Washington now leads U.S. in drug overdose deaths

Note: The following e-newsletter was sent to Sen. Padden’s subscribers July 25, 2023. To subscribe to Sen. Padden’s newsletter, click here.

Dear friends and neighbors,

Washington now has the dubious honor of having the highest gas prices of all states in America.

Unfortunately, our state has become a national leader in another undesirable category. According to new figures from the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta, Washington state has become the national leader in drug-overdose deaths.

What led to this? Our Democrat-controlled Legislature and its successful effort in 2021 to erase felony drug laws from the books.

Statistics show drug deaths skyrocketed in Washington state after Democratic leaders insisted on not reinstating felony penalties for the possession of hard drugs after the BLAKE decision. For the period February 2022 to February 2023 Washington saw the biggest increase in overdose fatalities anywhere in the country, a stunning 23.9 percent increase.  Overdoses of heroin, fentanyl and other hard drugs claimed the lives of nearly 3,000 people across our state. This is tragic and unacceptable.

I joined three other members of the Senate Freedom Caucus in putting out a news release earlier this week that decries this terrible moment for our state. Here is part of that news release:

The new statistics from the CDC illustrate the effect of Washington’s decriminalization effort because they show the rise in drug deaths between 2022 and 2023, as the liberalized drug law took effect.

Washington lawmakers revised drug laws in 2021 after the state Supreme Court overturned felony statutes for possession of hard drugs. Majority Democrats in the Legislature chose not to fix the language in the statute, arguing that the “war on drugs” was counterproductive and racially insensitive. Instead, the Legislature reduced the crime to a misdemeanor, with penalties accruing only on the third offense. As a result, there was Defacto decriminalization.

By eliminating the threat of jail time, the law eliminated incentives for addicts to enroll in drug-treatment programs. The law also eliminated a tool used by law enforcement in sweeps of homeless camps.   

Lawmakers changed the law again this year, keeping hard-drug possession as a hybrid misdemeanor, but allowing jail time on the first offense. The new law took effect on July 1, and the effect has yet to be seen.

On Monday, I was interviewed by KVI talk-show host John Carlson on the drug-overdose increase. You can listen to the interview here.

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

New report reveals that crime is increasing in Washington

This chart shows the number of murders in our state between 1980 and 2022.

Many people throughout Washington realize that crime continues to worsen in our state. The latest “Crime in Washington” report, released earlier this month by the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs, confirmed that crime is a growing problem. You can view the full report here. WASPC’s news release on its report is here.

The report showed that 2022 was another record year for murders in our state, with 394 homicides in 2022, an increase of 16.6% compared to 2021 and a shocking rise of 96% over 2019, when there were 201 murders in Washington.

There have been other startling increases in other crime categories since 2019: Motor vehicle theft skyrocketed 94%, robbery rose 31%, aggravated assault increased 41%, burglary went up nearly 26%, and destruction of property saw a hike of nearly 41%.

(This recent KHQ-TV story said July is National Vehicle Theft Awareness Month, and the Spokane Police Department pointed out “the Inland Northwest and the State of Washington as a whole is seeing an increase in vehicle thefts.”)

The report pointed out that Washington was last in the nation in per capita law enforcement and continued to see a decline in commissioned law-enforcement officers, falling by 70 statewide (from 10,736 in 2021 to 10,666), while the state’s population during this period has increased by 93,262.

Unless communities in our state hire more law-enforcement officers, crime likely will continue to rise in our state.

Spokesman-Review publishes op-ed on WA Cares program’s problems

Over the past several months, many 4th District constituents have reached out to me to complain about the WA Cares long-term care program, including the expensive payroll tax that funds it. After being delayed, the payroll tax became active on July 1.

On July 16, the Spokesman-Review published my guest editorial piece that points out problems with WA Cares, as well as the recent proposal by some of my Senate Republican colleagues for next session that would make WA Cares optional instead of mandatory, and, depending on when someone opted out of the program, would provide a refund on taxes already paid. You can read the guest editorial here.

It’s time to repeal law banning private prisons

On June 22, Gov. Jay Inslee and Attorney General Bob Ferguson filed a notice in a pending federal court case stipulating that Washington cannot enforce the 2021 Democrat-sponsored ban on private prisons and detention centers (RCW 70.395.030).

This action recognizes the unconstitutionality of the statue. The unenforceable statute needs to be repealed. Senate Bill 5055 does that.

My news release that responds to the notice filed by the governor and attorney general can be read here.

In late June, I appeared on the Lars Larson Show to discuss this issue. You can listen to the interview with Lars here.

Kudos to East Valley High School on revamping wood and metal shops 

As a proponent of vocational classes in high schools and vocational and trade programs after high school, I was interested in a recent Spokesman-Review article that said East Valley High School “is in the middle of revamping their wood and metal shops to include updated machines and new opportunities for learning.” The story said the high school applied for a grant from the Washington Department of Commerce and received $200,000.

It’s important that people, especially those who are in high school or are college-age, have opportunities to receive enough training in vocational fields so they can earn a job in such a field and possibly make a career of it. Congratulations to East Valley High School for taking positive steps to help students who wish to take wood and metal classes.

WA does not fare well in SEL’s latest state rankings on business 

Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories recently unveiled its latest “Index of Freedom,” which ranks states on a variety of business-related criteria. You can view the rankings here.

The top five scoring states were Utah (with a score of 11.53), South Dakota (11.58), North Dakota (11.97), Idaho (12.35) and Nevada (12.55). Where did Washington rank? Our state was 32nd, with a 26.78 score.

Here is what the report said about our state: “Washington suffers from a challenging regulatory climate and poor labor rates, driven by some of the most progressive prevailing wage and minimum wage laws in the nation. While Washington has been buoyed by the lack of a personal income tax, a newly implemented 7 percent capital gains tax sets a dangerous and highly irregular precedent, as the Washington State Supreme Court characterized this tax as an excise tax and not an income tax, as does the IRS and every other state in the country. This ruling opened the door for more bad tax policy in the state. On the positive side, Washington benefits from the most abundant hydroelectric power in the country, and this keeps electric power relatively cheap; any attempts to stop or lessen the use of hydro power would negatively impact the state and its standings. However, even with this important resource lifting the score, Washington remains in the bottom tier.”  

This annual report focuses on three critical variables: government efficiency, regulatory freedom, and energy resiliency. Information from this report highlights potential advantages or challenges that exist when doing business in each state.

Contact us!

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

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.