cost of about $200 million.

He also wants to give more money to the Washington State Patrol for enforcement, more money for prosecutors to bring cases more quickly, and more money for treatment – all a tough sell in tight budget times.




State Sen. Andy Hill, R-Redmond, is the Senate’s chief budget writer.

OLYMPIA — The Senate passed a Republican-favored state budget plan late Friday that provides $1 billion more to education, does not raise taxes, and cuts child care and social services.

The vote was 30-18, with nine Democrats joining with 21 Republicans.

Republicans control the state Senate with the aid of two conservative Democrats.

The Democratic-controlled House is expected to unveil its budget plan next week.

Gov. Jay Inslee presented his proposed budget for the state last week and it is a very different blueprint from the Senate version – meaning a showdown is likely in the coming weeks to bring the two sides together before the legislative session ends April 28.

The plan from Senate leaders calls for $1 billion more for public schools to fulfill the state Supreme Court mandate. That’s lower than the governor’s proposed $1.2 billion.

But the big difference is that Inslee relies on new revenue, whereas the Senate budget holds the line on any new taxes.

Unlike the governor’s plan, the Senate’s proposed budget does not rely on closing tax loopholes for money and would let expire taxes on beer and professional services that are set to sunset in July.

To generate $1 billion in new money for public schools and another $1.2 billion to fill the state’s budget hole, the Senate plan relies on a number of savings.  Those include moving some government employees off the state’s health plan as they move to a federal exchange plan under the new national health care law, and a $180 million cut to child care and social services.

In a statement issued Friday night, Inslee said, “The vote today in the Senate produced a budget that would move our state in the wrong direction. The short-term and short-sighted budget tricks in this plan would hamper our economic recovery and do further damage to vital services for seniors and children. And, as key education leaders across the state have made clear, this budget would harm our ability to provide a quality education to our children.

“I was heartened by comments from some who voted for this budget that they recognize the significant problems with the Senate plan and see the value of my proposal for a responsible and sustainable budget. I will work with them in the coming days on a budget that rebuilds our economy, supports our children’s education and protects vital services.”

OLYMPIA — Can sexual orientation be changed? It’s a question that’s now in front of state lawmakers in Olympia, where there is move to ban “conversion therapy” for gay and lesbian youth.

“Conversion therapy” is the controversial practice of counselors trying to change the sexual orientation of their patients — patients who are often forced into therapy by their parents who want their child to be heterosexual.

No one knows how widespread the practice is in Washington. Those therapists who claim to offer this service don’t advertise widely because it is controversial. Some patients say they have put their homosexuality “behind” them through counseling, but the view held by the vast majority in the profession is that “conversion” therapy is ineffective and even harmful.

“These beliefs have long been discredited by all the major mental health organizations,” said Doug Haldeman, a clinical psychologist and member of the Washington State Psychological Association. He testified Thursday before lawmakers.

“I have never seen it work, never,” Haldeman said after the hearing. “It’s like mission impossible, and when you put a kid through that, that sense of shame and failure and depression can last a lifetime.”

State Rep.Marko Liias, D-Mukilteo, is urging his colleagues to support a measure that will pave the way to banning conversation – sometimes called “reparative” therapy. “Sexual orientation change efforts are dangerous,” Liias said.

The bill creates a task force to find ways to end or at least regulate the practice when it comes to anyone under 18. The group would report to the Legislature by the end of the year.

“No one should be forcing a child to  participate in something that could be dangerous to them,” Liias said.

During nearly 30 minutes of testimony at Thursday’s hearing, no one showed up to oppose the measure.

The 15-person task force that would be created would have to make “reasonable efforts” to recruit one member who actually practices the technique to ensure that that viewpoint is represented.

California is the only state that has banned conversation therapy, but it has faced legal hurdles. It’s been put on hold by a federal court pending a full trial. The claim by those who brought the lawsuit is that it violates the rights of parents to raise their children how they want, and that it violates the rights of therapists to practice what they want.

SEATTLE — Some residents in cities such as Marysville and Puyallup have been outraged by halfway houses popping up in their neighborhoods. The controversy is now pushing state lawmakers to step in.

The main objective of Senate Bill 5105 is to get community reaction before any halfway house can open up in any neighborhood.

After 20 years of living in her dream home in Marysville, Michelle Morck said, suddenly the home next to hers became a halfway house packed with sex offenders.

“The only way to and from this property was through our front property,” said Morck.

Fearing for her family’s safety, Morck moved last year and is now facing foreclosure as she said she is unable to sell her vacant home.

“It’s really devastated us in many, many ways,” said Morck.

About  1,000 inmates every year since 2009 have been released by the Department of Corrections with taxpayer dollars in the form of rental vouchers.

Inmates released on good behavior receive $500 a month for up to three months after being released from prison. But as it stands, the state has no clear rules on where and how halfway houses are operated.

“I think it’s insane that the local government, local enforcement, local housing authorities don’t have the final say in these types of cases,” said Rob Davidson, who is a registered sex offender.

Davidson received DOC vouchers when he was released from prison this year. He says many halfway houses are out of control.

“As a money maker, people are applying for these vouchers, purchasing foreclosed homes, large foreclosed homes; they’re just making money off of it. They don’t care what is happening with the offenders,” said Julie Door of the activist group Shaw ComeTogether.

Door’s group is lobbying state lawmakers to pass the bill that would require strict rules on halfway houses.  The measure would create state records of all halfway houses, give local counties and law enforcement more oversight and require community reaction before any halfway house can open.

“They (would) have to come on a list; they (would) have to coordinate the site with the local community who would perform a community impact statement,” said state Sen. Bruce Dammeier, R-Puyallup, who is sponsoring the bill.

On Tuesday, various city leaders and the public, including Morck,  toured Unity House, a halfway house in Seattle, that many say is a good example.

The owner of the halfway house, Jim Tharpe, said the Seattle neighborhood supports his home because of his efforts to inform the community. Morck said if Unity House was next door to her house, she wouldn’t move.

“A home such as this, versus where we were at, is night and day,” said Morck.

Senate bill 5105 passed the Senate with significant support. It is now in the House and lawmakers say it has a good chance of becoming law.