The following newsletter was sent to subscribers to Sen. Padden’s newsletter, March 9, 2017. To subscribe to Sen. Padden’s newsletters, click here.
Dear friends and neighbors,
Last year we saw huge controversy when an investigation of the Department of Corrections was launched by the Senate Law and Justice Committee, which I chair. But you wouldn’t have known it Monday. The bill enacting our committee’s recommendations passed 49-0. The unanimous support demonstrates bipartisan agreement that big changes are needed at the state prisons agency.
This was one of the more than 250 bills that cleared the Senate over the last two weeks, as we approached a deadline for the passage of most bills introduced in the Senate this year. These bills include a number of important measures that emerged from the Law and Justice committee. Meanwhile, a measure that might have ended this state’s debate over an income tax was unfortunately defeated. This week I’ll offer an update about what has been happening on the Senate floor.
Sen. Mike Padden
Early releases make case for Corrections reform
The unanimous vote for the Department of Corrections reform bill demonstrates that the Senate recognizes the seriousness of the problems at the agency. Last year we learned that DOC had released 3,000 violent and dangerous prisoners ahead of schedule. Worse, the agency continued turning prisoners loose even after it learned its computers were calculating sentences incorrectly. At least two deaths and numerous other crimes have been attributed to inmates who should have been behind bars.
Senate Bill 5294 is the follow-up to our months-long investigation of DOC’s management failures. It enacts recommendations that include a new “ombuds” office, new procedures in the event of computer failures, and establishes that the top priority for DOC is public safety. You can read about it here.
Minority blocks constitutional ban on state income tax
On Tuesday the Senate might have given voters a chance to end the longest-running political argument in Washington history. Washington voters have rejected an income tax every time it has appeared on the ballot since 1934, but tax advocates just keep trying. Senate Joint Resolution 8204 would have referred a constitutional amendment to the ballot that would ban an income tax once and for all.
A majority of the Senate was in favor. Three Democrats joined with the 24 Senate Republicans in voting yes. But that wasn’t enough, because a constitutional amendment requires a two-thirds vote. The measure failed 27-22.
Law and Justice bills clear Senate
In addition to the DOC reform bill mentioned above, other bills I sponsored that passed the Senate by this week’s deadline are:
Disqualification of judges – SB 5277 clarifies rules for the disqualification of judges.
Criminal informants – SB 5038 requires prosecutors to provide detailed information before trial regarding accomplices and informants who have been given incentives to testify.
Eminent domain – SB 5445 prohibits local governments from taking private property for economic development projects that have no direct public benefit.
Crimes against minors — SB 5813 prevents trafficking perpetrators from claiming they didn’t know a victim’s age, or that they believed the victim was older; also imposes longer felony sentences for child sexual abuse imagery offenses.
Property-damage lawsuits — SB 5080 allows lawsuits for damages caused by damages caused by construction, alteration or repair projects to be filed within three years of discovery of damages or completion of projects; current law requires suits within three years of completion.
Statute of limitations/ attempted murder — SB 5810 permits prosecutions of attempted-murder offenses any time after their commission.
Session aide’s work is never done
This week I’ve asked session aide Jack Grimm to contribute a few words about the role he has played in our office this session. Great job, Jack!
When I get to the office each morning, I usually start by doing the dishes from the night before. It’s funny how tired you get, even when you’re just sitting in front of a computer. As with most jobs, when you work at the Legislature, coffee is your best friend. I wash the cups, get the hot water boiling, and ready myself for my next daunting task — turning on my desktop.
Logging onto my computer to check my email can be surprisingly stressful. One of my main duties this session is helping Senator Padden sort through and reply to constituent mail. We want to answer every one, but when you get thousands of emails every week, that can be a tall order. Once I’ve sorted through the day’s new batch of letters, it’s time to start writing.
Sometimes a simple reply is all that’s called for — a thank-you note or a quick acknowledgement. Other days, I spend half the morning researching bills and policies, ranging from human trafficking to water rights. That’s one of the best things about this job. I am constantly learning, constantly being challenged to think about things in a new way.
When I’m not replying to emails, I’m usually busy reading bills, attending action on the Senate floor, talking with constituents and lobbyists, and generally learning about all the parts and pieces that have to come together to turn a bill into a law. As this is my first serious exposure to politics, it sometimes can be a steep learning curve, and I won’t pretend this process is always painless. The realization of exactly how much I have yet to learn is humbling. However, when I’ve worked through all the figurative blood, sweat and tears — when I have a real handle on an issue for the next time a constituent calls — it all feels worth it.
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