OLYMPIA – With strokes of a pen, Gov. Jay Inslee approved statewide suicide prevention training for medical professionals, raised some motor vehicle fees to pay for a new ferry, banned most teens from tanning salons, toughened penalties for drunken drivers and required public records training for most elected officials.
Between the official signings of some four dozen bills in a marathon session Thursday morning, Inslee criticized the Legislature for exempting itself from rules it imposed on other officials. And when signing a new law with stronger economic protections for veterans and military personnel, the governor broke down in describing rescue efforts and the losses in the Oso mudslide, where he’d talked with families of victims the night before.
Among them were family members of Navy Cmdr. John Regelbrugge, whose body was found on his mud-covered property in Oso. Regelbrugge headed the Everett detachment of the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard.
Inslee agreed with a recent assessment that the Snohomish County mudslide could top the Mount St. Helens eruption and produce the largest loss of life from a natural disaster in state history, but added: “We’re looking for miracles.”
Inslee has made several trips to areas near the mudslide since it happened last weekend, causing one of the more routine aspects of his office – the signing of bills the Legislature passed – to stack up. Most bills signed Thursday were relatively noncontroversial, with bipartisan support, and none was vetoed.
Some drew large crowds, such as HB 2315, requiring some professions to complete a course to help spot the potential for suicide in patients and study ways to prevent it. The bill calls for the state Health Department secretary to develop over the next 18 months a plan with other state agencies, including veterans affairs, to prevent suicides.
Spokane psychologist Paul Quinnett, who lobbied for the bill, said suicide is one of the most preventable causes of death if it’s recognized early, but many physicians, nurses, social workers and counselors have no training in what works to prevent it. Calls by the U.S. surgeon general in 2001 to upgrade training “basically went ignored,” he said.
“People didn’t want to talk about suicide like they didn’t want to talk about HIV/AIDS a few years ago,” he said.
Inslee handed the pen he used to sign the bill to 5-year-old Zoe Adler, whose father, Matt Adler, took his own life three years ago. Her mother, Jennifer Stuber, director of Forefront innovations in suicide prevention, worked to pass the law and brought Zoe and her brother, Jake, 9, to the signing.
Another well-attended signing was for HB 1129, which will raise fees that some vehicle owners pay to renew registration tabs or transfer a vehicle title; the money will help buy the state’s next large ferry. Starting in January, vehicle owners will pay an extra $5 for renewals and $12 for transfers obtained online or at county auditor’s offices, with the money going to the state’s ferry replacement fund. Renewals and transfers handled through private licensing subagents already are charged those amounts as convenience fees; they won’t be raised and will continue to go to the subagent.
Inslee defended a system in which people across the state will pay for the new Puget Sound ferry, but only if they don’t use a subagent. “No one provision is the perfect one,” he said. “The ferry system is in deep trouble.”
Instead he again criticized the Legislature for failing to pass a transportation package that among other things would have included money for ferries. Legislators have countered that Inslee didn’t do enough to broker a compromise.
Other bills signed Thursday:
Teen tanning ban: Starting this summer, minors under 18 will not be allowed in tanning salons or other commercial ultraviolet booths unless they have a doctor’s prescription. Tanning businesses will have to ask for proof of age on a photo ID, and violating the law could bring a $250 fine. Inslee described melanoma from UV exposure as a serious health problem for adults as well as teens, and restricting use of tanning booths is one of the things the state needs to do to reduce that risk.
Tougher on drunken driving: People arrested for drunken driving will face a more serious charge if they have a prior conviction for operating a boat, airplane, commercial vehicle or snowmobile under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Once arrested, they’ll stay in custody until released by a judge and can be ordered to submit to round-the-clock monitoring and install an ignition interlock. A felony sentence for driving drunk or under the influence of drugs must be served consecutively with any sentence for circumventing an ignition device.
Training for public officials: Starting this summer, local and statewide elected officials, and members of a public agency’s governing body, will have to take a training course in the state’s Open Public Meetings Act and the Public Records Act to help ensure those laws are followed. Inslee said the training is needed but said the bill was amended from Attorney General Bob Ferguson’s proposal to cover only statewide and local elected officials.
“For some reason I fail to understand … the bill does not require members of the Legislature themselves to receive this training,” Inslee said. The Legislature was being “disingenuous,” he said, and should correct what he called a serious error next session.