The following newsletter was sent to subscribers to Sen. Padden’s newsletter, Feb. 14, 2019. To subscribe to Sen. Padden’s newsletters, click here.
The weather outside is frightful
Dear Friends and Neighbors,
What has 1.5 million legs and skids? Seattle, of course, whenever it snows. The Puget Sound area shared in the record snowfall that blanketed Eastern Washington over the weekend, a light dusting of 15 inches or so. Those of us who live east of the mountains might regard this as business as usual — brisk bicycling weather, perhaps — but on the westside, you might have gotten the idea civilization was about to end.
Grocery-store shelves were stripped bare. Streets emptied of traffic, as most vehicles remained stuck in their driveways – it’s not as if anyone in Western Washington owns a snow shovel. Locals made arduous hikes through the snowdrifts for provisions, only to find that their nearest Taco Time was closed. At the state Capitol Monday, the Legislature took a rare snow day, canceling hearings for the day.
In Eastern Washington we might be used to a little snow in winter, but in the Puget Sound it is so remarkable that naturally it figured in political argument. The governor called it an outstanding reason to enact an income tax, though his reasoning seemed a bit obscure. Those of us from Eastern Washington saw it as another reason for greater use of remote testimony. We trust the 4th District has taken the winter weather in stride, as it always does, and that you are dealing with it with much greater cheer.
Senator Mike Padden
Notification a first step in preserving school safety
The tragic shooting at Freeman High School last school year offers a reminder that we must be prepared for the worst. To protect our schoolchildren, we need to make sure proper procedures are in place when violence is threatened. Last year, the Legislature began work on measures to improve school safety, providing grants to regional educational agencies for contingency planning.
But there is much left to do, and that is why I have reintroduced a measure I sponsored last year, requiring first responders to notify schools in their area when lockdowns or evacuations appear reasonably necessary. Senate Bill 5514 encompasses an area that is often overlooked in emergency planning – it requires notification to all schools, public and private.
In testimony before the Senate Early Learning and K-12 Education Committee, private-school officials said they often are left in the dark when violence occurs. Kristin Dixon, superintendent of Catholic schools for the Archdiocese of Seattle, recalled the 2012 shooting rampage that claimed four lives at the Café Racer in that city. As police tracked the gunman across Seattle, Dixon said she heard nothing from law enforcement. “We never knew what was happening,” she said. Her only source of information was the West Seattle Blog.
Testimony in support of this legislation came from the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction, the Washington Education Association and the Washington Federation of Independent Schools.
Last year we included this notification requirement in a budget bill, but that was a half-measure. The best way to ensure proper notification to all schools is to include it in state statute. This important bill was approved by the committee last week and awaits action in the Senate Rules Committee, which determines the bills that will appear on the Senate floor.
Smoothing the road for military collector vehicles
Those of us who make frequent trips to the west side often see the long parades of military vehicles on our highways between Fort Lewis and the Yakima Training Center. But when those vehicles are retired, a complex web of federal and state rules prevents them from being operated on public roadways by private parties. Though these vehicles comply with military specs and are thoroughly roadworthy, many are not certified for compliance with more stringent civilian standards for emissions and occupant safety.
My interest in this issue was prompted by a constituent, retired Air Force officer John Boyle, who hopes to purchase a surplus canvas-top military Humvee for display at shows and veterans’ parades. He told the Senate Transportation Committee these Humvees have been the backbone of the military fleet for the last 30 years. “There are many who would like to see them allowed to be preserved for future generations,” he said.
With this in mind, I have sponsored Senate Bill 5417, which would allow the state’s special collector-vehicle plates to be issued to vehicles that have been retired by the military. These plates permit limited operation on public roads. Last week the transportation committee approved the bill and sent it on to the Rules Committee. Rest assured, we’re talking about wheeled vehicles. You still won’t be able to drive a tank on I-90.
DUI bill, other legislation advances
At this point of a legislative session, the focus is on details – the big picture comes later. Legislative policy committees are passing bills by the dozen, getting set for the marathon House and Senate floor sessions to come. Several bills I have sponsored have been advanced by committee votes. They include:
Senate Bill 5299 – Longer look-back for DUI cases. This bill would allow courts to consider DUI convictions over the last 25 years in determining sentences. Current law permits only a 10-year lookback; this measure would allow felony charges to be filed more frequently against repeat offenders. Approved by the Senate Law and Justice Committee last week, this bill moves on to the Ways and Means Committee.
Senate Bill 5219 – Condominium construction warranties. This bill would spur condo construction and homeownership by exempting condominiums of less than seven units from warranty provisions of state law governing condos. The measure is poised for action on the Senate floor.
Senate Bill 5405 – Nondiscrimination for organ transplants. This bill would prohibit health care providers from denying organ transplant services solely because of intellectual or developmental disablility. The measure was approved last week by the Senate Health and Long-Term Care Committee and advances to the Rules Committee.
Worthy of note: Last week I introduced two measures to combat sex trafficking. Senate Bill 5885 would create an exemption to hearsay rules in cases involving child sex-trafficking victims. Senate Bill 5897 would make website owners and operators liable for advertisements promoting unlawful child sex trafficking. I’ll tell you more about these in coming weeks.
In the news: Marijuana, immigration, and babies
Government tracking of newborns: A proposed state program that would require nurses to visit the home of virtually every newborn is raising hackles in the Senate. Advocates say the Welcome to Washington Baby program would enable the state to identify family needs and help address them, but to many it seems needless government intrusion. Nothing is more chilling that greeting a stranger at the door who says, “I’m from the government, and I’m here to help.” For more information, click here.
Blocking assistance to federal immigration authorities: A bill to prohibit state and local agencies from assisting federal authorities in enforcing immigration laws is before the Senate Law and Justice Committee. This bill injects an unneeded political element into law enforcement, and would eliminate local discretion. Local agencies should be able to cooperate with federal authorities, as they have done for years. For more information, click here.
Marijuana convictions: The Senate is considering a measure that would wipe out as many as 200,000 misdemeanor convictions for marijuana possession, now legal under Washington law. The Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs is dubious, observing that drug convictions often were the result of plea bargains from greater charges. Case-by-case review by courts allows a more thorough examination. For more information, click here.
We’re in Olympia for the duration. 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
Street address: 106 Irv Newhouse Building, Capitol Campus, Olympia, WA 98504
Postal address: PO Box 40404, Olympia, WA 98504
Email address: Mike.Padden@leg.wa.gov