Archive for WA Senate

Legislature passes bill expanding DUI laws

By | March 11, 2016 | 0 Comments

The Legislature has given final approval to a bill that modifies several DUI laws, including one that shortens the time that someone arrested for drunk driving can continue to use their driver’s license from 60 days to 30 days.

House Bill 2700 passed out of the House on Thursday on a 80-17 vote. The bill previously passed out of the Senate unanimously and it now goes to the governor for signature.

Watch TVWvideo of the House session here.

Screen Shot 2016-03-10 at 3.50.22 PMPrime Sponsor of the bill Rep. Roger Goodman, D-Kirkland, said the bill also prevents DUI offenders from “gaming” the system when it comes to ignition interlock devices.

Currently, offenders with an ignition interlock device are monitored during the last four months of their restriction period before having the device removed. The bill would require that offenders are monitored during the entire restriction period, which can be from six months to ten years.

“Some of the DUI offenders have been gaming the system and putting the device in at the very end when they are being watched,” Goodman said. “But now they are going to be watched the whole period.”

No one testified in opposition to the bill.

Lawmakers discuss final day of session, possibility of special session

By | March 10, 2016 | 0 Comments

Democratic and Republican legislative leaders told TVW’s Anita Kissee on Thursday they believe they might reach a supplemental budget deal by the end of the night, but it will likely take a special session to complete their work. The regular 60-day session ends at midnight Thursday.

Lawmakers spoke as part of a special Sine Die edition of “The Impact” at the Capitol. Watch interviews from the Sine Die show here.

“I’m disappointed we aren’t going to have something on the governor’s desk today,” said Rep. Bruce Chandler, R-Granger. “There’s plenty of budget all over Olympia. But an agreed upon one, no.”

Budget writer Rep. Hans Dunshee, D-Snohomish, said there might be a “handshake” deal tonight, followed by a period of time to check the document.

“This is a real document that does things,” Dunshee said. “You don’t just want to send a hundred million dollar check to uncle Bernie.”

Gov. Jay Inslee has threatened to veto bills if lawmakers did not have a budget deal by Thursday. The governor has also said he will immediately call lawmakers back into special session on Friday to complete a supplemental budget.

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Lawmakers on the set of the Sine Die show at the Capitol

Sen. Mark Shoesler, R-Ritzville said he was disappointed that negotiations are not where they should be. He emphasized the need for a four-year balanced budget.

“It should be important to every taxpayer in the state of Washington,” he said.” It brings stability to budgeting, predictability and honesty.”

Sen. Linda Evans Parlette, R-Wenatchee, said the a four-year balanced budget is nonnegotiable and one of the main differences between the House and the Senate proposals.

“We need to resolve that. We can no longer kick the can down the road, like both parties use to do,” she said.

Democratic leadership from the House say their budget does comply with the four-year balanced budget requirements.

“We are within the law,” Rep. Pat Sullivan, D-Covington said. “We moved more than halfway to the middle and I think that in good faith we are working toward that goal.”

Rep. Gael Tarleton, D-Seattle, says that the House has been focused on other issues besides the budget. She said the Democratic budget team has been working as fast as possible, but “getting it done right takes precedence over getting it done right on time.”

Rep. Dan Kristiansen, R-Snohomish, and Rep. Joel Kretz, R-Wauconda, spoke on behalf of the House Republicans. Kretz said wildfires must be addressed in the supplemental budget, but it shouldn’t be remedied through the rainy day fund.

“There’s a temptation here to say ‘fire’ and go crazy on the budget stabilization account,” he said. “I think we need to be honest with what parts of the fire are truly emergency situations.”

Kristiansen said lawmakers remain at at a “stalemate” over the supplemental budget, in part because of a disagreement over whether or not to eliminate certain tax breaks.

Senate Democratic minority leaders Sen. Sharon Nelson, D- Maury Island, and Sen. Andy Billig, D-Spokane, say they are optimistic a deal will be struck by tonight.

“The governor has been exerting his leadership, keeping everybody talking and I’m hoping that by the end of the day we will at least have a budget agreement,” Nelson said.

Billig said this time last year there wasn’t any conversation going on about the budget.

“This year it’s a different atmosphere where everybody seems to be driving toward getting it done and the negotiations are on going,” he said.

UPDATED: Legislature approves bill keeping charter schools open in Washington

By | March 10, 2016 | 0 Comments

UPDATE: The Legislature has approved a bill that would keep charter schools open in Washington after the Washington Supreme Court declared the schools unconstitutional.

Senate Bill 6194 passed out of the House on a 58 to 39 vote on Wednesday following more than two hours of debate. It passed out of the Senate on Thursday on a 26-23 vote.

Watch TVW of the House floor debate here and the Senate floor debate here. 

The state Supreme Court ruled last year that charter schools do not qualify for public money from the state’s general fund because they are not “common schools” governed by an elected school board.

The bill attempts to addresses the court’s concerns by redefining charter schools as public schools that are operated separately from the common schools system. Charter schools would be funded through the lottery-funded Washington Opportunity Pathways Account instead of the state’s general fund, and would not be able to use local levy dollars.

Rep. Maureen Walsh, R- Walla Walla, voted in favor of the bill. She said there needs to be an option for students who are looking for alternative education routes.

“What are we afraid of? That potentially a thousand kids out of a million kids are going to actually hit gradation? Are actually going to be intrigued with their education and want to go to school?” she said.

She continued, “It might not look like our regular public school or private schools, but it’s school and we are keeping those kids in school and I think that really our paramount duty.”

Rep. Sharon Santos, D-Seattle, voted no on the bill, saying the state has plenty of innovative public schools that offer students a variety of programs.

“I think it’s fair to say in our existing system of public schools we already have a great deal of choice and flexibility,” she said. 

She also raised concerns about using any public funds for charter schools, saying there needs to be “public oversight for the public dollar.”

educationAbout 1,100 students currently attend eight charter schools throughout the state. The charter schools are authorized by the Washington State Charter School Commission.

Lawmakers in the House debated more than 20 amendments before final passage of the bill, including an amendment that requires members of the commission and charter school boards to file personal financial statements with the Public Disclosure Commission.

Rep. Lillian Ortiz-Self, D- Mukilteo, sponsored the amendment, saying it’s about transparency for the public and parents.

“It’s for consistency, for accountably and most of all it’s for transparency,” she said. “Not just for us because we help supervise those public dollars but more importantly, transparency for parents and community and our students.”

Rep. Chad Magendanz, R-Issaquah, voted against the amendment. He said it would be inappropriate for charter school board members to file financial statements like an elected official.

“Members of these boards are not elected, they have unique circumstances,” he said.

The amendment passed on a 91-6 vote.

Members also adopted an amendment requiring charter school boards to conduct independent performance audits after the first school year of full operation. Another amendment requires charter school boards to post warnings online of any ongoing litigation challenging the constitutionality of charter schools.

Categories: Education, TVW, WA House, WA Senate

Supplemental transportation budget approved by Legislature

By | March 9, 2016 | 0 Comments

The Legislature has approved a supplemental transportation budget that gives Washington State Patrol troopers a pay raise and aims to fix congestion on the Interstate 405 corridor.

House Bill 2524 passed out of the House on Wednesday on a vote of 86-10. It was approved Tuesday by the Senate, 44-5.

The supplemental budget makes about $507 million in changes to the state’s two-year transportation budget, including additional money for ferries, the Tacoma Narrows Bridge and better safety at the “jungle” homeless encampments in Seattle. It also has $45 million from toll funds to improve traffic on the Interstate 405 corridor.

“I’d like to remind everybody that we do two year budgets around here and it’s not a major change from what we did last year, but there are few new things,” Rep. Judy Clibborn, D- Mercer Island said in support. ”We have done good work working together with the Senate.”

405 tollThe budget also includes $5 million dollars for Washington State Patrol salary increases. Rep. Ed Orcutt, R-Kalama, emphasized the need for higher salaries.

“We do need to bump their pay up a little bit. We are losing too many of them and I’m afraid we are going to lose too many more between now and the time we write the next biennial budget,” he said.

Immediately following the passage of the supplemental transportation budget, the House passed a related bill that aims to improve recruitment and retention of Washington State Patrol troopers.

House Bill 2872 directs state agencies to implement the recommendations of the Washington State Patrol Trooper Recruitment and Retention Study released in January, which includes paying competitive salaries. The bill passed out of the House, 92-4, and out of the Senate, 47-1.

Rep. Jake Fey, D-Tacoma, said the salary increases will be staged, rather than dispersed at one time. It includes a five percent increase for troopers, sergeants, lieutenants and captains.

“We are losing a lot of great state patrol officers through retirement,” he said. “Lots of the troopers are leaving for greener salaries and other law enforcement agencies.”

Rep. Dave Hayes, R-Camano Island, said that he was a reluctant yes vote.

“I’m not reluctant because of the pay that it dedicates to our troopers. I’m reluctant because it’s not enough to stop the bleeding,” he said. “I don’t believe that its going to be enough commitment.”

The bill specifies that WSP trooper salaries must be the “average compensation paid to the corresponding rank” of law enforcement officers at six other agencies around the state — including the Seattle Police Department, King County Sheriff’s Office and the Spokane Police Department. To determine that average compensation, the bill directs the Office of Financial Management to conduct a survey of each of the six agencies.

Both bills now go the governor for his signature.

Police body camera bill approved by Legislature

By | March 9, 2016 | 0 Comments

The House on Tuesday passed a police body camera bill that aims to limit some requests for video footage for privacy reasons while also setting up the process to make some footage available to the public.

Watch TVW video of House floor debate here.

House Bill 2362 passed out of the House on a vote of 57-39. The bill sets parameters under the Public Records Act for people who request body camera video and sound recordings.

The Senate passed the bill on a 37-9 vote last week after making changes to the original bill, including adding language that prohibits the release of footage that shows a patient at a medical center. The Senate also required law enforcement agencies to keep footage for 60 days, after which they can destroy the video.

Rep. Terry Nealey, R- Dayton, admitted the bill is controversial, but urged members to support it.

0814_police_body_cameras_970-630x420“There are a lot of diverse groups on both sides that are opposed or in favor of it,” he said. “I don’t think we will ever have complete agreement from all agencies and there’s a lot of them that have weighed in this matter.”

He said there needs to be guidelines around body cameras, and the bill is a start.

“If we pass this law, than at least we are placing some parameters and some protection of privacy on body cameras,” he said. “That’s very important.”

Rep. Matt Shea, R-Spokane Valley, voted no on the bill, saying there is not enough privacy protections for people in the bill.

“When in doubt, we have to draw a line that protects constitutional rights. We have to draw a line that protects privacy,” he said. “We have to draw a line that prevents warrantless searches and seizures. We have to draw a line that says we understand this technology is out there, but it can’t be used everywhere all the time for any reason.”

The bill also creates a task force to review and report on the use of body cameras by law enforcement and corrections agencies. It now goes the governor for his signature.

Republican leaders offer update on session

By | March 9, 2016 | 0 Comments

With only a few days left of session, Republicans from the House and Senate held a press conference Tuesday addressing the ongoing supplemental budget negotiations, charter schools and the DOC investigation.

Watch TVW video of the press conference here. 

Supplemental Budget

According to Sen. Mark Schoesler, R-Ritzville, one of the main hangups in budget negotiations has to do with whether the supplemental budget includes projected expenditures for K-3 class size reductions.

“One very enormous factor is pretending that we are not going to fund K-3 class size in the next biennium,” Schoesler said.

DSC_0789Republicans also want the Democratic-controlled House to pass a bill that would keep charter schools open in Washington.

“I think that one of the things that’s a little bit different is we’ve yet to take any action on charter schools,” said Rep. JT Wilcox, R-Yelm. “We hope to have that taken care of in the next couple days.”

Rep. Chad Magendanz, R-Issaquah, said that House is close to moving a compromise bill, but probably wont see any action until Wednesday.

Gov. Jay Inslee veto threat

Schoesler said that he thinks there are bipartisan problems with the governor’s threat to veto bills if lawmakers don’t agree to a supplemental budget. He said that there are 37 bills on the governor’s table and that that would be “a very poor decision.”

“We are still committed to doing the right thing and the right thing is a four-year balanced budget that takes care of the priority needs of the state,” he said.

Sen. Mike Padden, R-Spokane Valley, said there are a number of bills from both Republicans and Democrats that would be difficult for the governor to veto.  “I don’t know how serious he was in actually vetoing or if it was more of a rhetorical statement,” he said.

DOC investigation

Sen. Padden said that he does not anticipate anymore DOC hearings this session, but said the investigation is still ongoing. “We are still getting comments and leads and communications from DOC workers,” he said.

Padden said that there will be a written Senate report released in April or early May. Padden also responded to the governor’s decision to replace Former DOC Secretary Dan Pacholke with Dick Morgan as acting secretary.

“We’ll see how he does,” Padden said. “I would have preferred he brought somebody new in from outside that wasn’t part of this system and this culture that’s been there.”

Lt. Gov. Brad Owen announces he will not seek re-election

By | March 8, 2016 | 0 Comments
Lt. Gov. Brad Owen

Lt. Gov. Brad Owen

Lt. Gov. Brad Owen announced in an emotional speech before the Senate on Tuesday that he will leave his position of nearly 20 years at the end of his term in January.

“I will leave it for the next lieutenant governor to build upon, to make it even better,” he said. “Of course I sincerely hope that the voters choose a person that cares as much about the dignity of this place, about this institution as I do.”

Watch TVW video of Owen’s speech at the Senate floor session here.

Owen, a Democrat, was first elected to lieutenant governor in 1997. Prior to that, he served six years in the state House and 14 years in the state Senate.

“When my term ends, I will have walked the halls of this magnificent building for 40 years,” he said.

As lieutenant governor, Owen presides over the state Senate and acts as an international ambassador promoting trade for Washington state. The lieutenant governor becomes acting governor when the governor leaves the state and serves as chair of the Senate Rules Committee, voting on which legislation heads to the Senate floor.

“My career has put me before kings and queens and princes, presidents and ambassadors, actors musicians and the giants of the industry,” Owen said. But he said his greatest and most important accomplishment while in office was the “glorious satisfaction of helping a fellow citizen of this amazing state.”

He urged lawmakers to put aside “partisan peer pressure” and to work for the people of Washington.

“But my friends, you rarely get a do-over in this business. Each decision, each vote, each cave-in stays with you forever, but then so does each courageous act of statesmanship,” he said. “And I can tell you the courageous act of statesmanship feels a hell of a lot better than the sinking feeling of caving in to partisan peer pressure.”

Both Republicans and Democrats spoke in praise of Owen’s decades of public service. (more…)

Categories: TVW, WA Senate

Gov. Jay Inslee discusses budget negotiations, DOC investigation

By | March 8, 2016 | 0 Comments

Gov. Jay Inslee said at a press conference Monday he will veto bills if lawmakers do not come to an agreement on a supplemental budget by Thursday, the final day of session.

“We have four days left in this session and there is no reason for them not to get this budget done on time,” Inslee said.

Inslee said he met with Democratic and Republican leaders and budget negotiators Monday morning, and told them he will not “entertain any delays.”

“There are currently about 35 bills on my desk awaiting my signature and hundreds more are coming down the pipe,” Inslee said. “This morning I let leadership know that they should not expect me to sign bills until they reach a budget agreement.”

Watch TVW video of the press conference here. 

DSC_0788Inlsee also gave an update on the Department of Corrections sentencing error that resulted in the early release of more than 3,000 prisoners.

The governor named Dick Morgan to serve as acting secretary of the agency. Morgan retired in 2010 as director of prisons after a 30-year career with the DOC.

Inslee said new leadership is part of the DOC effort to “rebuild trust and implement systemic reforms.”

“This is a interim position,” Inslee said. “But we don’t want to wait months to start the improvements that are going on now.”

Morgan will be replacing Dan Pacholke, whose expected last day is Thursday.

The governor said he’s also taken other personnel action in the wake of the sentencing error.

Two people at DOC have been demoted — a risk manager and a former business manager — and letters of reprimand have been issued to an IT business analyst and a senior records manager.

Additionally, the DOC’s former chief information officer has resigned from his position at another state agency.

The disciplinary actions follow an independent investigation into the DOC error released by the governor’s office in February. Inslee said a supplemental report will be released later this week with employee responses to the initial investigation.

Drunk driving victims, lawmakers urge passage of stronger DUI laws

By | March 7, 2016 | 0 Comments

A bipartisan group of lawmakers held a press conference Monday to call on the Legislature to pass harsher drunk driving laws before session ends on Thursday.

Lawmakers want action on Senate Bill 5105 and House Bill 2700, which would both expand existing DUI laws. The Senate bill would allow for a felony prosecution on a person’s fourth DUI conviction. The House bill would speed up the process for drunk drivers to have their driver licenses suspended.

“Washington currently has one of the weakest felony DUI laws in the country,” said Sen. Mike Padden, R-Spokane Valley, who is sponsoring the Senate bill. He said that of the 46 states that have felony DUI laws, Washington is the only state that requires five DUI convictions within 10 years before it’s a felony.

Watch TVW video of the press conference here. 

Both bills are tied to the House and Senate supplemental budgets, which are currently being negotiated.

DSC_0785“We are going to continue to work with the budget negotiators in both the transportation and operating budget to get both the House and Senate to emphasis the absolute importance of these pieces of legislation,” Padden said.

Lawmakers were joined by families of DUI victims including Joan Davis, a board member of Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD). Her daughter was killed by a drunk driver in 2008.

“Our offender, our killer has been a repeat offender after the DUI homicide conviction,” Davis said. “He’s been back in jail one time. We’ve got to get these people off the roads and we’ve got to keep them off the road.”

The Senate bill would cost the state about $10 million every two years when fully implemented, but Davis said the cost is greater than that. “Personally, I don’t care what it costs, it doesn’t matter,” she said. “You can never replace the lives that have been lost.”

Rep. Roger Goodman, D-Kirkland, is sponsoring the House bill. He said that offenders are finding ways to work the system.

“The tragedies continue despite all our good work…and we really want these pieces of legislation to pass this session to send a strong message and to achieve the objectives of reducing deaths on our road ways,” Goodman said.

Dan Schulte and his wife, Karina, were also at the press conference. He said that in 2013 him and his wife, Karina, welcomed their new son, Elias. (more…)

Categories: Budget, TVW, WA House, WA Senate

Lawmakers grieve for lobbyist who lost three children in house fire

By | March 4, 2016 | 0 Comments

The Legislature began on a somber note Friday, grieving for the family of a well-known Olympia lobbyist whose three children died in an early morning fire.

Lawmakers identified the father of the children as Brad Tower, who has been a lobbyist in Olympia since 2000 representing business interests. His father, Earl Tower, was also a lobbyist. Many Senators gave emotional speeches on the Senate floor and offered their condolences to the entire family.

Watch TVW video of the Senate floor speeches here.

“There is a cloud over the Legislature today. Our hearts are with Brad,” said Sen. Sharon Nelson, D- Maury Island. “We cannot bring back his children, but we can send him our love and our caring.”

Authorities say a house fire killed three children in Centralia early Friday as they slept upstairs. The fire woke up the mother sleeping downstairs, but she was unable to rescue the children. The mother was unharmed.

Sen. Jan Angel, R- Port Orchard, urged her colleagues to reach out to Tower in the days ahead.

“We can talk about it today, but we’ve got to talk about it tomorrow and the next day and the next day. And it’s okay to talk about these things with him openly and lovingly,” she said.

Both chambers opened with a moment of silence for Tower’s family, and the lobbyist was mentioned in opening prayers.

Lt. Gov. Brad Owen, who presides over the Senate, said Tower was a member of the Legislature’s family. He urged lawmakers to “visit or make a call — not an email, not a Facebook post — to your kids and your grandkids.”

“Then when you have the opportunity, that you give them a big hug,” Owen said.

Categories: WA Senate
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