The following newsletter was sent to subscribers to Sen. Padden’s Report From Olympia, March 23, 2017. To subscribe to Sen. Padden’s newsletters, click here.
Dear friends and neighbors,
We’ve begun the final month of our regular session, when the budget becomes the top issue for the Washington Legislature. During the four weeks that remain before our scheduled April 23 adjournment, the House and Senate will debate radically different visions for the state. Advocates of bigger government and higher spending are proposing the biggest tax increase in Washington history. On the other hand, our Senate Majority Coalition Caucus proposed a budget Tuesday that meets the state’s needs without increasing taxation, and does not put jobs or the economy at risk. You can read about our proposal here.
In the meantime, the other work of the Legislature continues. Bills passed by the Senate are getting hearings in the House, and vice-versa – including many that originated in the Senate Law and Justice Committee, which I chair. We also have launched a Facebook page, and are using it to reach out to specific audiences in the 4th Legislative District. This week I’ll update you about these efforts.
Sen. Mike Padden
Compelling testimony for DUI legislation
We heard persuasive testimony this week from prosecutors and victims as the House Public Safety Committee held a hearing on my legislation that would make the 4th DUI a felony in this state. Senate Bill 5037 was passed by the Senate unanimously Feb. 23, and money to implement it is included in the Senate budget proposal. The measure would send about 200 impaired drivers to prison each year for terms of 13-17 months.
KOMO-TV in Seattle did a story about this long-running effort to strengthen the nation’s weakest felony DUI law – you can see it here. The Senate has passed this bill six times over the last two years, without a dissenting vote. The real question is if leaders in the House will at long last permit a vote to take place on the floor.
Testimony from those who have lost loved ones made an eloquent case for this legislation. Karen Bartlett, who lost her husband Russ to a drunk driver in 2014, said, “Our whole world was shattered that day, and I just think that it’s up to you as our representatives to get with it and get this bill passed. Because we’ve been here five times.”
Prosecutors speak out for DUI legislation
Spokane County Prosecutor Larry Haskell came to Olympia to endorse the DUI bill. He recalled prosecuting a man with an astonishing eight DUI convictions within 10 years. “Some people will never get it,” he said. “It is up to us, the leaders, to enforce our will on them.”
Also testifying for the DUI bill was Amy Freedheim, senior deputy prosecutor in King County. Freedheim is the lead prosecutor in felony DUI cases in our state’s most populous county. “I don’t think people realize how dangerous DUI driving is,” she said. “It still kills more people than firearms in this country.”
Freedheim likened our state’s felony DUI law to shooting a gun on a crowded freeway. The current law does not allow felony charges to be filed until the fifth offense, giving impaired drivers five chances to hurt someone else before risking prison time. Under our proposal, they would have four – and many of us would feel more comfortable if it was three, as in Oregon, Idaho and most other states.
In the news
The House Public Safety Committee hearing also was featured on KIRO radio and in The Spokesman-Review. In addition, the Review covered a second bill I have sponsored, SB 5186, permitting trained law enforcement personnel to draw blood for DUI investigations.
The Spokesman-Review: Washington House considers tougher DUI law, new way to get blood samples from drivers
From the Review story:
“OLYMPIA – As the Legislature moves once again toward imposing tougher penalties for people who repeatedly drive under the influence of alcohol or drugs, it must also consider changing how police determine a driver was smoking pot.
” Spokane County had 1,216 DUI arrests last year, County Prosecutor Larry Haskell told the House Public Safety Committee, ‘and those are only the ones that got caught.’ ”
“Although the number of alcohol-related accidents and fatalities are down, there is an increase in the marijuana-related accidents and what law enforcement calls poly-drug DUIs – some combination of alcohol, marijuana, prescription drugs or heroin.
” ‘A driver under the influence of marijuana is ‘an unguided missile that is one intersection away from a direct hit,’ Haskell said.”
New Facebook site is launched
We have launched a new “official” Facebook site that offers a new way to learn about the work we are doing in Olympia. This site, which can be seen here, relays important information that also can be found on my website.
One of our first special projects for Facebook is a special message for the Russian-speaking community of Spokane Valley and Spokane County. Over the last 25 years the Russian-speaking community has become the single-largest ethnic minority in Spokane County, with more than 4,000 households. We should recognize the important contribution made by Russian speakers who have chosen to make new lives in our area — all of us, together, working to build a healthy and prosperous community.
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