The following newsletter was sent to subscribers to Sen. Padden’s Report From Olympia, April 13, 2017. To subscribe to Sen. Padden’s newsletters, click here.
Dear friends and neighbors,
As adjournment of our regular session draws near, major differences remain between the House and Senate over the state’s operating budget, and the dismaying possibility of an overtime session hangs over our heads. For now, we are still passing bills. We are scheduled to end our regular session by April 23.
Important developments of the past week include passage of the Senate’s transportation budget. An amendment I offered would provide additional funding for the planned Barker Road overpass over the Burlington Northern Santa Fe tracks and East Trent Avenue. Meanwhile, the House passed a key human-trafficking bill I sponsored, sending it to the governor’s desk. This week’s newsletter will fill you in on key actions for the 4th District at the statehouse.
Sen. Mike Padden
Barker Road overpass wins Senate endorsement
Last week we won an amendment on the Senate floor that moves us closer to completing our longtime goal of bridging the Spokane Valley. In our transportation budget we allocated $1.5 million for the Barker Road grade separation, which will bridge the tracks along East Trent and the intersection at Barker and Trent. When this long-sought project is eventually completed, it will help accommodate growth in Spokane Valley, and will boost economic development by opening up new land for development near Spokane Industrial Park. But most importantly, it will improve safety by eliminating a rail crossing on this important north-south route. During debate on the House version of the transportation budget Wednesday night, House Transportation Chair Judy Clibborn, D-Mercer Island, said she would agree to support this project, and others added by the Senate, in the final transportation bill that will be adopted by the Legislature this year.
Human trafficking bill goes to governor
Last week the House passed the crimes-against-minors bill, a measure that eliminates “I didn’t know how old she was” as a line of defense in human-trafficking prosecutions. Senate Bill 5813, which now is on the governor’s desk, makes it easier for prosecutors to seek longer sentences when victims are underage.
Trafficking crimes frequently involve prostitution and other sexually explicit activities, but also can include other acts entailing control and servitude. SB 5813 prevents traffickers from claiming they did not know a victim was underage, or that they mistakenly believed the child was older. The bill also imposes longer sentences for possessing or dealing in child pornography.
I worked closely on this legislation with former Congresswoman Linda Smith, founder and president of Shared Hope International, a Vancouver-based organization that has done much to create awareness of human trafficking crimes.
Smith explained, “Even when strong trafficking laws are in place, trafficking offenders may avoid serious penalties by claiming they didn’t know the child’s age. Sen. Padden’s Senate Bill 5813 ensures that protections for children are not undermined and promotes successful prosecutions. We applaud the strong bipartisan effort in the Washington Legislature to combat human trafficking. As one of the first states to achieve an ‘A’ under the Protected Innocence Challenge, this bill represents how Washington state has led the country in closing gaps in protections for child sex trafficking victims.”
House passes disqualification-of-judges bill
Also clearing the House and moving to the governor’s desk is my Senate Bill 5277, which changes the procedures under which a judge may be disqualified from hearing a case. The bill also expands the list of decisions a judge may make that are not subject to disqualification, such as setting a court calendar or issuing an arrest warrant. A great advocate for this legislation was my friend, the late Judge Sam Cozza, who died in January and is fondly remembered as a pillar of the Spokane County Superior Court bench.
Visitors to Olympia
In the news: House’s failure to act on Hirst creates alarm
Last week’s decision by House leaders to take no action on an important household-well bill is prompting grave concern in the Legislature. I am a co-sponsor of SB 5239, which would undo a state Supreme Court ruling known as the Hirst decision. This decision imposes difficult – if not impossible – bureaucratic hurdles on rural property owners who need to drill family-sized wells in order to develop their land.
In the Kitsap Daily News, Sen. Jan Angel, R-Port Orchard, writes:
Before the Hirst decision came down, many people planned to build a home for themselves, investing their life savings in property that is now unusable without water. Many invested in property as retirement income or as an inheritance for their families, but are seeing their land become nearly worthless as a result of this decision. We’ve heard from countless people who had water when they started a project, but now don’t have permission to use it. They’re up a creek without any water.
In The (Tacoma) News Tribune, Sen. Randi Becker, R-Eatonville, writes:
Just think of the cost when the effect is felt statewide — the lost property values, the homes that will never be built and the tax burden that will be shifted to others.
And the impact on individuals is enormous. People have scrimped and saved to buy a plot of land where someday they could build, only to have that dream taken away by an arbitrary and misguided court decision. These matters were never a concern for the plaintiffs, and the court was too shortsighted to recognize them.
This issue is not just about rural and urban. This is about people’s lives and well-being, their ability to provide for their families and their communities’ ability to pay for vital services.
Thanks to Aurelia Vanderwilde for serving as a Senate page!
Last week I had the honor of sponsoring Aurelia Vanderwilde as a Senate page. Aurelia, 14, is a 9th grader at Ferris High School. She is the daughter of Brenda Vanderwilde of Spokane. Aurelia is active in debate and band in school, and says she is interested in working in government someday. She got a first-hand look during her one-week stay in Olympia.
If you have a question or concern about state government, please do not hesitate to contact our office. We are here to serve you!
Phone: (360) 786-7606
Mail: PO Box 40404, Olympia, WA, 98504