Note: The following e-newsletter was sent to Sen. Padden’s subscribers Aug. 10, 2022. To subscribe to Sen. Padden’s e-newsletter, click here.
Dear Friends and Neighbors,
We’ve just gotten new statistics for crime in Washington state, and the numbers are chilling. During 2021, we saw increases in all forms of violent crime. We set a record for murders. Is anyone surprised?
This crime wave started in Olympia. It is the inevitable result of a deliberate campaign by our majority-party colleagues to weaken law enforcement and criminal justice. Over the last five years, we have witnessed an effort in the Legislature to subject police officers to prosecution and civil judgements, release convicted felons en masse, and weaken our anti-crime laws, even those approved by the voters of Washington state.
There is no comfort in saying “told you so.” Instead, we should take these new numbers as an indication that we need to change course, and pronto. In this week’s newsletter, I’ll tell you more about these numbers and what they mean. And remember – if you have an issue with state government, our district office in Spokane Valley is staffed year-round, even when the Legislature is not in session. We’d love to hear from you.
Senator Mike Padden
Crime stats up all across the state
Drug prosecutions decrease after Legislature eliminates criminal penalties
One of the most hotly awaited announcements of the summer is the release of new crime statistics from the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs. This year’s numbers are particularly important. They follow five years of effort by our majority colleagues to weaken criminal sentencing, reduce the capacity of our state prisons, and return convicted felons to the streets before their sentences have been fully served. These are the first numbers to reflect the result of the anti-police legislation passed by our colleagues in 2021, at the behest of urban activists who believe police routinely victimize minorities. These new rules go so far as to prohibit police under most circumstances from chasing suspects as they flee the scene of a crime.
The result is pretty much what you would expect. Murders are up 5.9 percent since 2021, following a 47 percent increase last year. Robbery is up 10 percent, aggravated assaults are up 15.4 percent.
We saw a 60.9 percent decrease in drug arrests – but this doesn’t mean heroin, cocaine and meth are any less of a problem. Instead, this is the result of our colleagues’ unfortunate decision to decriminalize hard drugs. We also saw a decrease in fraud prosecutions, but this is mainly because fraudulent COVID-related unemployment claims were so rampant in 2020.
The law enforcement association notes another disturbing trend. Police staffing is down as demoralized departments struggle to replace officers who have had enough. The number of police statewide has declined by nearly 500 over the last year. This gives Washington 1.38 officers for every 1,000 of population, the lowest staffing rate since WASPC started keeping statistics in 1980. Washington now has by far the lowest staffing rate in the country.
It is hard to see how anyone can describe these policies as a success. This kinder, gentler approach to crime means more people are being victimized. We need to reverse this trend, and restore public safety as a top priority.
Governor endorses a Republican public-safety proposal
Answers growing public furor over crime with plan for regional police training
Our colleagues are becoming increasingly aware of public resentment regarding their approach to crime, and we saw something remarkable happen a couple of weeks ago. The governor announced his support for regional police training programs, allowing officers to obtain state peace-officer certification at locations closer to home. Currently the state’s Basic Law Enforcement Academy is housed in Burien, and limited slots and location have proven a bottleneck.
It’s terrific that the governor has found a public safety proposal he can embrace. This one originated with a Republican bill in 2020, HB 2538, and sadly, our colleagues refused to give it a hearing. The Criminal Justice Training Commission expressed opposition at the time. This change of heart is welcome — better late than never. But it does nothing to eliminate the problems created by the majority party’s five-year effort to weaken public safety. If our friends are interesting in fixing the mess they have created, we have a number of other proposals for them as well.
Judge overturns Kreidler credit-scoring ban
|One of the biggest complaints we’ve heard from the public over the last year wasn’t the Legislature’s fault. State Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler decided, on his own, to ban the use of credit scores in setting insurance rates. Under our current system, insurers are allowed to use credit history because it is a good predictor of future claims. Somehow Kreidler decided that the COVID pandemic allowed him to issue an emergency order banning credit scoring, increasing the cost of insurance for about 60 percent of Washington residents. Kreidler also decided he didn’t need the Legislature’s approval to do it.
There’s good news here. Last month a Thurston County Superior Court judge ruled that Kreidler had overstepped his authority. Kreidler’s rule was overturned. Curiously, Kreidler put out a statement saying that the ruling “confirms that the best place to permanently address this issue is in the Legislature.” What a pity Kreidler didn’t recognize this in the first place. The people of Washington might have been spared a nightmare.
Pregnancy center attacks continue
Crisis pregnancy centers are facing attacks nationwide, from elected officials by day and from activists armed with Molotov cocktails at night. The attacks are driven by furor over the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Center, which returned the abortion issue to elected state legislators. The crisis pregnancy centers, often operated by faith-based groups, counsel expectant mothers on alternatives to abortion. Now we are seeing efforts to silence them with legislation and property damage. Five of 63 attacks nationwide to date since the decision leaked May 2 have taken place in Washington state, including graffiti, smashed windows and attempted arson. This attempt to intimidate people into silence puts hatred and intolerance on full display. You can read more about it here.
Think we can get along without the Snake River dams?
A recent op-ed in the Spokesman-Review from Northwest River Partners offers a few interesting facts to inform our debate over the future of the Snake River dams. Titled, “All those EVs are great, but where will the electricity come from?,” the piece asks an obvious question and presents a disturbing answer. To serve all the electric cars predicted in the next few years, we’re going to need a huge amount of power – 160 MW by 2045. To put this in context, it has taken us more than 100 years to build the 115 MW of generating capacity we currently have. State policy says we can’t build new plants that use coal or natural gas. Windmills and solar can’t do the job. Yet Gov. Jay Inslee and other politicians from the Seattle area want to destroy the dams, with no clear idea how to replace the power. Utility groups and power planners say the Snake River dams already have saved us from deadly blackouts numerous times. Removing them would set us up for disaster.
If you have a question or concern about state government, please do not hesitate to contact our office. During the interim we are conducting business from our district office in Spokane Valley. We are here to serve you!
Phone: (509) 921-2460
District Office: 5105 E 3rd Ave, Ste 102 Spokane Valley, WA 99212
Email address: Mike.Padden@leg.wa.gov
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, which will be open starting Jan. 6, at (360) 786-7606.
To request public records from Sen. Padden, please contact Randi Stratton who is the designated public records officer for the Secretary of the Senate and Senate members.