The following newsletter was sent to subscribers to Sen. Padden’s Report From Olympia, April 27, 2017. To subscribe to Sen. Padden’s newsletters, click here.
Dear friends and neighbors,
This was a week of accomplishment and disappointment. After years of effort to toughen our state’s impaired-driving laws, my legislation to make the 4th DUI a felony in Washington has finally passed the Legislature. Other bills also passed in a flurry as we wrapped up our regular session last week, and we are beginning to see final recognition for our work as bills are signed into law.
The bad news is that the Legislature so far has failed to negotiate a budget. We were forced to adjourn without reaching agreement on the single biggest issue of the year. This was because the constitution requires us to end our regular session within 105 days, a mark we hit Sunday. So we have reconvened for a special overtime session, and we are hoping an agreement will be reached soon that will allow us to end our work for the year.
In the Senate, we have passed a budget that lives within the state’s means. Our counterparts in the House are of a different mind. They have passed a spending plan that would require a $3 billion tax increase — $5 billion when fully implemented. Yet they have refused to vote on the taxes their proposal requires, making negotiations difficult. This emphasis on higher spending is troubling. We can’t expect our economy to grow at a rapid pace year after year. Many of us will be advocating greater fiscal discipline as budget negotiations continue.
Sen. Mike Padden
Legislature passes felony DUI bill, at long last
Years of work on tougher DUI laws finally paid off last week as the state House passed Senate Bill 5037, to make the fourth offense a felony in Washington. This state has long had the weakest felony DUI law in the country, requiring four misdemeanor convictions within 10 years before the fifth can be charged as a felony. As a result of this legislation, about 200 people will serve longer sentences in state prison each year. The bill brings us in line with many other states, though it would be preferable if we required prison time on the third conviction, as do our neighboring states of Idaho and Oregon.
We had passed this bill six times in the Senate since 2015 – unanimously, every time – but not until Thursday night did House leaders permit a vote to take place on the House floor. Support for this measure had been growing, but what gave it the final push was the arrest of a Renton man for his 11th DUI. Many media outlets drew the connection between this astounding record and our weak felony DUI law. The bill finally passed in the House 85-11.
The credit really belongs to the families of DUI victims who came to the Capitol so many times over the last two years to beg us to help prevent the senseless and tragic carnage on our highways. Our hearts go out to the people who have been affected. We should also note the tireless work of prosecutors, police, and Mothers Against Drunk Driving, who helped sensitize us to this most unnecessary crime.
A troubling stand on immigration from state attorney general
Many politicians on the other side of the aisle are urging law enforcement and other public agencies not to cooperate with federal immigration authorities. New “guidance” released this month by Attorney General Bob Ferguson takes this policy to unacceptable levels. The 101-page document is tantamount to a directive from the state’s top legal official to impede legitimate federal law enforcement activities.
As chair of the Senate Law and Justice Committee, I have authored a letter of protest to Ferguson. You can read it here. Although his guidance purportedly offers advice and does not require public agencies to comply, many are sure to take it as a directive. If they don’t comply they are vulnerable to lawsuits. Yet if they do, they may subject themselves to liability from the federal government, or loss of federal funding.
The attorney general apparently consulted only with organizations that agree with the attorney general’s conception of the law – not prosecutors, law enforcement or the state-government agencies he represents. This guidance raises an even bigger concern. Shouldn’t public safety be a bigger concern than political correctness? We have learned of a recent Snohomish County incident in which a federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agent was refused access to an illegal alien who was booked on a DUI charge and was in the process of being released. The agent was forced to wait outside the jail to make his arrest, but the prisoner assaulted him and escaped. By urging non-cooperation with the feds, political leaders demonstrate disrespect for the law. We are a nation of laws, and it is troubling that the state’s top legal official says we are free to ignore some of them.
Governor signs human trafficking, attempted murder bills
On Tuesday two bills I sponsored were signed into law by Gov. Jay Inslee.
Human trafficking: SB 5813 prevents human traffickers from claiming, “I didn’t know how old she was.” Penalties in human trafficking cases are more severe when the victim is underage. This crimes-against-minors legislation prohibits those accused of human-trafficking offenses from claiming they didn’t know the child’s age, or that they believed the victim to be older. The bill also boosts penalties for possessing or dealing in child pornography.
Attempted murder: SB 5810 extends the statute of limitations for attempted murder to 10 years, a response to a Whatcom County murder-for-hire case in which time was about to run out for prosecution. In this state, murders can be prosecuted at any time after their commission. Attempted murder cases have many of the same elements, yet prosecutions had to take place within 10 years. This reform to our laws will be important to victims, their families, law enforcement and prosecutors.
Advancing the Barker Road overpass
A few weeks ago, when the House and Senate transportation budgets were being debated, we lawmakers from the 4th Legislative District worked to provide additional funding for the planned Barker Road overpass. This additional $1.5 million for the project was contained in the final transportation budget we passed last week, and will help defray the eventual $20 million cost. This new overpass will bridge East Trent Avenue and eliminate a grade crossing at the Burlington Northern Santa Fe tracks nearby. It will help the city of Spokane Valley achieve its longtime goal of bridging the Valley, improve safety, and boost economic development near Spokane Industrial Park.
District office reopens for business
With the end of our regular session comes our annual return to our office at Spokane Valley City Hall, 11707 East Sprague Avenue, Suite 305. We’ll be open for business May 1. If you have a question or concern about state government, our Spokane Valley office number is (509) 921-2460.
New Government Guides being sent
This week we are sending copies of our new Government Guide to residents of the 4th Legislative District. This guide provides phone numbers and addresses for local, state and federal agencies and officials. If you do not receive a copy in the mail, please contact our office and we will be happy to send you one. This guide also can be seen online here.