Senate Law and Justice Committee to meet Wednesday in Burien

padden_pqMembers of the Senate Law and Justice Committee will assemble Wednesday afternoon to discuss a trio of subjects and have public hearings on three nominations to the state Sentencing Guidelines Commission.

The committee meeting is to begin at 1:30 p.m. at the state Criminal Justice Training Commission at 19010 1st Avenue South in Burien.

Sen. Mike Padden, committee chairman, noted the agenda includes a work session about a prospective piece of legislation he’s calling the “religious freedom restoration act.”

“Every so often it makes sense to update the state code so it’s in line with court decisions, and this would be an example,” said Padden, R-Spokane Valley. “For instance, our courts have held that it’s OK for churches to use public-school facilities for Sunday services. Why not make it clear in state law that people and groups – be they Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Sikh or of another faith — may not be excluded or be the target of discrimination because of their religious values?

“Faith-based organizations have every right to be present and participate in the public square. While the First Amendment lists religion ahead of speech, and the press, it seems that protection isn’t as well-known. I’d rather bring state law up to date now than wait until after someone has lodged a complaint about, say, baptisms being performed in a city park.”

Apart from the general topic of freedom, Padden said the prospective bill bears no similarity to Senate Bill 5927, a measure introduced during the 2013 legislation session that has to do with the right to engage in commerce free from discrimination.

“Let me make it clear to those who would assert otherwise: The bill we’ll talk about Wednesday has nothing to do with whether a business owner can decide who he or she serves,” said Padden. “Frankly, it’s closer to a measure proposed by my Democrat counterpart on our committee, to recognize religious freedom in our state, which passed in the Senate earlier this year with my support.”

Discussions about electronic signatures and House Bill 1000, which had come before Padden’s committee during the 2013 session, will round out the work-session portion of Wednesday’s meeting.