Opposing bill to make assisted suicide easier

Note: The following e-newsletter was sent to Sen. Padden’s subscribers Feb. 17, 2023. To subscribe to Sen. Padden’s newsletter, click here.

In 2008, Washington voters approved Initiative 1000, which established the so-called “Death with Dignity Act.” Opponents call it “Assisted Suicide Expansion.” 

Efforts have been made the last two years to remove what was sold as safeguards when the Initiative was passed. Those efforts failed. Again this year there is another effort being promoted that would make it easier for some patients to seek assisted suicide.

Senate Bill 5179 would add advanced registered nurse practitioners and physician assistants to the category of health-care providers authorized to order the lethal drugs. 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.

The measure was passed by the Senate Health and Long Term Care Committee 6-4, although there appeared to be some uneasiness among the majority.

Before the committee passed SB 5179 along party lines, I outlined some of the reasons why I opposed this measure. You can view and listen to my comments on SB 5179 here.

When the bill received a public hearing before the committee, good arguments were made as to why the Legislature should not pass it: This bill would do more harm than good. It would further normalize suicides, and 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. The bill is opposed by Disability Rights Washington, American Medical Association, Washington State Medical Association, Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine, Physicians for Compassionate Care Educational Foundation, Patients Right Action Fund, Washington State Catholic Conference, Family Policy Institute of Washington, Human Life of Washington and many others.

This newsletter covers a number of 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 that addresses affordable housing 

The Senate on Wednesday unanimously approved a bill that I introduced that would help create more affordable housing and help encourage home ownership in Washington by making it easier for smaller condominium buildings to be constructed.

Senate Bill 5058 would exempt buildings with 12 or fewer units that are no more than two stories from the definition of multiunit residential building. The Senate passed the proposal 48-0.

Washington has one of the lowest homeownership rates in the nation. This proposal would help address the lack of affordable housing in our state. In fact, a number of Washington cities with limited land area expressed support for this measure.

SB 5058 now goes to the House of Representatives for further consideration.

DUI ‘lookback’ bill receives Ways and Means hearing

Senate Bill 5032, my proposal to combat impaired driving on Washington roads, continues to be in play this session. The Senate Ways and Means Committee held a public hearing on SB 5032 on Monday.

The measure 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. The proposal would increase the penalty from a gross misdemeanor to a felony offense for any person who has three or more prior DUI offenses within that “lookback” period.

According to statistics compiled by the Washington Traffic Safety Commission, Washington road deaths reached a 20-year high in 2021. There were 670 traffic deaths in 2021, including 272 fatalities involving drug-impaired driving and 155 deaths involving alcohol-impaired driving. In 2020, Washington had 574 traffic fatalities, including 214 involving drug-impaired driving and 135 involving alcohol-impaired driving. The commission has a current preliminary estimate of 745 traffic fatalities in 2022. No 2022 figures on traffic deaths involving drug- or alcohol-impaired driving are available yet.

Our state has seen an alarming increase in traffic deaths over the past few years, and drunk driving and drug-impaired driving are two leading causes. This bill would help get the most dangerous drivers off the road and into treatment. Preventing impaired driving should be a key goal in our state. We’ve seen too many accidents and fatalities caused by drunk and drug-impaired drivers, especially repeat offenders. This bill could help reverse this tragic trend.

SB 5032 was approved earlier this session by the Senate Law and Justice Committee and Senate Transportation Committee. February 24 is the deadline for the Ways and Means Committee to pass Senate bills sent to that panel.

Washington’s ‘carbon tax’ costing drivers more at the pump

Have you noticed a sharp hike in gasoline prices in recent weeks? If you have, you are not alone.

The Washington Policy Center recently posted a story about how the price hike in gas is due to the “carbon tax” that is part of the “Climate Commitment Act” enacted by the Democratic majorities in the Legislature in 2021. Opponents of this law, which created what some call the “cap-and-trade” (or “cap-and-tax”) program, have argued for two years that it would result in sharp fuel increases.

Much of the WPC article in especially noteworthy:

Gas price data from the EIA is released on Monday, and this week Washington’s gas prices have increased about 26 cents per gallon since the beginning of the year compared to other Western states (minus California). The price of Regular gasoline in Washington stayed flat, but declined about two cents per gallon in the rest of the West.

The AAA gas price data tell a slightly different story, with the difference between Washington and other states declining since last week. Compared to the rest of the West, Washington’s prices have increased about 22 cents per gallon since the beginning of the year. And while last week, Washington’s prices were about 25 cents per gallon more than the average of AAA’s prices for Oregon and Idaho, a big increase in Idaho’s prices in the last week means that our price is now 17 cents per gallon more than the average of those two states since the beginning of the year.

Using the EIA and AAA data for Washington compared to the West coast, the average increase is about 24 cents per gallon. If we include the Idaho/Oregon comparison, it goes down to about 22 cents per gallon. The large variability in Idaho is a reminder that there are other factors at play in driving prices, so all numbers should include a margin of error.

Twenty-four cents per gallon equates to about $31 per metric ton of CO2. This is also the price two people have reported to me that propane dealers are adding to their bill. Until the actual price of the tax is set in late February, that looks like the price most companies are settling on.

There are complaints from some in the agriculture and marine sectors that the CO2 tax is being applied to their fuel costs when it should not be. Both sectors were carved out in the legislation but there is confusion about how to apply those rules on the ground. One bill has already been introduced to develop a system to address these uncertainties.

This complexity is a problem with the cap-and-trade system. The rules were rushed into place and fuel distributors are still having to guess at the actual cost of the tax because the Department of Ecology isn’t holding the first auction for allowances until the end of February. Similarly, the challenges of implementing the complex system, like those being faced by the agricultural sector, should have been anticipated. A recent report comparing a flat tax on CO2 to a cap-and-trade system noted that it “requires an entirely new administrative agency to create and track allowances, hold auctions, and develop rules to prevent fraud and abuse.” My guess is that we will see more implementation challenges in the upcoming months.

Bill seeks to make ‘The Evergreen State’ Washington’s official nickname

Most Washingtonians, even many schoolchildren, know that Washington is referred to as “The Evergreen State” thanks to the many coniferous forests – including Douglas firs and cedars on the west side of the Cascades and ponderosa pines on the east side – that stand tall throughout Washington.

The nickname for Washington was used by Gov. John H. McGraw in his 1893 inaugural address, and has been considered by the Legislature for official designation, but it has never been adopted.

It’s surprising to learn that “The Evergreen State” is not Washington’s official nickname, though many assume it is. But there is a bill before the Legislature this session to change that.

Senate Bill 5595, a bipartisan measure prime-sponsored by my Republican colleague, 19th District Sen. Jeff Wilson of Longview, would designate “The Evergreen State” as Washington’s official nickname. I am one of 39 co-sponsors on the bill.

The state nickname proposal was approved last Friday by the Senate State Government and Elections Committee and is now on the second reading calendar, which means it could receive a Senate floor vote soon. 

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: 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 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.