Note: The following e-newsletter was sent to Sen. Chris Gildon’s subscribers March 3, 2023. To subscribe to Sen. Gildon’s e-newsletters, click here.
Measure restoring police pursuits leads list of Olympia’s ‘good, interesting and controversial’ bills
Dear friends and neighbors,
We just completed the first half of the 2023 legislative session and have passed one of the major deadlines of the year. So, I’ll fill you in on just a few of the Good, Interesting, and Controversial bills from this session in a moment. But first, we need to acknowledge a horrific incident in Eastern Washington that shows why all this matters.
On Tuesday night, the State Patrol clocked a man doing 110 mph on Interstate 90 near Ellensburg. Due to restrictions on police pursuits passed by the Legislature two years ago, they were prevented from giving chase. So, the driver got away. About an hour later, police say he entered I-82 in Sunnyside, going the wrong direction, and plowed head-on into another vehicle, killing two young children.
This session we are debating a bill that would restore the ability of police to pursue fleeing suspects. You’ve heard me speak on this topic quite often because it is so important. The Senate bill to restore pursuit is no longer viable due to a combination of political opposition and an internal legislative deadline. However, a House bill remains alive for further consideration.
Cutoffs drive session
The cutoff for most bills to be passed by committees was February 24. We are now debating them on the floor of the Senate. Of the 943 bills introduced in the Senate this year, 206 remain. The House uses the same deadlines, and 280 out of 1,004 bills advanced. These cutoffs don’t apply to bills affecting the budget. So, a handful remain as outliers and we usually consider them closer to the end of session.
Here are some highlights of bills that made it past this first cutoff. It is what I call the ‘good, interesting, and controversial.’
Police pursuit – House Bill 1363, restoring the ability of police to pursue fleeing suspects based on “reasonable suspicion,” was passed in committee and awaits a vote on the House floor. This bill is far from perfect, but the issue remains in play.
Drug Criminalization AKA the “Blake fix” – Senate Bill 5536 may not be the best solution to hard-drug possession, but it is a step in the right direction. Two years ago, the state Supreme Court threw out felony penalties for hard drug possession. Rather than restore them, the Legislature made possession of hard drugs a barely enforceable misdemeanor.
This proposed compromise bill makes possession a gross misdemeanor and improves chances addicts will get the treatment they need. It’s not as strong as our old law, but it is an improvement on what we have. We must remember, if we pass nothing this year, all penalties for hard drugs expire and we completely lose leverage to encourage people to get treatment to overcome the addiction.
Affordable housing near transit centers – I am a cosponsor of Senate Bill 5466, which aims to increase affordable housing near transit stations by allowing greater density. This bill passed the Senate Wednesday, and is one of many solutions we need to consider as we address housing shortages in urban areas. But it is just a start, and I fully recognize this isn’t just an urban problem. We must do more outside urban areas as well.
Connecting former prison inmates to substance abuse treatment – I am the sponsor of SB 5502, which unanimously passed the Senate Thursday. This bill requires people being released from prison to undergo a substance use disorder assessment and be connected to services, as deemed necessary, prior to being released. This will help them successfully reenter society rather than return to a life of crime.
State dinosaur – House Bill 1020 designates the suciasaurus rex as the official dinosaur of the state of Washington. This bill passed the state House 88-5 and awaits action in the Senate.
State nickname – Senate Bill 5595 formally declares Washington’s nickname to be The Evergreen State- about 130 years late. Newspaper accounts indicate the nickname was formally adopted by the Legislature in 1893, but no copy of the resolution can be found in official records. The bill passed the Senate 49-0 and awaits action in the House.
Wind blade recycling – Senate Bill 5287 holds green energy to green standards, launching a study of wind-turbine blade recycling options. The blades are extremely large and typically have a 20-year service life. I am very hopeful the study will find useful ways to recycle these blades. It passed Senate 48-0.
Gender affirming care- Senate Bill 5599 allows youth to enter a certified shelter without parental notification to seek gender affirming care. It passed the Senate on a party-line vote and I did not support it. It will now be considered in the House. This is one of the bills that hasn’t received many headlines, but should. I certainly want you to be aware of it before it becomes law so you can let House members know your thoughts. You can click the link to comment or sign up to testify on the bill if it gets scheduled for a hearing in the House committee.
Suits against firearms manufacturers – Senate Bill 5078 is an attempt to hold the firearms industry responsible for the actions of third parties — that is, for crimes committed by guns. This back-door effort to drive legal firearms from the marketplace would allow suits by the attorney general against gun manufacturers, dealers and distributors. This bill is a top priority for the anti-gun lobby, and it passed the Senate on a party-line vote. I was among those opposed to the bill. If it passes the Legislature, it is certain to face a challenge in federal court, and most likely will fail.
Abolishing advisory votes – Senate Bill 5082 abolishes the tax advisory votes that have appeared on the Washington ballot since 2012. This bill reduces the public’s ability to protest tax increases passed by the Legislature without a vote of the people. It passed the Senate 30-18 on Feb. 8 and awaits action in the House. A companion measure, House Bill 1158, has also passed the House.
Lawsuits against police officers – House Bill 1025 would allow police officers to be sued personally while doing their jobs protecting our communities. It is awaiting a vote in the House.
Thanks to all who attended our town hall meeting!
I joined my fellow 25th District lawmakers, Reps. Cyndy Jacobsen and Kelly Chambers, for a town hall meeting Feb. 18 at the Oldfield Western Heritage Center at the Washington State Fairgrounds in Puyallup. We spent two informative hours listening to your concerns about everything from crime to homelessness and taxes. Earlier this session we circulated a survey in our district and had 568 responses — you can see the results below.
Thanks for reading — it is an honor serving you!
Sen. Chris Gildon, 25th Legislative District
Deputy Leader, Senate Republican Caucus
PHONE: (360) 786-7648
MAILING ADDRESS: P.O. Box 40425/ Olympia, WA 98504
LEAVE A MESSAGE ON THE LEGISLATIVE HOTLINE: 1-800-562-6000
NOTE: Written communications are subject to disclosure under the Washington Public Records Act.