Spokane Valley’s Padden named chair of Law and Justice Committee

Sen. Mike Padden today announced he has joined a bipartisan coalition that will lead the Washington State Senate when the 2013 legislative session begins Jan. 14. Under the coalition’s new committee structure, Padden will serve as the chair of the Senate Law and Justice Committee.

“I have always believed that it is vital to stand strong on principle, while being willing to engage the process and forge coalitions in order to get things done,” said Padden, who will be a member of both the Senate Republican Caucus and the new Majority Coalition Caucus. “I will continue to stand firm in my belief that we need to focus on reforms before revenue, reject higher taxes, reduce the size of government, and defend the family. At the same time, I look forward to working with members of both parties in order to find solutions that will benefit all Washingtonians.

“The last thing we need is the sort of partisanship that we see paralyzing Washington, D.C. and leading to petty politics being elevated ahead of people. Our Senate majority coalition is all about working in a bipartisan fashion to get things done.”

The Majority Coalition Caucus takes bipartisan cooperation to a new level; its 25 members have committed to not only work together, but to govern together, sharing responsibility and authority for policy and budget decisions.

Under the coalition’s new committee structure six of the Senate’s 15 policy and fiscal committees will be chaired by Democrats and six will be chaired by Republicans, with the remaining three having Republican and Democratic co-chairs. Also, neither party will have more than a one-member advantage on a committee.

The majority coalition caucus named Padden, R-Spokane Valley, to serve as chair of the renamed Law and Justice Committee, formerly the Judiciary Committee, which addresses issues in both civil and criminal law. Some of the areas of civil law that are included are probate, corporations, the Uniform Commercial Code, trusts and estates, family law, and tort reform. In the arena of criminal law, the committee considers legislation affecting a wide range of subjects including criminal penalties and sentencing, drunk driving, domestic violence, identity theft, and animal cruelty. In addition, the committee will consider legislation affecting the courts and law enforcement.

“For too many people, when they hear the term ‘Judiciary,’ they think it refers only to the courts, when the committee really deals with a lot more than just that,” Padden explained. “The name ‘Law and Justice’ more accurately reflects our majority coalition’s emphasis on public safety for all of our citizens.”

Padden was first elected to the state Legislature in 1980 and served as a citizen legislator for more than 14 years. During that time his many leadership roles included House Majority Floor Leader and chairman of the House Law and Justice Committee.

In March 1995 Padden was appointed Spokane County District Court judge and won three additional terms through countywide elections. His willingness to listen and work with both sides served him well; his fellow judges twice elected Padden to be the court’s presiding judge, managing a budget of approximately $7.8 million and a staff of 150 employees. He retired from that position in January 2007, prior to returning to the Legislature in 2011.

“As chair of the Senate Law and Justice Committee, my goal will be to help our state government get back on the road to fiscal sanity and sustainable budgets, while protecting our most vulnerable citizens and using my years of experience on the bench to improve our courts and corrections system.

“The committees represent the front door to the lawmaking process, and by restructuring them in this way, we are making it more likely that good bills will make it to the floor, and every bill that makes it to the floor will be well-vetted and have broad bipartisan support,” Padden added. “This is a tremendous step forward.”