Note: The following e-newsletter was sent to Sen. Padden’s subscribers Dec. 19, 2022. To subscribe to Sen. Padden’s newsletter, click here.
Dear friends and neighbors,
The Legislature is now in the second week of its 2023 session in Olympia. The focus early in this 105-day session is on committee meetings, where many bills that have been introduced so far receive public hearings.
A key issue this session is public safety. While there are several important areas that fall within the public-safety umbrella, one of the most crucial involves the startling increase in traffic fatalities in recent years.
Statistics compiled by the Washington Traffic Safety Commission show 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. Figures for traffic deaths involving drug- or alcohol-impaired driving aren’t available yet.
For the third time in three years, the Senate Law and Justice Committee has passed my legislation to combat impaired driving. The committee approved the bill this morning, sending it to the Senate Transportation Committee for further consideration.
Senate Bill 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. 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.
It’s very similar to another proposal I introduced, Senate Bill 5054, which was passed by the Law and Justice Committee and the full Senate during the 2021 and 2022 legislative sessions, including unanimous approval last year. The bill later died in the House both years.
Like its predecessor, SB 5032 has bipartisan sponsorship.
Repeat impaired-driving offenders commit most of the vehicular homicides and vehicular assaults in Washington. This is a measure to try to prevent those horrible, senseless crimes. Four years ago, I was out driving here in Olympia on a weekend on I-5. Right at the Pacific Avenue exit I saw the remains of a crash in which a 17-year-old Hispanic woman from the Tri-Cities was killed. They were changing a tire on the shoulder and a repeat drunk driver crashed into them on the shoulder.
Many similar traffic fatalities in the state involve drivers who have had as many as eight DUI offenses, but the current 10-year lookback period is not long enough to allow the state to impose stronger punishment against such offenders. It’s common sense to extend the lookback period 15 years instead of the current 10 years.
This year’s bill also would give offenders a chance to undergo treatment with the hope they eventually will no longer have a problem with alcohol or drugs.
While we can’t blame drunken driving and drug-impaired driving entirely for the alarming increase in traffic deaths over the past few years, 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 should help get the most dangerous drivers off the road and into treatment.
The bill received supporting testimony from several people and organizations, including Gov. Jay Inslee’s public safety policy official, the Washington State Patrol and the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs.
TVW’s coverage of the public hearing on SB 5032 can be viewed here.
I am optimistic this will be the year the Legislature finally passes this important proposal.
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!
Senator Mike Padden
Bill helping employee stock ownership plans receives committee hearing
Last Thursday, the Senate Business, Financial Services, Gaming and Trade Committee held a hearing on one of the proposals that I introduced before session even began. Senate Bill 5096 would aid businesses looking to adopt an employee stock ownership plan (ESOP) corporate structure.
The bipartisan proposal aims to do three things. It 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.
Last week’s public hearing on SB 5096 went well. You can view TVW’s coverage of my testimony on the bill by clicking here. Several people from different business-related organizations, including an official with Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories in Pullman, also testified in support of it. TVW’s coverage of their testimony on the proposal can be viewed by clicking here.
The next step is for the committee to approve it. I’m hopeful that will happen sometime in the next few weeks.
During its annual meeting last November, the Spokane Valley Chamber of Commerce held a panel discussion on ESOPs to promote employee ownership of businesses. During the event, I took part in a discussion on how businesses can implement this policy and possible legislation to help implement ESOPs. Several chamber members who attended the panel presentation said they were enthused by it, which was encouraging.
Meeting with constituents about early childhood education
Last week I enjoyed having a meeting in my Olympia office with two Spokane-area residents to talk about the importance of early childhood education. With me were Tami Boone (left) of Riverside and Rachel DeDomenico (right) of Spokane. Both are family services specialists with the Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program.
District survey results
About a week before Christmas, our office mailed out a presession survey to households throughout the 4th Legislative District. In the few weeks since the survey was sent out, our office has received about 600 responses from constituents. We appreciate everyone who took time out of their busy lives to answer the questions and mail the survey back to my Olympia office! Here are the results from the survey as of last week:
Question 1: Washington’s revenue forecast indicates a surplus of $3.9 billion for the current 2021-23 biennium and just over $5 billion for the 2023-25 budget cycle. Should taxpayers receive tax relief from the Legislature due to high inflation’s impact on family budgets?
87% said yes.
12% said no.
1% didn’t respond or had a different response.
Question 2: If you think the Legislature should provide tax relief for Washingtonians, what type of tax relief do you most favor?
13% favored a decrease in the state property tax.
7% favored a decrease in the sales tax.
7% favored a decrease in the gas tax.
11% wrote in multiple decreases in taxes.
56% favored decreases in all of the taxes listed above.
5% said none.
Question 3: Recently the majority party in Washington decriminalized fentanyl, meth, heroin and other hard drugs for the first two offenses. What position should the 2023 Legislature take with regard to hard drugs?
11% said possession or use of hard drugs should stay decriminalized in Washington.
86% said possession or use of hard drugs should return to being a felony in Washington.
3% didn’t respond or had a different response.
Question 4: The Legislature in 2021 passed a state law changing the standard for law-enforcement officers to pursue suspects in vehicles from reasonable suspicion to probable cause. This has made it far more difficult for law enforcement to pursue suspected criminals. What do you think?
89% said the Legislature should change state law to again make it easier for law-enforcement officers to pursue suspects.
10% said the current law is fine as it is.
1% didn’t respond or had a different response.
Question 5: The State Building Code Council recently voted to essentially ban the use of natural gas to heat new homes and apartments and instead use heat pumps. What do you think?
12% agreed with the Building Code Council that natural gas should be banned from new homes and apartments.
86% said natural gas should still be allowed to heat new homes and apartments.
2% didn’t respond or had a different response.
Question 6: Many Washington students suffered learning loss due to the COVID-19 pandemic and policies implemented by some school districts that resulted in the closing of schools and reduction in classroom time. What do you think is the best way to help students overcome learning loss?
25% said curriculums need to change.
17% said more or redirected funding (funds follow kids, tutors, alternatives to public school, more teachers, etc.).
8% said we need to keep schools open and end all COVID restrictions and eliminate online classes.
22% said kids need a make up a school year, or that school should be extended through summer, etc.
28% didn’t respond or had very unique opinions.
Two local teens serve as Senate pages
This week I had the privilege of sponsoring two Senate pages from the Spokane Valley: Abby Lind (left) is a freshman at Ridgeline High School. Abby lives in Greenacres, plays the violin, competes in tennis and softball, and is involved in the school orchestra. Hailey Huff (right) is a freshman at University High School. Hailey lives in Mead and is involved in Future Business Leaders of America, Key Club, tennis and youth group. It was nice to meet Abby and Hailey this week!
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.