The following newsletter was sent to subscribers to Sen. Padden’s newsletter, Feb. 23, 2017. To subscribe to Sen. Padden’s newsletters, click here.
Dear friends and neighbors,
We’re at the point of our legislative session when the action begins to move to the Senate floor. There are still a few bills that must pass budget committees, but we’re done with the first rush of business through policy committees, like the one I chair, Law and Justice.
That means we can pause for a moment and consider the work we have already accomplished. This week I’ll recap some of our most important initiatives in the Law and Justice Committee, and tell you about a key hearing in our effort to reform the state Department of Corrections.
Making the case for DOC reform
This week our comprehensive Department of Corrections reform bill got a hearing in the Senate Ways and Means Committee. Last year we were shocked to learn that DOC had released 3,000 violent and dangerous prisoners early — and that the releases continued for three years after the agency learned of the problem, while a software fix was delayed due to bureaucratic indifference.
For this committee, which deals with fiscal matters, we made the case for reform in terms of dollars and cents. At least 29 crimes were committed by offenders who should have been behind bars. One was convicted last year in a drunk-driving death; another awaits trial for murder in Spokane. The victims’ families already have filed claims against the state. The claim in the Spokane case alone is $5 million. We can’t erase the human damage that has been done by this tragic case of mismanagement, but we can change the agency culture to ensure such a costly error never recurs.
In the news:
State’s prisons agency needs reforms after early-release scandal
Last week The Herald of Everett published an editorial endorsing our effort to reform the Department of Corrections. Among other things, it said:
“…Last year there was plenty of blame to go around, some acceptance of responsibility, some election-year fault-finding, and now, thankfully, recommendations that should help to correct problems and improve transparency within the Department of Corrections and throughout state government.
“…A handful of resignations and admissions of responsibility that followed last year’s news only went so far in resolving the problems that came to light. The Senate bill provides solutions that should reach much further.”
You can read this editorial here.
Top issues for Law and Justice
Here are some of the important bills I have sponsored that have emerged from the Senate Law and Justice Committee.
DUI felonies – Washington currently has the most lenient felony DUI law in the country. SB 5037 makes the fourth DUI a felony. This bill has passed the Senate unanimously five times in previous sessions, but House leaders have not yet permitted a vote.
Human trafficking – SB 5029 allows courts to issue no-contact orders to those accused of facilitating prostitution. SB 5184 makes it easier to prosecute the crime of patronizing a prostitute, when online communications cross city and county lines.
Eminent domain – SB 5445 prohibits local governments from using their eminent domain authority for economic development purposes, when no direct public benefit is involved.
Coroners’ inquests – SB 5769 revises the rules for coroners’ inquests, making these hearings a more useful tool to allay community concerns about law-enforcement-related deaths and other suspicious fatalities. For more information, click here.
Parental Notification – SB 5320 requires 48 hours’ advance notice to parents and guardians when minors seek abortions.
Other bills deal with retail theft, the forfeiture of property, testimony by criminal informants, the statute of limitations for attempted murder and other topics.
Meeting with Steelworkers president
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