Friends and Neighbors,
Week five is winding down, so we are almost 33% of the way through the 15-week legislative session.
Next Friday, state lawmakers will face their first deadline: policy committee cutoff. All bills must pass out of their policy committees by this day, or they are considered “dead” for the legislative session. This applies to a committee I sit on: Agriculture and Natural Resources. The next deadline will be fiscal committee cutoff, which applies to the other two committees I sit on: Finance and Transportation.
What this means is state lawmakers can expect a lot of committee work over the next two weeks, in addition to House and Senate floor action voting on many of the bills that have already advanced out of committees. Most measures that pass out of policy and fiscal committees must pass through the Rules Committee before they reach the larger bodies for a full vote.
One of the significant issues this legislative session is public safety. Even the governor mentioned it in his State of the State address. There are a lot of aspects to public safety and, like any other major public policy issue, a wide range of perspectives on both the problems and solutions. But I think most understand that many communities are unsafe or don’t feel safe, and our state is on the wrong trajectory.
My views have not changed. Public safety is a foundational responsibility of government at every level. In the Legislature, state lawmakers must pass policies that keep communities safe, hold criminals accountable, provide guidance to our legal system, and give local governments and law enforcement the tools and resources necessary to carry out these policies. While police officers need to be held to a high standard, we cannot create an impossible one. Let’s never forget: they put their lives on the line every day to keep us safe, so they deserve to be supported by policymakers and their communities.
A contrast in approaches
Unfortunately, the majority party in the Legislature has gone in the opposite direction on some of the things I mention above. In 2021, they passed legislation that limited vehicular pursuits — changing the threshold to engage in a vehicular pursuit to a higher one of probable cause. Shortly after this policy was enacted, criminals began to exploit the system — knowing that police officers could not pursue them in many cases. Since then, law enforcement has told us they believe this has led to an increase in crime — including auto thefts. I think this is pretty clear to anyone looking at it objectively.
Bipartisan legislation to fix the vehicular pursuit problem
In 2022, a bipartisan solution emerged to fix this vehicular pursuit problem. I voted for this bill. Unfortunately, it was stopped by those controlling the Senate late in the legislative session. It was one of the big storylines last March. Since then, the consequences of inaction have been clear. Learn more here.
In the 2023 legislative session, another bipartisan solution — House Bill 1363 — has been introduced. The legislation would lower the threshold to engage in vehicular pursuit to reasonable suspicion that a person has committed or is committing any criminal offense. This measure has 40 sponsors, 20 Democrats and 20 Republicans, including me. It received a public hearing on January 31 but has yet to be moved out of the Community Safety, Justice & Reentry Committee.
After listening to their constituents, law enforcement, local governments, and the business community, some Democrats understand a mistake was made. Others in the majority party don’t want to move off their position from 2021.
On the other side of the aisle, Republicans were united in opposition to the bill in 2021 and have supported bipartisan legislation over the last two years to fix the problem. And we don’t care who gets credit for the solution.
More solutions for public safety
Here are some other bills I support to make our communities safer and support law enforcement:
- House Bill 1380 would provide funding for the recruitment, retention and support of law enforcement officers.
- House Bill 1446 would incentivize cities and counties to increase employment of commissioned law enforcement officers.
- House Bill 1682 would direct more resources for the prevention, investigation and prosecution of auto theft at the local level.
- House Bill 1373 would fund the removal of illegal encampments near schools, child care centers, parks and courthouses.
- House Bill 1415 would make the knowing possession of a controlled substance a gross misdemeanor offense.
All but one of the bills noted above have at least one Democrat co-sponsor.
I also signed on to a letter to Gov. Inslee asking for Southwest Washington to be considered for the first new regional law enforcement training center. Giving new police officers a chance to train locally will be an important recruitment tool for law enforcement agencies in our area.
Public safety promises to be one of the biggest storylines in the last two-thirds of the legislative session. I will keep you updated on what happens.
Broad-based tax relief proposals
Our state again has a large budget surplus. This offers state lawmakers another opportunity to provide meaningful tax relief.
It is time to help Washingtonians who are struggling with high inflation, more costs and economic uncertainty. State lawmakers can — and should — provide some relief.
I will share some updates on the other bills I have proposed in my next email update.
Staying in touch
If you ever have any questions or ideas to pass along, please don’t hesitate to contact me. I look forward to hearing from you.