Dear Friends and Neighbors,
We are just hours away from the end of the scheduled 60-day session. I wanted to take a few minutes to provide this update.
Tenth District Town Hall Meetings this Saturday
I'd like to invite you to join me and Rep. Norma Smith this Saturday, March 10, for town hall meetings in Freeland, Oak Harbor and Mount Vernon. We will provide a recap of the 2018 session and take your questions. Here are the details:
Freeland: 8 a.m. – 9:30 a.m.
Whidbey Telecom Freeland Customer Experience Center
1651 Main St, Freeland
Oak Harbor: 12 p.m. – 1:30 p.m.
Oak Harbor High School
1 Wildcat Way, Oak Harbor
Mount Vernon: 3 p.m. – 4:30 p.m.
Conway Middle School
19710 State Route 534, Mount Vernon
For more information, call my office number at the bottom of this e-newsletter.
Opioid treatment pilot project – Bill dies, but funding continues program
In my previous e-newsletter, I discussed my legislation that would provide a comprehensive treatment pilot program in Snohomish County for people addicted to opioid drugs.
House Bill 2287 sought to build upon a partnership between the Snohomish County Sheriff's Office and the Snohomish County Human Services Division and repurpose an existing work-release building to house 44 beds (32 men and 12 women) for treatment and counseling. The program is voluntary and the goal is to stabilize participants and expedite them to services that will assist in facilitating their recovery. While at the center, time would be spent helping visitors get connected to other services, such as medically-assisted treatment, housing and employment assistance.
The bill called out metrics that must be reported back to the Legislature by Dec. 1, 2019. The concept is that if it showed the pilot program successfully reduced addiction and recidivism, the next step would be to use it as a template in other communities experiencing the same problems.
The measure passed out of the House unanimously, but was not brought up for a hearing in the Senate Human Services and Corrections Committee. The chair of that committee had concerns that other counties in the state were not being considered for this program, such as Pierce County, even though Snohomish County has one of the highest opioid-related death rates in Washington.
Although the bill and its policy died in the Senate committee, I was able to successfully secure $800,000 in the state supplemental operating budget proposal to fund the Snohomish County diversion center. While I'm disappointed the policy did not advance, I'm pleased we can still move forward with a solid program that will help save people's lives and that the budget language still includes the reporting and metrics of the original bill.
Protecting our kids in school
Following the tragic shooting in a Florida school, there has been renewed calls nationwide for more gun control measures. In fact, a bill that bans bump stock devices has made its way to the governor. What are we doing, however, to protect our kids in the public schools?
When the supplemental operating budget bill first came to a vote on the House floor on Feb. 23, I offered an amendment that would have provided $30 million for additional school resource officers in our state's K-12 public schools.
Beyond the important role of safety, school resource officers engage young kids as mentors and coaches, especially those children marginalized or at risk and need the most attention. Kids who might otherwise be afraid of law enforcement officers get the ability with a school resource officer to have positive contact in a safe environment — an officer who is approachable and interacts daily with kids on more of a social level than an authoritative level.
I was disappointed the amendment was narrowly rejected along a near party-line vote, 49-48, with only one Democrat voting in favor. We protect those things that matter to us most with guards and armed officers. Why aren't we protecting our kids?
Protecting those who protect us
Following the 2016 session, I participated in a legislative task force regarding the use of deadly force by law enforcement officers. That task force consisted of representatives from the various law enforcement labor and management groups, as well as members of racial and ethnic communities across the state.
The result of that task force was a majority report recommending that the state's justifiable homicide statute be amended to remove language stating that an officer who acts in “good faith” and “without malice” (such as evil intent) cannot be convicted of a crime for using deadly force. A bill was later proposed that would have amended that law, but did not move forward during the 2017 session.
Over the latest interim period leading up to the current legislative session, a group named “De-Escalate Washington” formed for the purpose of gathering signatures to forward an initiative to the Legislature. That measure, Initiative 940, would amend the justifiable homicide statute by removing the language regarding malice and re-defining the “good faith” language. This proposal would effectively lower the standard and remove many protections that had been in place to protect officers who are faced with a situation that necessitates the use of deadly force. I support current law and would have opposed I-940.
Throughout the current legislative session, I have participated in negotiations between the De-Escalate Washington board members and representatives from our law enforcement community. These negotiations were tough and emotional for all parties involved. But the parties did come together to improve upon the language and avoid what would have been a very contentious and damaging law to all communities in our state. These negotiations resulted in House Bill 3003, which I co-sponsored.
This bill does remove reference to “malice,” but puts statute in place that sufficiently protects officers who act within their training by re-defining “good faith” to a nationally recognized standard. This is a great compromise by all stakeholders involved in the negotiations and will save our communities by ensuring that I-940 does not go on the November ballot.
House Bill 3003 passed the House Public Safety Committee on Tuesday. You can watch my testimony from the committee here. The measure passed the House Wednesday, 73-25.
I am proud of my role in bringing people together to participate in this political process of compromise. The resulting bill brings communities together. It is my hope that lines of communication remain open and a greater sense of community cooperation is reached!
One of the big hot button issues of the session was whether to ban Atlantic salmon farming in Washington waters. This came after more than 260,000 Atlantic salmon escaped from failing pens last August in Samish Bay.
When legislation to ban Atlantic salmon farming in Washington was coming to the House floor for a vote, I had conflicting feelings. This is effectively banning an entire industry from our state — an industry that supports 180 jobs in Washington. People's livelihoods depend on this industry. Yet I had so many phone calls, emails and letters from constituents asking me to vote in favor of the bill. I could not ignore what you told me. I voted yes.
However, no one has yet to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that these fish were harmful to native stocks. In fact, the Seattle Times wrote, “The science is mixed — and thin — on the actual harm that farmed and escaped Atlantic salmon pose day to day for native Pacific salmon and Puget Sound.”
On Friday, the state Senate passed a bill that phases out Atlantic salmon net-pen farming in Washington by 2025. It makes me wonder, with such little science upon which to base this decision, what is the next industry that will fall victim to the state's uninformed decisions?
I work for you throughout the year
Although the session is coming to a close, I maintain an office throughout the year in Olympia. My new legislative assistant, Kendra Harris, will be glad to take your call or email. Please continue communicating with me as we move forward. I will also bring you more e-newsletter updates after the dust clears from this legislative session.