The following newsletter was sent to subscribers to Sen. Padden’s Report From Olympia, March 30, 2017. To subscribe to Sen. Padden’s newsletters, click here.
Dear friends and neighbors,
During these final weeks of our regular legislative session, House and Senate committees have been busy. House policy committees had until Wednesday to pass most bills that originated in the Senate, and vice versa.
Now we can see which bills will be the focus of our final debates before we adjourn April 23. Bills that survived the cutoff include legislation I have sponsored that would reform the Department of Corrections, expand felony DUIs, restrict eminent domain authority and make it easier to convict human traffickers of crimes against minors.
Also this week, our budget debate has begun in earnest. On Monday, the House released a proposal to compete with the no-new-taxes budget we passed in the Senate last week. In this week’s newsletter, I’ll tell you about the contrast between the two proposals.
Sen. Mike Padden
Budget debate moves to center stage
The budget battle is now in full swing. Last week we passed our no-new-tax budget in the Senate. This week the House Democratic Caucus, which holds the majority in the other chamber, released a proposal of its own. The free-spending House budget would require $4.7 billion in new taxes when fully implemented. That’s a bit less than the governor proposed last December, but still it would be the biggest tax increase in Washington state history. And it would require a capital gains income tax, a precursor to a general statewide income tax.
Not only does the Senate budget avoid new taxes, it also invests more in our public schools. Will the House be willing to back up its proposal by taking a vote for the tax increases? We shall see. For the last several years, supporters of higher taxes and bigger spending have been unable to convince their colleagues to vote for proposals that would damage the Washington economy. Until the House demonstrates its resolve by taking a tough vote for a punishing tax increase, its plan is nothing more than a spending wish-list, and negotiations become very difficult.
Law and Justice bills clear first House hurdle
As chair of the Senate Law and Justice committee, I often sponsor legislation dealing with criminal justice and public safety. Several of these bills got votes over the last week in our counterpart committees in the House, the House Judiciary and Public Safety committees. Bills that have passed this first House hurdle include:
- Felony DUIs – Senate Bill 5037 makes the 4th DUI a felony in Washington, and brings this state in line with the rest of the country. Washington currently has the nation’s weakest felony DUI law, requiring four convictions before the 5th can be charges as a felony and prison time can be imposed. The Senate has passed this bill six times, unanimously, over the last two years, but House leaders have not permitted a vote on the House floor.
- Reforming the Department of Corrections – SB 5294 enacts recommendations of the Senate Law and Justice Committee, following last year’s investigation of the early release of 3,000 dangerous felons. The House Public Safety Committee made significant amendments to the bill before passing it, keeping this important reform measure alive for further negotiation.
- Crimes against minors – SB 5813 eliminates a defense commonly used by human traffickers: “I didn’t know how old she was.” Sentences for trafficking crimes including prostitution are increased when the victim is a minor. The bill prohibits offenders from arguing that they did not know the child was under 18 years old. It also imposes longer sentences for possessing or dealing in child pornography.
- Eminent domain – SB 5445 forbids local governments from using eminent domain authority to take private property for private development projects, when no direct public benefit is involved.
- Criminal informants – SB 5038 requires fuller disclosure when prosecutors utilize evidence and testimony from criminal informants.
- Property damage lawsuits – SB 5080 imposes shorter deadlines for property-damage lawsuits related to construction or repairs on adjacent properties.
- Disqualification of judges – SB 5277 clarifies judicial procedures.
- Retail theft – SB 5635 makes it easier for prosecutors to seek longer “special circumstances” sentences.
- Attempted murder – SB 5810 increases the statute of limitations for attempted murder to 10 years.
Congratulations to Steve O’Meara
O’Meara (center), of Spokane Valley, earned a place on the Phi Delta Kappa All-Washington Academic Team while in the architectural technology program at Spokane Community College, retraining for a third career. He was joined by Dr. Christine Johnson (left), chancellor of the Community Colleges of Spokane, and Rob Vogel, communications studies. They came to Olympia for an awards presentation March 23. Phi Theta Kappa is the national honor society for community and technical colleges.
Amendment boosts women’s health, cuts abortion funding
In the Senate Ways and Means Committee last week, I won an important amendment to the Senate budget that increases funding for vital women’s health services, by taking $1.7 million from the state’s budget for abortion providers. This money would instead be used for breast and cervical cancer screenings. We all have friends and loved ones who have suffered these forms of cancer, and these screenings can make an important difference. We also have learned much about the humanity of unborn children, and it becomes obvious they need our protection. The unborn child is really the most vulnerable person in our society.
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Tiny houses at the Capitol
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