Governor signs Padden bill raising penalties for sexually abusive jail guards

Note: The following e-newsletter was sent to Sen. Padden’s subscribers March 30, 2023. To subscribe to Sen. Padden’s newsletter, click here.

Dear friends and neighbors,

I am pleased that my public safety bill that imposes longer sentences on sexually abusive jail and prison guards was signed today by Governor Inslee after being unanimously approved by both the Senate and House this session.

The law created by Senate Bill 5033 reclassifies the crime of first-degree custodial sexual misconduct (in which the corrections officer has sexually assaulted the victim), now a Class C felony, to a Class B felony with a seriousness level of VII. That calls for an initial sentence of 15 to 20 months and a high-end sentence between 7.25 years and 9.6 years. The new law, which will take effect in late July, also reclassifies second-degree custodial sexual misconduct (in which the corrections officer has sexual contact with the victim) from a gross misdemeanor to a Class C felony with a seriousness level of V, which would bring a sentencing range of six to 12 months for those with the lowest offender score and a range of six to eight years for offenders with the highest offender score. The grid is based on the criminal history and the serious level of the crime.

Senator Padden and others join Governor Inslee as he signs Senate Bill 5033 today.

Officers who work in jails and state 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 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.

SB 5033 was inspired by a KING-TV investigation about a Clallam County jail guard, John Gray, who served just over a year in prison after sexually assaulting four women.

When the bill was being considered by the Senate Law and Justice Committee early this session, it was named “Kimberly Bender’s law,” in honor of the 23-year-old Quileute woman who died by suicide in her Forks jail cell in 2019 after reporting to city officials that Gray sexually harassed her. Bender’s mother, Dawn Reid, asked me to name the bill after her daughter.

Gray was convicted in 2021 of two felony and two misdemeanor counts of custodial sexual misconduct and served 13 months of his 20-month sentence.

This newsletter covers several 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 flawed operating budget

Another key point of this year’s legislative session was reached when the Senate yesterday voted 40-9 to pass its new state operating budget for the upcoming 2023-25 biennium, which begins July 1.

While the Senate’s spending plan has some positive qualities, including funding to combat drunk driving and funding for two of my bills – Senate Bill 5218 and Senate Bill 5096 – I voted “no” on the budget for a number of reasons. Here are three important ones.

The first is because this budget provides $15 million over the next two years for abortion care, including more than $730,000 for “outreach, patient navigation, and staffing” at the Department of Health. This large amount of money is for the governor’s program to bring women to Washington from states that have abortion restrictions. It is incredibly wrong to use taxpayer dollars to make Washington an “abortion destination state.”

One of the lower Snake River dams in southeastern Washington.

Second, the Senate operating budget includes $500,000 in one-time funding for yet another study involving the four lower Snake River dams. This study, to be conducted by the state Department of Ecology, would look at the actions needed to “continue water use for irrigation during drawdown related to potential lower Snake River dam removal and thereafter of a natural flowing river.” These duplicative studies are a waste of taxpayer dollars. I share the strong belief of many eastern Washington legislators and eastern Washington’s congressional delegation that the four Snake River dams in our state should not be breached.

My third reason for opposing this budget is because it does not provide property-tax relief. Many Washingtonians are being taxed out of their homes, and some property tax relief, which the state can afford, would greatly help many homeowners. When Sen. Lynda Wilson, the ranking Republican on the Senate Ways and Means Committee, unveiled her Republican budget proposal two years ago, her plan included property-tax relief. It’s unfortunate this year’s Senate budget won’t provide it.

More information about the Senate operating budget, Senate Bill 5187.

House Democrats released their own operating budget plan on Monday. The House is expected to vote on its own two-year spending plan sometime next week.

Despite Republican opposition, Senate committee passes bills that would weaken Second Amendment rights

This legislative session, a few Democrat-sponsored bills aiming to erode Second Amendment rights have made their way through the Legislature. On Tuesday, the Senate Law and Justice Committee passed two of these measures, despite strong opposition by my Republican colleagues and myself.

One of the proposals, House Bill 1240, would ban the sale or purchase in our state of modern sporting rifles, or “assault weapons,” as Democrats prefer to call them. The measure was passed along party lines. Before that vote was taken, other Republicans and I offered 17 amendments to improve the bill or limit its negative impact, but all were defeated. Like many others, I oppose this bill because it would ban the purchase of some of the most commonly owned and lawfully possessed sporting firearms, including some shotguns and pistols. Many people possess semiautomatic firearms for self-defense, and certainly for hunting. If it becomes law, this proposal will be challenged in court and likely will be ruled unconstitutional.

The other gun measure passed by the committee’s Democratic majority is House Bill 1143, which would prohibit an individual from buying a firearm from a dealer until the buyer has passed a background check and has completed a firearm-safety training program. As opponents argued during testimony before the committee, this bill would restrict access to firearms and won’t address the root causes of crimes committed by individuals with a firearm. It infringes on the rights of Washingtonians to own a firearm. My Republican colleagues and I offered six amendments, but all were rejected.

When the two bills received public hearings in the Law and Justice Committee, a large number of people testified against them, with 37 speaking against HB 1143 and 107 against HB 1240. Both bills likely are now headed to the floor for a full Senate vote.

DUI ‘lookback’ proposal still moving, as part of other drunk-driving proposal

Earlier this session, the Senate voted 48-1 to pass Senate Bill 5032, my proposal to help combat drunk driving.

SB 5032 would expand the period for reviewing prior convictions of impaired driving to 15 years, from the 10 years now in state law, when determining whether a new offense of impaired driving is charged as a felony. Under the proposal, any person who has three or more prior DUI offenses within that 15-year lookback period would face a felony, rather than the current penalty of a gross misdemeanor. Furthermore, SB 5032 would give offenders a chance to undergo a highly structured treatment program.

Our state has seen too many accidents and fatalities caused by drunk and drug-impaired drivers, especially repeat offenders. This bill could help reduce traffic deaths.

While it would have been preferable to pass SB 5032 as a stand-alone measure, I’m pleased that it is continuing to move forward this year as part of another proposal to combat drunk driving.

The Senate Law and Justice Committee recently passed House Bill 1493, which would make several changes to the state’s impaired-driving laws. Before doing so, the committee incorporated the SB 5032 language. The good policy in SB 5032 remains alive as part of HB 1493.

Concerns over land-use bill in Senate

One of the many House bills still being considered by the Senate this session is House Bill 1110, which would require certain cities planning under the state’s Growth Management Act to authorize minimum development densities on lots zoned predominately for residential use.

If HB 1110 reaches the Senate floor, I will vote against it. There are a few reasons why I have concerns with this bill. This is an issue that should be addressed by locals, not the state. This legislation takes away local control on land-use decisions from the cities of Spokane Valley, Liberty Lake and Millwood. It gives the decision-making power to Olympia. The folks in Olympia are not elected and do not have the same values as 4th Legislative District citizens.

The proposal was passed last week by the Senate Housing Committee and is scheduled to receive a public hearing tomorrow in the Senate Ways and Means Committee.

Ridgeline students visit Olympia

On Monday, I enjoyed meeting with members of Ridgeline High School’s Robotics Club during their visit to the Capitol. They were a bright group of students who have promising futures ahead of them.

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

Email address:

PLEASE NOTE: Any email or documents you provide to this office may be subject to disclosure under RCW 42.56. If you would prefer to communicate by phone, please contact Sen. Padden’s Olympia office at (360) 786-7606.

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.