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Committee moves bill to cut high court down to 7

OLYMPIA – A plan to reduce the size of the state Supreme Court by two justices was praised as a money saver and criticized as payback for decisions some legislators don’t like.

The proposal, sponsored by Sen. Mike Baumgartner, R-Spokane, would cut the nine-member court to seven. It moved out of the Senate Law and Justice Committee Monday on a voice vote, giving it a chance for a vote by the full Senate in the coming weeks… 
  

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WA Lege Day 15: Panel OKs tougher DUI laws

OLYMPIA – A pair of proposals for tougher drunk driving laws were sent to the budget writers Monday to figure out how the state might pay for more people serving time.

One proposal would make the fourth conviction for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, compared to current law which makes the fifth conviction a felon; A second would allow courts to consider convictions from the past 15 years rather than seven years, the current limit. Both passed the Senate Law and Justice Committee on 5-2 votes.

Sen. Adam Kline, D-Seattle, said he supported the policy but wondered where the money would come from to pay for the additional jail and prison term. That could be nearly $3 million in 2015-17, Kline said, and without a new source of money the Senate Ways and Means Committee would be “robbing from other programs” for things like schools, social services and environmental programs.

“That is the duty of the Ways and Means Committee,” said Sen. Mike Padden, R-Spokane Valley, sponsor of the bill that reduces the number of convictions. “What we’re doing with these bills is saving lives.”

Tougher sentencing on DUI hinges on funding

OLYMPIA – Drunk drivers could face prison on their fourth conviction – one less than Washington law currently allows – if the Legislature can find a way to pay for the extra costs for that time in state prisons and county jails. One possible source of money: some of the taxes the state currently collects on alcohol, and some of what it expects to collect for legal marijuana.

With victims recounting stories of devastated families and law enforcement officials asking for tougher laws, a Senate panel was solidly behind a bill that drivers should face a felony charge for they are arrested a fourth time in 10 years for driving drunk or under the influence of marijuana or other drugs.

“Lives will be saved and hearts won’t be broken forever,” Linda Thompson of the Greater Spokane Substance Abuse Council told the Senate Law and Justice Committee Monday.

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Drunk driving crackdown moves forward as booze bills are signed

OLYMPIA – As a Senate committee approved tougher laws against impaired drivers Tuesday, some senators wondered aloud if the Legislature isn’t at least partially responsible for putting more drunks on the road by expanding the places where alcohol is consumed.

Less than an hour after the Senate Law and Justice Committee gave unanimous approval to a proposal that would require more and quicker jail time for drivers convicted of alcohol or drug impairment, Gov. Jay Inslee signed four bills the Legislature recently passed that add new places from which a person might be driving after legally consuming alcohol. . .

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Spec Sess Day 2: Tougher DUI bill passes committee

OLYMPIA — A law that toughens the state's drunk driving laws, in part by increasing mandatory jail time, received unanimous approval this morning from the Senate Law and Justice Committee.

Despite concerns by some senators that it didn't go far enough, or provide money to cities and counties for the higher costs of extra prosecutions for driving under the influence, all committee members gave it at least tentative support.

Just who was responsible for some of the drunks on the road was part of the debate. The Legislature must accept some responsibility, Sen. Jeanne Darnielle, D-Tacoma, said because it continues to increase the number of places where a person can consume alcohol — at movie theaters, public markets and spas —  and then drive home.

The voters should accept some of the blame, said Sen. Pam Roach, R-Auburn. They opened up sales of distilled spirits in supermarkets through a 2011 initiative, and legalized marijuana consumption by adults in 2012. Stores like Costco now have mountains of liquor on display in their aisles, she said.

Sen. Adam Kline, D-Seattle, tried unsuccessfully to attach amendments that would pay for increased prosecutions and incarcerations by extending the temporary tax on beer that was imposed in 2010 and is due to expire on June 30.  Committee Chairman Mike Padden, R-Spokane Valley, said taxes to pay for the bill is something the Ways and Means Committee will address.

The bill makes a fourth conviction for driving under the influence a felony, down from five convictions under the current law. It sets up mandatory jail time or treatment programs for earlier offenses, would allow judges to order a drunk driver to abstain from alcohol and submit to mandatory daily testing.

Gov. Jay Inslee said Monday that tougher drunk driving laws were one of the three top priorities for the special session, along with passing an operating budget for 2013-15 and a package of new transportation projects that will require some new revenue.

Stand-your-ground statute? Not in WA or ID

OLYMPIA – In Washington and Idaho, there is no statute that gives a person the right to “stand your ground” and use deadly force in public when faced with a perceived threat.

Both states have fairly standard laws covering justifiable homicide or self-defense, particularly when a person is in his or her own home.

But neither state has passed a law like the one at the heart of a controversial shooting of an African American teenager by a Hispanic community-watch volunteer, although some news websites and two television networks claimed both do.. .

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WA Lege Day 8: Cracking down on the sex biz that uses minors

OLYMPIA – A bipartisan group of legislators is pushing a dozen bills to combat human trafficking, particularly among teenage runaways they say are lured into prostitution.
Among the targets of the legislation are ads for “escort services” that appear in the back of some newspapers and on the Internet, and foot massagers.




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WA Lege Day 37: Dogs on chains

OLYMPIA – Keeping a dog chained up in unsafe conditions could get the owner fined under a proposed state law being considered by the state Senate.

Good senators, said supporters who told the Senate Judiciary that chained or tethered dogs are more likely to turn mean and sometimes deliberately mistreated so they’ll be angry watchdogs at drug or gang houses.

Bad senators, said opponents who argued existing law already protects dogs from unsafe conditions whether they are chained or running free. Most dog bites, and all recent deaths caused by dog attacks, occurred with dogs that weren’t chained, they said.

The Senate Judiciary Committee isn’t quite ready to roll over on the issue…

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Republicans blame Democrats for ramping up spending, Seattle senator blames Tim Eyman for starving government…

Republicans blame Gov. Chris Gregoire and Democratic lawmakers for the state’s budget mess. Gregoire and Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown blame the Bush Administration.

Add another to the mix: state Sen. Adam Kline blames initiative pitchman Tim Eyman. From Kline’s Senate blog:

My last post spoke of the magnitude of our budget shortfall. I’ll talk about why we find ourselves in this terrible situation. A succession of Tim Eyman-inspired tax cutting initiatives made our cities, counties and the state extremely vulnerable to this nation-wide economic downturn.

He cites Eyman’s I-695, which — with a big assist from then-Gov. Gary Locke and state lawmakers — largely did away what Kline says was the state’s only progressive tax: the pay-more-for-an-expensive-car license tab fee. The came property tax limits (I-722 and 747).

Guess what? We’re now taking in so little revenue that we can no longer afford the services that are among the core missions of any government.

Kline writes. Now — courtesy Eyman’s I-960 and a predecessor — lawmakers wanting to increase taxes to keep key government services going have two choices. They can muster a two-thirds vote from state lawmakers — which is unlikely — or they can ask voters statewide to approve the increase. Kline continues:

We would have to go easy because most folks in Washington are experiencing their own budget crises….As the price for my vote to raise taxes, I would insist that we not just raise some existing tax, but literally overhaul our tax structure and aim the tax directly at the discretionary income of wealthy people.  Under our current post-Eyman tax structure, the wealthy escape taxation to a distressing degree.