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Saturday, August 24, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Spokane

New Washington laws could prevent suicides, keep people warm during power outages

OLYMPIA – New laws in Washington will allow police officers to refer a person who attempts suicide to a mental health worker, let Mead School District use an older middle school for kindergarten classrooms, and allow homeowners to use wood stoves when the power’s out during a burn ban.

In a spate of bills signed into law after the legislative session ended, Gov. Jay Inslee also approved changes to the state’s evolving marijuana laws and a tax break for an aircraft maintenance company that wants to expand in King County.

Every legislative session produces thousands of bills, but only a few hundred make it through both chambers and onto the governor’s desk. They must be signed or vetoed in 20 days, or become law without a signature. That creates a flurry of bill signings when a session ends.

In recent action, Inslee signed:

A suicide prevention bill prompted by the 2014 murder-suicide at Deaconess Hospital in which Chris Henderson fatally shot his wife, Sheena, then killed himself. Chris Henderson had been in custody as a potential suicide risk the day before the incident but eventually was cleared and released. Under the new law, police officers will be encouraged to connect a potential suicide victim with a mental health professional and the Washington Association for Sheriffs and Police Chiefs will develop a model policy for agencies to use. It is the second change in the law stemming from that tragedy.

Legislation that will allow school districts to remodel older buildings to have more kindergarten through third-grade classrooms after they’ve replaced those buildings with new structures. Current state laws don’t allow old buildings to be part of the classroom inventory after a replacement is built with state funds. It will allow Mead School District to use the old Northwood Middle School for young students after the new middle school is built.

A bill that allows wood stoves or other solid-fuel-burning devices that meet Department of Ecology emission standards to be used, even during a burn ban, during emergency power outages. The bill was prompted by confusion in the Spokane area after November’s windstorms, when power was out for an extended period. Some people worried they’d face penalties for using wood stoves, even though that was their only source of heat.

Legislation that calls for the state to remit sales taxes paid on the construction of a maintenance facility for corporate jets at Boeing Field if Gateway Aviation meets certain hiring and wage levels. The bill is written so that only a company at an airport in King County can take advantage of the tax break. Lawmakers from Spokane and other areas argued unsuccessfully it should be available to airports in all counties.

Inslee also signed bills that require licensed medical marijuana cooperatives to buy their products from licensed producers, allow stores to accept opened products returned by customers and dispose of them, and exempt certain financial information filed by people applying for a marijuana license from being disclosed under the Public Records Act. Another new law forbids any inmate convicted of having banned items such as marijuana, alcohol, drugs or cellphones from having that sentence reduced for good behavior.

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