The following newsletter was sent to subscribers to Sen. Padden’s newsletter, March 2, 2017. To subscribe to Sen. Padden’s newsletters, click here.
Dear friends and neighbors,
The action in the Legislature has moved to the House and Senate floors. We face a March 8 deadline to pass most of the bills that have been introduced this session. By the time we finish the job next week we will have taken hundreds of votes. But I doubt any piece of legislation has a story as unusual as my felony DUI bill, SB 5037.
The bill would make the 4th DUI a felony in Washington state. When it came up for a vote in the Senate last week, not a single member voted against it. We have passed it six times in the Senate since 2015 — unanimously, every time.
Yet House leaders have not allowed this important public-safety measure to come to the House floor for a vote. This week I’ll explain why we continue to press the case.
Sen. Mike Padden
Fixing America’s weakest felony DUI law
Repeat impaired drivers pose the greatest hazard on our public roads, and felony DUI laws are a reflection of our frustration. We may have trouble convincing these drivers to change their behavior, but we certainly can keep them off the road with a long prison sentence.
Unfortunately, Washington has the weakest felony DUI law in the country. This state requires four misdemeanor convictions before the fifth offense can be charged as a felony. Most states allow just two misdemeanors before the felony level is reached, including our neighboring states of Oregon and Idaho.
Under our proposal, which passed the Senate Feb. 23, about 200 more cases would be tried as felonies each year. The strong support we have seen for the bill in the Senate, from both parties, makes the opposition in the from House leaders all the more puzzling. But the longer we keep trying the more likely it is we will get over the hump. May this be the year the entire Legislature will vote to reduce this most unnecessary crime.
Protecting private-property rights
Among the dozens of bills passed by the Senate this week are two important measures aimed at protecting private-property rights.
Curbing eminent domain abuse — Senate Bill 5445, which I sponsored, prohibits local governments from using their eminent domain authority for economic development purposes. This measure aims to prevent private property from being taken and turned over to private developers, when no public benefit is involved. This measure passed the Senate Tuesday. You can read about it here.
Saving household wells – SB 5239, which I cosponsored, fixes a problem created by the state Supreme Court last year. Its decision in a Whatcom County case imposes an immense bureaucratic burden on rural property owners who wish to develop their land, requiring them to obtain costly water studies to prove new wells do not impair existing water rights and in-stream flows for fish. This decision affects thousands of property owners who assumed they would be able to obtain building permits. The Senate’s plan, approved Tuesday, restores traditional law. You can read about it here.
Take my survey!
Please take a moment to answer my survey question of the week. Click here or on the question below to visit my survey site. We will post results next week.
Latino Legislative Day address
On Monday, it was my privilege to address the crowds that assembled under the Rotunda for Latino Legislative Day. We garnered applause for our efforts to combat human trafficking and make coroners’ inquests a more useful tool of inquiry, as we saw done in a Pasco case last year.
A moment to reflect
Last week it was my honor to lead the Senate in the opening prayer. Many thanks to session aide Irina Dolbinina, who helped write it. You can watch the ceremony by clicking here.
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