Bill that threatens parents’ rights approved by Senate

Note: The following e-newsletter was sent to Sen. Padden’s subscribers March 3, 2023. To subscribe to Sen. Padden’s newsletter, click here.

The Legislature is halfway through its 2023 session. This is Day 54, and Washington’s constitution allows our “long” session to run for no more than 105 days.

On Monday, the Senate began a two-week stretch in which our chamber will debate and vote on bills that were approved by various Senate committees in recent weeks. During this period, the Senate meets on the floor in the morning and works for a few hours before taking a short lunch break. We then return to the floor in the early afternoon for more debates and votes on proposals. On some days, we adjourn in the early evening, though we occasionally take a short dinner break and resume floor action for a few more hours into the evening.

The Senate on Wednesday passed a Democrat-sponsored bill that threatens the rights of parents in Washington.

This proposal would give youth-related facilities a troubling new excuse for withholding the whereabouts of runaway children from their parents. Under Senate Bill 5599, those children could effectively disappear by simply claiming they are seeking what the bill calls “protected health services,” such as gender counseling or puberty-blocking chemicals.

The legislation, passed on a party-line vote, would not allow teens staying at licensed youth shelters or host homes to undergo “gender-affirming” surgery without parental approval. Nor would it allow other parents to hide children. But it does clear the way for children between ages 13 and 18 to stay at these facilities without their parents’ knowledge for an indefinite time while seeking services related to gender dysphoria and gender transitioning.

It also clears a path for any teenager to “game the system.” A child can run away to a youth shelter, claim they are seeking protected health care services even if they really aren’t, and be hidden from their parents. It would not be the first time a teenager would take advantage of a legal loophole to avoid general accountability.

During floor debate on SB 5599, one of my Republican colleagues, 10th District Sen. Ron Muzzall gave a moving five-minute speech in opposition to the proposal. You can view it here.

When SB 5599 received a public hearing before the Senate Human Services Committee on Feb. 6, more than 4,700 people signed in with an opinion on the bill – and 98% were opposed, including parents from the LGBTQ community. 

This controversial proposal now moves to the House for consideration. Members of the public wishing to testify on this bill, if it receives a public hearing in the House, should visit how to testify on a bill on the Washington State Legislature’s website.

This newsletter covers other issues and events happening in Olympia in this past week.

If you have questions about how to participate in state government this year or thoughts to share on anything in this e-newsletter, please give me a call or send me an email.

Thank you, as always, for the honor of serving as your state senator!

Best Regards,

Senator Mike Padden

Senate passes bill raising penalty for custodial sexual misconduct

The Senate on Monday unanimously approved a bipartisan bill that aims to impose longer sentences on sexually abusive jail and prison guards.

Senate Bill 5033, which I prime-sponsored, would reclassify the crime of first-degree custodial sexual misconduct as a Class B felony, allowing a prison term of 10 years instead of the current five-year maximum.

Officers who work in our state’s correctional facilities are part of the law-enforcement community just as much as the officers who patrol our communities and investigate crimes. Like all the other people we entrust to administer justice, corrections officers must be held to a high standard, especially considering the unique level of authority they have over people in custody. Senate Bill 5033 would increase the punishment for corrections officers who sexually assault or abuse inmates in the course of their jobs.

The bill was inspired by a KING-TV investigation about a Clallam County jail guard, John Gray, who was convicted in 2021 of two felony and two misdemeanor counts of custodial sexual misconduct and served 13 months of his 20-month sentence.

During the Senate Law and Justice Committee’s public hearing on SB 5033 earlier this session, Dawn Reid testified in favor of the proposal. Reid is the mother of Kimberly Bender, a 23-year-old Quileute woman who died by suicide in her Forks jail cell in 2019 after reporting to city officials that Gray harassed her. Reid asked me to name the legislation after her daughter. The Law and Justice Committee later named the proposal “Kimberly Bender’s law.”

SB 5033 now goes to the House Community Safety, Justice and Reentry Committee for a public hearing on March 9.

Senate passes bill helping employee stock ownership plans 

Yesterday the Senate unanimously passed Senate Bill 5096, a proposal I introduced that would aid businesses looking to adopt an employee stock ownership plan (ESOP) corporate structure.

This bill promotes employee ownership, which I think is a very valuable thing, not only for our employees but for society. Studies have shown that employees are happier, they stay in their job longer and they retire in a much better financial position. And the companies are more likely to stay locally. Additionally, this bill would help those businesses looking to adopt an ESOP.

The proposal is backed by a very diverse group of supporters, including the Spokane Valley Chamber of Commerce and Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories.

SB 5096 specifically would:

  • Create the Washington Employee Ownership Program at the state Department of Commerce to offer technical support and other services to certain businesses considering certain employee ownership structures.
  • Form the Washington Employee Ownership Commission to oversee the program.
  • Provide a business and occupation tax credit for costs related to converting a qualifying business to an employee ownership structure.

ESOPs are recognized under federal tax law as a qualified defined contribution retirement plan. The ESOP must be designed to invest primarily in qualifying employer securities and meet certain other requirements. The IRS and United States Department of Labor share jurisdiction over some ESOP features.

The bill now goes to the House for further consideration.

Senate honors Ukrainian Americans

Sen. Padden speaks on the Senate resolution honoring Ukrainian Americans.

Besides debating and voting on the many bills that reach the floor every session, the Senate also passes several floor resolutions each year. Floor resolutions typically honor Washington citizens or remember notable Washingtonians who recently passed away.

Last Friday, the Senate passed an important resolution that recognizes and supports the tens of thousands of Ukrainian Americans in our state. You can view the resolution here. I’m proud to be among the nearly 40 senators who sponsored it. 

Many Ukrainian Americans in our state came to the Capitol and filled both Senate galleries to watch senators on both sides of the political aisle give floor speeches in support of the resolution and to see the  Senate approve this important resolution. You can watch my floor speech supporting the Ukrainian American resolution here.

Assisted-suicide bill passed by Senate

One of the more controversial and divisive bills of the session so far was passed by the Senate on Monday.  

Senate Bill 5179 was approved 28-20. It would add advanced registered nurse practitioners and physician assistants to the category of health-care providers authorized to order the lethal drugs for someone who has decided to use Washington’s assisted-suicide law.

The bill also would reduce the required 15-day waiting period between the first and second oral requests for life-ending medications to seven days and would eliminate the 48-hour waiting period for such medications once a written request is made. Even the seven days is misleading because the lethal drugs can be administered immediately if the death appears imminent. In addition, the requirement for a second opinion has been eliminated. Safeguards are gone.

During the Senate’s deliberation on the bill, I offered a floor amendment that would have required the state Department of Health to contract with an independent organization to confirm, before a patient is qualified to end his or her life, that the patient is not a person with disabilities who is being coerced into providing their OK to take life-ending medication. However, it was defeated along party lines.

My speech against the bill can be watched by clicking this link. You can watch another powerful floor speech by Sen. Muzzall on this bill here

This bill would do more harm than good. SB 5179 would further normalize suicides, and it would remove safeguards that were put in by the original law to protect vulnerable patients. The current waiting period allows people the time to reflect and change their mind, but this bill would cut down that time drastically. The terminally ill have declining decision capacity, which gives them impaired capacity to make the decision to end their life. Vulnerable patients might make rash decisions and a bad day could be their last day. This bill would increase assisted suicides and worsen the existing law. 

SB 5179 is now in the House Health Care and Wellness Committee.

Senate passes ‘ergonomics’ bill that would threaten jobs

During our floor action Wednesday, the Senate voted 27-21 to pass Senate Bill 5217, a Democratic proposal that ignores the wishes of our state’s voters by allowing the state Department of Labor and Industries to again impose workplace ergonomics rules on employers.

After L&I adopted ergonomics workplace rules in 2000, nearly 55% of Washington voters in 2003 passed Initiative 841, which repealed the ergonomics regulations.

SB 5217 is job-killing bill that would restore burdensome and expensive ergonomics regulations on employers. Only one other state in the U.S. has adopted an ergonomics regulation. If this bill becomes law, it could put Washington at a competitive disadvantage.

During floor action on this bill, I offered an amendment that would have required L&I to consider including the least burdensome and least costly options for an employer to demonstrate alternative control methods during rule making. It was defeated along party lines.

Contact us!

If you have a question or concern about state government, please do not hesitate to contact our office. During the session we are conducting business from our Senate office in Olympia. We are here to serve you!

Phone: (360) 786-7606

Olympia Office: 215 Legislative Modular Building, Olympia, WA 98504-0404

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To request public records from Sen. Padden, please contact Randi Stratton, the designated public records officer for the Secretary of the Senate and Senate members.