Legislative briefly

  • Tuesday, February 25, 2020 3:57pm
  • News

Immigrant law

OLYMPIA – Undocumented immigrants in Washington state may no longer fear unexpected arrests thanks to protection that legislation under consideration promises to provide them. House Bill 2567, and its companion Senate Bill 6522, would prohibit civil arrests without a court order or arrest warrant within one mile of a court facility.

“For me, as a refugee, it took me a while to overcome my fear for police,” said Rep. My-Linh Thai, D-Bellevue, the House bill’s primary sponsor. “It took me a while to overcome my fear for the … judicial system. I overcame my fear and my mistrust because I believe … that everybody deserves to have access to justice.” According to the American Civil Liberties Union of Washington, “over the past two years, there have been more than 200 documented civil arrests at courthouses in over 18 counties” statewide.

“The rise in immigration enforcement in Washington courthouses has a direct chilling effect on immigrant crime victims who would otherwise turn to the courts for protection,” said Alex Kory, a crime victims attorney with the Northwest Justice Project. “When victims are scared to seek protection, crimes go unchecked,” Kory said. The bill would only apply to arrests made for the violation of civil law and “excludes arrest for alleged criminal law violations, or arrest for contempt of court,” according to the substitute Senate Bill report.

More of same?

OLYMPIA – Republican leaders in Washington state said they are not confident that spending on homelessness proposed by the Democrats will produce significant results.

On Monday, Democrats from the state House and Senate proposed separate supplemental operating budgets following a $1.5 billion increase in expected revenue. Each proposal designated more than $100 million to fund affordable and supportive housing.

The House budget proposal allotted more than $230 million to reduce homelessness.

“I don’t think it’s the amount, it is how it’s spent,” said Sen. Mark Schoesler, R-Ritzville. “Just throwing money at it hasn’t worked.”

Rep. Drew Stokesbary, R-Auburn, the approach that Seattle has taken to mitigate homelessness has “failed.” Stokesbary said Gov. Jay Inslee seems to be supporting the same kind of housing investment approach that Seattle has pursued, which has only exacerbated the problem. An alternative solution was proposed by Sen. Hans Zeiger, R-Puyallup, which provides “ways forward,” for homeless individuals. Zeiger sponsored Senate Bill 5261, which would have created a pilot program to incentivize cities to hire homeless individuals for certain city projects. The bill had bipartisan support but never left committee.

Spend or rebate? 

OLYMPIA – Democratic caucuses in the state House and Senate rolled out separate spending plans that include hundreds of millions of dollars to address homelessness, climate change and behavioral health. The proposed spending unveiled Feb. 24 would add $1.5 billion to the existing budget. Lawmakers credit increased state revenues due to strong economic growth. Sen. John Braun, R-Centralia, criticized the move. “Republicans are listening to the people, and the people want some of their money back,” Braun argued. The supplemental budget proposal outlines $115 million to help reduce homelessness, that includes $66 million to help increase homeless shelter capacity.

The House Democrats proposed $253 million toward fighting homelessness. The Senate Democrats’ proposal also sets aside $100 million to mitigate the impact of climate change.

Both Democratic caucuses also allocated funds toward behavioral and mental health programs and facilities.

Firearm Safety office 

OLYMPIA – The state Legislature is closer to creating an Office of Firearm Safety and Violence Prevention to collect data on gun violence and suicide following a 25-23 vote in favor of Senate Bill 6288.

The office would identify new ways to collect data, analyze and share that data, as well as making policy recommendations based on data collected. The office would work with law enforcement, county prosecutors, researchers and public health agencies.

The bill’s prime sponsor, Sen. Manka Dhingra, D-Redmond, said the legislation is intended to bring a research-driven and data-based approach to recognizing the impacts of gun violence and suicide.

Dhingra said the legislation is about transforming the state’s criminal justice system from a crisis response model to an early prevention and intervention model. She said programs such as King County’s Shots Fired project save taxpayers money because it helps to prevent deaths, injuries and incarcerations that burden our societal systems.

Sen. Mike Padden, R-Spokane Valley, said he is concerned the new office could end up being an advocacy group used to push gun regulations and take away gun rights.

“It just bothers me to have another bureaucracy and more tax dollars going to promote a particular viewpoint,” he said.

Cap insulin at $100 monthly 

OLYMPIA – Bringing down the cost of insulin for people with diabetes is the goal behind two Senate bills and one House bill that have been passed by the Washington state legislature.

Senate bill 6087 and House bill 2662 both cap the cost of insulin at $100 per month, while Senate bill 6113 appoints the Northwest Prescription Drug Consortium as the single purchaser of insulin in the state. The average cost now is $206 a month, bill 6087 says.

“Currently, the cost of insulin is breaking budgets, threatening lives, and, in some cases, even costing lives,” said Sen. Karen Keiser, D-Kent, the primary sponsor for the two Senate bills.

Firearms seizure 

OLYMPA – Courts could be one step closer to ordering people subject to vulnerable adult protection orders to surrender their firearms after the House voted 55-42 Feb. 14 in favor of a bill that expands authority to do so.

House Bill 2305 would allow courts issuing a Vulnerable Adult Protection Order to consider whether a person named as an abuser should surrender their firearms, or concealed carry license. “This bill gives judges the same tools they have for other protection orders to order the surrender of firearms if there is evidence that the subject of the order has used or threatened to use a firearm,” said the bill’s prime sponsor, Beth Doglio, D-Olympia.

Currently, the court can order the surrender of firearms from people subject to other kinds of protection and restraining orders, including domestic violence and stalking.

Matthew Aimonetti, representative of the Pink Pistols gun and LGBTQ rights advocacy group, testified that the legislation lacked due process and had the potential to be used maliciously against people. Aimonetti said the bill denies Second Amendment rights to individuals without criminal charges being filed or being convicted of a crime.

Access to child care 

OLYMPIA – Parents could have better access to child care providers if lawmakers pass a bill that aims to make the certification process cheaper and easier. The primary sponsor of House Bill 2556, Rep. Tom Dent, R-Moses Lake, said current regulations and certification training imposed by the Department of Children, Youth and Families are “far over the top,” and the costs to comply with them are challenging businesses to stay open.

The proposed bill would push to provide community-based training for easier and more-accessible certification. The bill stipulates the certification cannot exceed $250 per person and calls for a review of ways to give college or technical school credit to providers in childcare training.

Eliminate styrofoam?

OLYMPIA – Lawmakers plan to eliminate the use of styrofoam food-service products in Washington state by enacting a bill to stop its sale and distribution.

Senate bill 6213, sponsored by Sen. Mona Das, D-Kent, and its companion House Bill 2429 aim to ban the sale and distribution of polystyrene products. The bill would apply to food containers, plates, cups, packing peanuts, ice coolers, and other food-service products. Containers for raw foods, such as eggs and meat, would be exempt.

Styrofoam takes several years to decompose and is harmful to the environment, particularly to any wildlife that comes in contact with it.

Concerns were expressed by individuals who feared the loss of jobs that would result from passing the bill. “SB 6213 would effectively eliminate the 28 full-time, skilled workers we have employed in Tumwater and some of the employees at our Lacey distribution center,” said Kathy Warren, human resources manager at Dart Container.

– Information for Legislative briefly is provided by WNPA interns in Olympia.

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