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Transgender restroom bill fails to pass out of Senate, 24-25

By | February 11, 2016 | 0 Comments

The Senate failed to pass a bill Wednesday that would have repealed a rule allowing transgender individuals to use the restroom or locker room that matches their gender identity. The rule was adopted in December by the Washington State Human Rights Commission.

Senate Bill 6443 failed on a vote of 24-25, with three Republicans crossing party lines to vote against the bill with a majority of Democrats.

Unisex-Bathroom-SignSen. Steve Litzow, R-Mercer Island, Sen. Joe Fain, R-Auburn, and Sen. Andy Hill, R-Redmond, voted in opposition to the measure.

Sen. Jim Hargrove, D-Hoquiam, voted in support of the bill with the Republicans.

Litzow did not speak on the Senate floor, but release a statement saying that the bill would have undermined the state’s anti-discrimination law passed in 2006.

“Instead of targeting the rights of any minority who are protected under law, we must use this opportunity to affirm the rights and safety of all people,” Litzow said. “I hope today’s vote by the Senate makes it clear to transgender people that their elected officials strongly believe that discrimination is not acceptable.”

The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Doug Ericksen, R-Ferndale, said the public was not adequately notified that the state Human Rights Commission was going through the rule-making process on transgender restrooms. He says the public never got a chance to weigh in, and he only learned of it after the rule had already been adopted.

“I believe that it’s the duty of the Legislature to be the ones making the final decision on issues of this type,” he said. “It shouldn’t be left to a board or commission.”

Hargrove voted in support of the bill, but said he wasn’t in total agreement of the approach. “By voiding the rule, what will happen is that the courts will case-by-case decide how to apply this,” he said.

Hargrove said he’s mostly worried about criminals who could take advantage of the rule. “What I’m concerned about is that there will be a lot of sex offenders that will all of a sudden become transgender because it gives them the opportunity to get into our locker rooms,” Hargrove said.

Speaking against the bill, Sen. Marko Liias, D-Lynnwood, said that transgender people are the ones who need to be protected. He cited a survey taken in Washington showed that 60 percent of transgender individuals have been a victim of physical or sexual assault.

“If there was another population in this country where three in five were the victims of physical or sexual assault, there would be a revolution in the street,” he said. “That explains why we need rules in our communities to implement the law and protect people that are at risk.”

Watch TVW video of the Senate floor session here. 

Categories: TVW, Uncategorized, WA Senate

Gov. Inslee appoints Roger Millar acting secretary of transportation

By | February 10, 2016 | 0 Comments
Roger_Millar_headshot200

Roger Millar

Gov. Jay Inslee has appointed Roger Millar to be the acting Secretary of Transportation for the Washington State Department of Transportation.

The move comes after the Senate voted on Friday to fire Transportation Secretary Lynn Peterson three years after she was appointed to the position by the governor.

Millar has been the Deputy Secretary for WSDOT since October, and he has worked in transportation for nearly 38 years.

“WSDOT is fortunate to have Roger, an accomplished engineer and transportation leader, to step up in this pivotal leadership role,” Inslee said in a statement Wednesday.

“Roger is not only an outstanding manager, he’s committed to furthering the innovative work happening throughout WSDOT.”

Inslee has sharply criticized the Senate’s firing of Peterson, but said earlier this week it’s his job to work around the decision.

Senate hears from public on plan that sets 2018 deadline for funding education

By | February 5, 2016 | 0 Comments

The Senate Ways and Means Committee heard public testimony this week on the Senate’s education funding plan, which has a later deadline than a House funding plan to fix the state’s problem with an overreliance on school levies.

Nearly all those who testified were opposed to Senate Bill 6195, which requires legislative action to be taken by 2018 to “reform” school district levies. That’s in contrast to the House education funding plan, which calls for eliminating reliance on levies by 2017.

Watch TVW video of the hearing here.

Ben Rarick of the State Board of Education testified in opposition to the bill, saying it doesn’t strengthen an education funding plan that was already “pretty weak to begin with.” He said at this point, it may not matter if the bill is passed or not.

“When the court imposed $100,000-per-day fines and found the Legislature in contempt, we thought that that would generate a sense of urgency coming into the short session,” he said.  “At this point, we would urge you to not pass the bill, or to go back and pass something that truly is a robust response to what we know are the needs of our system.”

Care Maree Harper testifying in opposition to Senate bill.

Care Maree Harper testifying in opposition to Senate bill.

Care Maree Harper, president of Endeavour Elementary School Parent Teacher Student Association in Issaquah, commended lawmakers for “working toward a solution.”

But she still spoke in opposition to the bill, saying schools need the funding now. She said her son’s school relies on outside funding for basic items.

“This year alone, our PTSA has given over $35,000 to our school for items that should be part of basic education funding,” she said. “And that includes over $17,000 for an early reading and intervention program.”

She said those items should be part of the state’s basic education funding, but instead they came out of the “pockets of the parents.”

Charlie Brown with the Puget Sound Schools Alliance testified as “other” at the hearing. He told members if they adopt this bill, they should also adopt a another bill that delays a decrease in the levy lid by another year.

“We would ask you to move the levy cliff by that one year so it’s consistent with the work that you all will be doing as you move forward on trying to resolve the McCleary decision,” he said.

He said failure to act on the so-called “levy cliff” will impact districts across Washington to the “tune of about $92 million.”

Categories: Education, TVW, WA Senate

Lawmakers hear testimony on bill to change deadly force law for police

By | February 5, 2016 | 0 Comments

A proposal that would change the standard in Washington for which police officers could be charged with a crime for improper use of deadly force drew an overflow crowd to Olympia on Wednesday.

Under current state law, a police officer cannot be held criminally liable for using deadly force when acting “without malice and with a good faith.”

House Bill 2907 would change that, removing immunity for officers acting without malice and with good faith. It also outlines when deadly force is justifiable.

“Its time to change this immeasurable, impossible to prove, and imprecise law. Why? Because we are dealing with high value lives,” said Karen Johnson with the Black Alliance of Thurston County, who requested the legislation.

She said there is a lack of trust between communities and law enforcement.

Watch TVW video of the hearing here.

Prime sponsor of the bill Rep. Luis Moscoso, D- Bothell, said there needs to be an open and transparent discussion about police shootings.

“There’s not a person in this room that hasn’t been paying attention to a lot the shootings in this country,” he said. “We are all concerned about why that’s been happening and how we can prevent that.” We need to have a civil discussion on the issue.”

Tom McBride, the executive secretary of the Washington Association of Prosecuting Attorneys, testified in opposition to the bill. He refuted the idea that police officers are not prosecuted for wrongdoing.

“There’s not a resistance to filing charges when they’re deserved, whether it’s a police officer or anyone else,” he said. “What we are interested in is a fair standard upon which to base our decisions.”

He said that fair standard has to take into account what police officers are asked to do each day, which is put themselves into “ambiguous, high-risk situations.”

Also speaking in opposition to the bill was Troy Meyers, an instructor at at the Washington State Criminal Justice Training Commission.

“One of the things that I have to tell them with every graduating class is that the state has their back if they act with good faith,” he said. “I don’t want to have to stop saying that.”

Meyers said that while much of the debate has focused on racial injustice, the bill doesn’t do anything to address race or mental health problem.

“I expect my state to address those things head-on if that’s really our concern,” he said.

An overflow room waits to testify at the House Public Safety Committee on Wednesday. More than 65 people signed in to testify.

An overflow room at the House Public Safety Committee on Wednesday. More than 65 people signed in to testify.

Carlos Bratcher with the Seattle chapter of the National Black Police Association urged lawmakers to pass the bill, saying it will provide clarity to police officer. He said he’s shocked over what he’s seen in the last few years with police shootings

“As with any good practicing law enforcement officer, if I have a colleague or another officer that commits the use of deadly force under questionable circumstances, I want to see them being held accountable, as does any citizen in the state,” he said.

Other supporters say is too difficult to prosecute police officers in Washington. Pastor Richmond Johnson said the current law ties the hands of prosecutors — even when prosecution is needed.

“There’s a negative effect when the culture says shoot first. I’m persuaded that ‘shooting first’ is a result of a weak mind. We’ve got to turn the culture around,” said Johnson, who is the director of Partnering for Youth Achievement in Bremerton and has served on a police and community task force.

Mitch Barker represents the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs, and spoke in opposition to the bill.

He said the goal should not be to prosecute more officers, but to find a way to reduce the number of police shootings.

The committee also heard House Bill 2908, which would create a joint legislative task force on community policing standards, as well as a House Bill 2882 requiring law enforcement to collect data on deadly force incidents. Many of those who testified in favor of the deadly force bill were also in favor of the other bills.

House passes bill modifying Equal Pay Act, 56-41

By | February 4, 2016 | 0 Comments

The House passed a bill off the floor Wednesday that makes it easier for coworkers to share information about their salaries and aims to prevent gender discrimination in the workplace.

House Bill 1646 modifies the state’s Equal Pay Act so that an employer cannot retaliate against workers for wage discussions in the workplace. It also prohibits employers from assigning people “less favorable” jobs because of their gender.

Watch TVW video here. 

Screen Shot 2016-02-03 at 2.11.16 PMRep. Tana Senn, D-Mercer Island, is the sponsor of the bill. She said paying people differently for the same job is “unfair, unbelievable and frankly un-American.”

“Today’s fight is about equal pay,” she said. “We are not asking business to rearrange their payroll. We simply are asking … for people to have the information they need to make the most basic of informed decisions.”

Under the bill, workers can seek actual damages or statutory damages of up to $5,000 and attorney fees if the Equal Pay Act is violated.

Rep. Luanne Van Werven, R-Lynden, urged a no vote on the bill. “I have concerns that this will do nothing to empower women, however, it will empower attorneys,” she said.

She said women have been protected under federal law since 1963. “It is against the law to not provide equal pay for equal work,” she said.

Members debated an amendment before passing the bill that would have eliminated the section that makes it a “violation for receiving less favorable employment opportunities,” among other things.

Republican Rep. Shelly Short of Addy introduced the amendment, saying it was important to have  “succinct direction to both our employers and employees.”

But Democrats said the amendment waters down the bill. Rep. Mike Sells, D-Everett, said the amendment would make the bill “almost ineffective in actually doing anything.”

The amendment failed. The final bill passed on a 56-41 vote, and now heads to the Senate for consideration.

Categories: TVW, WA House

On ‘Legislative Review:’ Suicide prevention, vaping rules & payroll cards

By | January 27, 2016 | 0 Comments

Legislative Review LogoOn Tuesday’s edition of “Legislative Review,” we cover a bill that aims to educate gun owners about how to prevent suicide in homes with firearms. The suicide awareness campaign targets places such as gun ranges, gun stores and hunting safety classes.

The show also has details about a bill that would require child-proof packaging on liquid nicotine and impose other rules related to vaping products. Plus, a proposal to eliminate fees attached to payroll cards.

Watch the show at this link.

Categories: TVW

Tribes push for bill they say would give them better dental access

By | January 26, 2016 | 0 Comments

Several tribal members asked lawmakers Monday to pass a bill that would allow dental health aides to treat patients on tribal land. The measure is opposed by some dentists who say the aides may not have sufficient education or training.

Watch TVW video of the hearing here.

Members from the Squaxin Island Tribe, Colville Tribe, Makah Tribe and Suak-Suiattle Indian Tribe testified in support of Senate Bill 5159 at a hearing Monday of the Senate Health Care Committee.

The bill was compared to a program in Alaska that trains and certifies dental health aides to practice limited dentistry under the supervision of a dentist within the tribe. Some aides can practice off-site, or away from the dentist.

The dental aides are “certified to practice without the direct supervision of a licensed dentist for procedures such as oral exams, preventative dental services, simple restorations, stainless steel crowns, and x-rays,” according to the bill.

The certification requires a high school diploma, graduation from a two-year educational program and a 400-hour clinical preceptorship under the supervision of a dentist.

The prime sponsor of the bill, Sen. John McCoy, D-Tulalip, criticized the “long continuous process” of the bill, saying this was the eleventh time he has brought the bill to the Legislature.

“We are in dire need of access to the tribe throughout Washington State,” he said. “We took a hard look at the Alaska model, and the Alaska model is working. I find it difficult to understand why there’s so much opposition for Washington State over the years.”

He emphasized that the dental aides would not be working on their own, but under the supervision of a dental team and dentists. He said that a tribe in Swinomish “had to invoke their tribal sovereignty and start a program.”

But not all tribes have that ability. “There are some tribes that lack resources so they wouldn’t be able to do it by themselves,” McCoy said.

Sen. Jan Angel, R-Port Orchard, said that the Alaska program makes sense because there is great distance between patients and dental care.

“The Washington reservations don’t have that distance that’s required and my concern comes back to a liability issue,” Angel said. “If a problem came up does the liability then come back to the tribe or to the dentists?”

McCoy responded saying it would be structured so aides are working in a medical facility of the tribe, which has medical director.

Screen Shot 2016-01-25 at 4.33.43 PMBrian Cladoosby, Chairman of the Swinomish Tribe said the reason that this bill is necessary is because of federal 2010 legislation.

“The Indian Health Care Improvement Act was passed, providing health care for tribal members across the nation and the American Dental Association snuck a sentence in that bill,” Cladoosby said. “That one sentence said if any tribes in lower 48 want to have a therapist program, they have to come and get the blessing from Olympia.”

Cladoosby talked about the importance of recognizing sovereign nations and the treaty of the Swinomish Tribe.

“I’m a sovereign nation and I would hope that each and everyone of you here would recognize my sovereignty and I hope each and everyone of you here would recognize that for me to have to come here year after year –this is my sixth year now — coming saying ‘please give us this program,’ it is not right,” he said. (more…)

Categories: TVW, WA Senate

Smoking age would rise to 21 in Washington under proposal by attorney general

By | January 21, 2016 | 0 Comments

Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson is pressing for legislation that would raise the legal age to purchase tobacco and vaping products from 18 to 21.

“Let’s be blunt,” Ferguson said at a press conference Wednesday. “Cigarettes are too easy to get if you are a teenager. This legislation will save lives.”

In both House Bill 2313 and Senate Bill 6157, anyone who sells tobacco products to a person under 21 would be guilty of a gross misdemeanor.

Washington Secretary of Health John Weisman said there is “no single policy that the Legislature could adopt this session that would do more to protect the health of our kids.”

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High schooler Sarah Stewart speaks at the press conference.

Sarah Stewart, a senior at Mercer Island High School, said at the press conference that she worries about the health of her younger classmates.

“On my 18th birthday I was messaged by lower classmen that asked me how much it would cost to go pick up a vape pen for them,” Stewart said. “People will always do it right? The difference is, if you raise the legal age to 21 you are decreasing youth access.”

She said that cigarettes are generally “not as cool” as vaping because people know the negative health impacts. “But cigarettes are easier and cheaper to get,” she said.

Rep. Tina Orwall, D–Des Moines, is sponsoring the House bill. She said both her parents died from tobacco-related diseases. Meanwhile, her teenage son sees tobacco use every day because “these hookah pens are all over the school,” she said.

Watch TVW video of the press conference here.

Immediately following the press conference, the House Health Care and Wellness Committee held a public hearing on the House bill. Although the majority of those who testified were in support of the legislation, several retail store representatives came out against the proposal. (more…)

Categories: Attorney General, TVW

Senate committee votes in favor of subpoena resolution related to DOC error

By | January 19, 2016 | 0 Comments

The Senate Law and Justice Committee will issue two subpoenas to the Department of Corrections and the Governor’s office for records related to the mistaken early release of 3,200 prisoners. This comes after the Rules Committee approved a resolution authorizing subpoena powers on a 13-7 vote on Tuesday evening. Lt. Gov. Brad Owen signed the subpoenas.

Watch TVW video of the Rules Committee here.

The error was a result of a coding miscalculation in the DOC electronic records system dating back to 2002. Gov. Jay Inslee has hired two retired federal prosecutors to conduct an independent investigation into why the problem wasn’t fixed sooner.

Sen. Mike Padden

Sen. Mike Padden

At a meeting of the Senate Law and Justice Committee earlier Tuesday, Republican chair Sen. Mike Padden urged members to support the resolution that was sent to the Rules Committee. He said the governor has an obligation to investigate, but “that doesn’t mean we have to defer to the governor.”

“We as legislators have an independent obligation separate from the governor,” he said. “We are a co-equal branch of the government.”

Padden said the committee’s investigation would differ from the governor’s because it would be a public process with people speaking under oath. He said the subpoenas would initially only seek documents related to the error, but it could later compel witnesses to testify.

Republican Vice Chair Sen. Steve O’Ban was critical of the governor’s investigators, saying they do not plan to record interviews with DOC employees.

“This is why we need public testimony to establish those facts so that those employees are on record and they can’t later change their view,” he said.

O’Ban said he asked the investigators if requesting documents and conducting a review would interfere with their investigation, and they said no.

Sen. Jamie Pedersen, D­–Seattle, voted against the committee resolution, saying that subpoena powers should be used sparingly and only when necessary.

“I believe that the governor’s office and the Department of Corrections have cooperated substantially with us and there’s no reason to believe that is about to stop,” Pedersen said.

Pedersen said he’s concerned that using subpoena power will impede the governor’s investigation.

“I’m worried that moving forward with this process earlier then when given the results of the investigation, that there’s the potential to cause the witnesses to believe they need to lawyer up and be less forthcoming,” he said.

Sen. David Frockt, D–Seattle, also voted against the resolution. He expressed confidence in the governor’s investigation and said it should completed during the legislative session.

“I think that once this investigation is complete, that will give us a window into what actually transpired,” Frockt said. “I think that our legislative oversight power can best be exercised subsequent to the investigation.”

Republican Sen. Pam Roach said in 27 sessions with the Legislature, “I have never seen this done before.” She said she believes it’s a process that’s important for Washingtonians to see.

“This is a part of our system that allows the state of Washington to actually provide checks and balances,” she said.

Sen. Kirk Pearson, R–Monroe, also supported the resolution, saying in the 16 years that he’s been in office there have been five DOC secretaries. It’s time to take a good look at the DOC, he said.

“Transparency makes for good government,” he said.

Watch TVW video of the Senate Law and Justice hearing here.

The subpoenas will be sent to the Governor’s office and DOC this week. Inslee spokeswoman Jaime Smith released a statement after the resolution passed saying their office will continue to provide documents.

“The fact is, Senate Republicans are planning to issue subpoenas for the exact same documents we’re already processing and providing to them from earlier requests,” she said. “There is no information to be gained through a subpoena that isn’t already available to them through normal public records procedures.”

Fantasy sports gambling bill heard in House committee

By | January 19, 2016 | 0 Comments

Fantasy sports games offered for money, such as a wager or bet, would be considered illegal gambling and prohibited under a bill considered Monday in the House Commerce and Gaming Committee.

House Bill 2370 makes it illegal for companies or individuals “to offer for play, operate, or advertise” a fantasy sports game in Washington. Violators could be charged with a class C felony.

Watch TVW video of the hearing here.

Prime sponsor Rep. Christopher Hurst, D–Enumclaw, said he doesn’t have a problem with fantasy sports, calling it a “great social activity.”

“It’s a fun activity for people to participate in at the workplace or in the community,” he said. “For people to engage in fantasy sports is an extension of sports and I don’t have a problem with that.”

Screen Shot 2016-01-19 at 10.21.04 AMHis concerns lie with online sites such as FanDuel and DraftKings, which he says are predatory and can further gambling addictions.

“What was once a fun and social game, even if there were some wagers being shared among people, has been prostituted into a horrifically bad industry,” Hurst said.

Washington voters have repeatedly rejected Internet gambling, Hurst said. The bill clarifies existing law and protects people from getting their money stolen, he said.

Mark Allen with the Washington State Association of Broadcasters testified with concerns about the bill, saying many television stations are network affiliates that can’t control their advertising content. He said he would like different language in the bill for the advertisers.

“We understand that it is not the intention [of the bill] to put stations on the ‘hook’ for nothing they have control over and we want to make sure that’s the case,” Allen said.

Hurst said language could be added to the bill to clarify that responsibility lies with the entity generating the advertisement, not the one transmitting it.

Former Attorney General Rob McKenna, who now represents the Fantasy Sports Trade Association, also testified against the bill. He says fantasy sports have become “our new national past time,” with more 50 million Americans participating each year.

“While online fantasy contests are not available in Washington, most of us know friends, family and coworkers who have joined an offline fantasy league,” McKenna said. “People enjoy fantasy sports because it’s a form of entertainment that gives them a deeper appreciation for the sports that they love.”

“Unfortunately, HB 2370 would criminalize fantasy sports contests in all the many forms — daily, weekly, seasonally — all of it,” he said.

McKenna said the bill is unnecessary because Washington already has strict online gaming laws that block people from Washington from playing on sites like FanDuel and DraftKings.

The committee took no action on the bill Monday.

Categories: TVW