The following newsletter was sent to subscribers to Sen. Padden’s Report From Olympia, April 20, 2017. To subscribe to Sen. Padden’s newsletters, click here.
Dear friends and neighbors,
This is the last week of our regular session in Olympia – but our work is far from over. Our regular session was supposed to end by Sunday, but unfinished business will keep the Legislature at the Capitol at least a few more weeks as we continue our work in a special session.
This dismaying situation comes largely because our colleagues in the state House have not passed a complete budget. Normally each chamber passes a budget, we negotiate our differences, and we emerge with a final deal. We’ve done our part in the Senate. The House has not. It has passed a “spending plan” that requires a $3 billion tax increase, the largest in Washington history. Yet House Democratic leaders won’t allow their members to take the tough vote for the taxes their proposal requires. It is a tell-tale sign they don’t have the votes to pass their own proposal.
This refusal by the House to pass a full budget has made negotiations extremely difficult. A similar situation two years ago caused a stalemate that nearly shut down state government, and forced the Legislature to remain in session until July. Let us hope this does not happen again. We in the Senate remain eager to finish our work and bring this session to a close.
Sen. Mike Padden
Retail theft bill clears Legislature
A bill I have sponsored allowing prosecutors to crack down on retail theft won final passage in the Senate this week. The 47-1 vote for Senate Bill 5635 sends the measure to the governor’s desk and caps a session-long effort to toughen the state’s law against retail theft with special circumstances.
Current law allows prosecutors to seek longer sentences under aggravating circumstances – for example, possession of burglary tools. But a Supreme Court decision two years ago held that such tools must be specially designed to defeat security systems – an ordinary pair of pliers or wire cutters isn’t sufficient. With this bill we have closed that loophole. The bill also allows prosecutors to aggregate multiple charges into a single count, for purposes of calculating sentence length. The higher the dollar value of stolen goods, the longer that offenders can be locked away.
Small steps like these can have a big effect, in taking habitual criminals off the street, reducing the overall crime rate, and helping deter criminals who might otherwise move on to bigger and more-dangerous crimes.
Senate pays tribute to late Spokane Judge Sam Cozza
This week we paused our work in the Senate to honor Sam Cozza, the former presiding judge of Spokane County Superior Court who died in January. Cozza was a brilliant jurist who won the respect of his community and the Legislature. A judge for many years, he was perhaps the leading expert on criminal rules in this state.
I was happy to sponsor Senate Resolution 8656 to pay tribute to Judge Cozza’s life and legacy. As the resolution observed, “Over the course of his career, Judge Cozza embodied the words he displayed on his bench: Attentiveness, patience, fairness, completeness – Don’t rush the process or the decision.”
Judge Cozza frequently appeared before the Legislature on behalf of the state Superior Court Judges Association. He helped enormously in crafting legislation dealing with legal procedure. Most recently he advocated SB 5277, clarifying procedures for the disqualification of judges. This bill was signed into law Monday by Gov. Jay Inslee.
It was an honor to serve with Judge Cozza when we both were District Court judges in Spokane County and an even greater honor to be his friend. A good family man and churchman, active in his community, he is much missed.
Visitor to Olympia
Government Guide available online
This year we are making available an updated 2017 edition of our Government Guide, which provides phone numbers and addresses for the state and local government agencies that serve the 4th Legislative District. You can find this directory on my website here. Printed copies soon will be available.
In the news: Anti-growth interests obstruct new jobs, affordable housing
The House’s refusal to deal with the Supreme Court’s Hirst decision continues to create outrage across the state. Last October the court decided the state’s Growth Management Act requires rural landowners to comply with near-impossible bureaucratic requirements in order to drill small wells for household use. I am a co-sponsor of Senate Bill 5239, which would reverse this misguided decision, but this measure has been blocked in a House committee.
In The (Vancouver) Columbian, Sen. Lynda Wilson, R-Vancouver, writes:
Wells only account for less than 1 percent of water consumption in the state, but placing unreasonable limits on them hits families particularly hard in rural areas where it’s not possible to hook up to municipal water systems. Now, people planning to build homes or businesses on their property are facing financial ruin because they can’t use the water on their own land. This only makes it harder to expand. Indeed, as Clark County council Chair Marc Boldt recently concluded, ‘This isn’t about water at all. This is about growth.’
… If we’re going to provide the affordable housing needed for people in the community and if we’re going to have businesses bring jobs and economic growth to our economy, we need to allow Clark County to grow. To keep creating anti-growth roadblocks that shut down the building of affordable homes and growing businesses is to put our heads in the sand.
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