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Dear Friends and Neighbors,
In just a few days, along with Sen. Judy Warnick and Rep. Tom Dent, I'm co-hosting a virtual town hall for the 13th District. Because lawmakers are working full-time in Olympia during the session, online events are a great way for us to hear directly from you.
I'm looking forward to meeting with constituents to discuss the public policy issues that matter the most to our region.
The hour-long event takes place on Wednesday, Feb. 8, starting at 6:00 p.m. Space is limited, so register early.
Police pursuit reform
Sweeping police reforms were approved under House Bill 1054 during the 2021 session. One of the most problematic was restrictions placed on police pursuit. Under the current law, police are restricted from pursuing suspects unless there's probable cause the driver is impaired, they're an escaped felon or have committed a violent or sexual crime.
Unfortunately, rather than making communities and people safer, that “reform” energized criminal activity. Along with a dramatic uptick in drivers fleeing traffic stops, according to the Washington State Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs (WASPC), vehicle thefts have also increased.
Because of those problems, there's been a bipartisan push to make the law regarding police pursuits more balanced.
- House Bill 1363 would restore the initial threshold to reasonable suspicion that a crime has or is being committed — and allow police agencies to set their own pursuit policies.
Unfortunately, even though the data clearly shows that crime is skyrocketing, key members of the majority party are blocking the measure from progressing. Instead, they've offered another measure, House Bill 1586, that would direct the Criminal Justice Training Commission to do a study on police pursuits without fixing the law.
While I agree examining police pursuit tactics is worthy of a study — there's no good reason to delay restoring law enforcement's ability to pursue criminals. We need to let common sense be our guide and give police the tools they need to keep our communities safe.
- Comment directly on the bipartisan solution for police pursuit, House Bill 1363.
- Learn more about how the majority party's police reforms have made communities less safe.
- Learn how to take part in the legislative process.
Emergency powers bill
Another critical reform that continues to be stymied by the majority party is emergency powers reform. The governor finally ended Washington's state of emergency (SOE) after more than two and a half years. During that time, we saw dozens of proclamations with little to no input from the public.
Washington is one of only four states that hands over unilateral authority to the governor to declare and maintain a state of emergency (SOE). During a prolonged SOE, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, the legislative branch, which represents the voice of the people, has an extremely limited role in determining the policies set forth by the executive branch in Washington state.
That needs to change. No office or governmental branch should be able to wield such vast powers without checks and balances, especially during a prolonged state of emergency.
- With that in mind, House Bill 1535 focuses on emergencies that last longer than 60 days to ensure the public – and the lawmakers that represent them – have a voice.
- Under this proposal, when needed, multiple extensions of an SOE could be issued by the Legislature or, when the Legislature is not in session, by unanimous agreement of all four leaders of the House and Senate.
I strongly support this bill. The executive branch's prolonged unilateral, autocratic authority during the pandemic proved this reform is imperative. There must be limits. When an SOE lasts for months or even years, the public deserves a voice in how to move forward. That's the job of the Legislature.
- Learn more about this important issue.
- Comment directly on House Bill 1535.
- Learn how to take part in the legislative process.
Capital budget requests
The state's capital budget helps provide infrastructure and construction funding across the state. Those investments help grow our economy and keep our communities vibrant.
For the past few weeks, I've been working hard to put together our region's top priorities so I can submit them for consideration to the Capital Budget Committee members.
If you know of a community infrastructure, construction, or maintenance project that needs funding in the 13th District, I want to talk to you! My contact information is listed at the bottom of this update.
For residents in the 13th District, traveling to Olympia to take part in the legislative process isn't easy. To testify in person often requires a long drive on icy, sometimes unsafe wintery roads.
That's why I like to encourage people to testify remotely. If there was a silver lining to changes wrought during the pandemic, it was the normalization of online meeting tools like Zoom and Microsoft Teams. Although nothing beats in-person, direct communication — online testimony has been a game-changer for our region.
To learn more about how to testify remotely, click here. If you need additional help, feel free to call my office. I'm happy to help.
Please contact me if you have questions about the legislative process, bills, or important issues facing our communities and state.
It's an honor to serve you!
470 John L. O'Brien Building | P.O. Box 40600 | Olympia, WA 98504-0600
(360) 786-7808 | Toll-free: (800) 562-6000