Dear Friends and Neighbors,
New York Justice Francis T. Murphy is attributed to one of the most famous quotations about public safety: “No more essential duty of government exists than the protection of the lives of its people. Fail in this, and we fail in everything.”
I tend to agree. Washington House Republicans' top priorities of government are: education, protection of the state's most vulnerable, and public safety. We have an outstanding record in the Legislature of being first to propose and adopt stronger public safety laws to protect citizens and hold criminals accountable for the crimes they commit.
First in Public Safety
- Sex offender registration and civil commitment – Washington was the first state in the nation to Washington was the first state in the nation to adopt a sex offender registration law and to provide indefinite civil commitment for the state's most dangerous sex predators. The Community Protection Act of 1990 was sought by two mothers whose children were victims of sex offenders. One of those mothers, Ida Ballasiotes, was later elected as a state representative in the 41st District, and served as a Washington House Republican until 2002. We have continued to protect our communities from sex predators through other legislation, such as the Child Protection Act of 2004 (House Bill 2400), which strengthened sex offender sentencing laws.
- Three Strikes, You're Out! – Washington House Republicans were the first to propose a “Three Strikes” law that would put violent criminals away for life without parole after committing their third serious felony. When the measure failed to gain ground in the Legislature, Republicans sent it to the ballot as Initiative 593, which voters approved by 76 percent. The measure, the first of its kind in the nation, has been credited for significant reductions in crime.
- Hard Time for Armed Crime – As a part of the “Contract with Washington State” in the mid-1990's, Washington House Republicans successfully pushed for an initiative to the Legislature known as “Hard Time for Armed Crime.” Initiative 159 implements stiffer penalties for people who commit crimes using a gun or knife, and prohibits early release for anyone using a firearm to commit a crime. It allows the death penalty for murders committed in drive-by shootings and provides a report card on judges' toughness of sentencing.
- Juvenile justice reform – Washington House Republicans also took the lead several years ago in fighting to reform our juvenile justice system, passing legislation that allows the worst juvenile offenders to be tried as adults, and providing risk assessments for some offenders, longer detention and supervision periods, parental involvement, new treatment options, and choices for local intervention programs.
- Tougher laws against drunk drivers – In 2006, Washington House Republicans pushed through and passed House Bill 3317, which makes a fifth DUI conviction within a 10-year period a Class C felony punishable by prison time of up to five years. The law is credited with reducing DUI-related accidents and fatalities by 13 percent within the first year. We have continued our efforts to get repeat drunk drivers off the state's highways by adopting tougher DUI sentencing laws, including this year with Senate Bill 5912, under which officers will automatically arrest people suspected of a second or more DUI within a 10-year period. Under the newest law, those arrested will be required to have ignition-interlock devices installed as a condition of being released from custody. Also, drivers convicted of DUI while driving the wrong way or while children are passengers will face stiffer penalties.
2013 Public Safety Legislation
- House Bill 1291 – Concerning services for victims of the sex trade. This measure allows a majority of fees from impounded vehicles involved in sex trafficking to be used for local enforcement efforts and services for victims.
- House Bill 1352 – Addressing the statute of limitations for sexual abuse against a child. This bill extends the statute of limitations for victims of sex crimes as children to have more time to prosecute against those who raped or molested them.
- House Bill 1383 – Modifying stalking and harassment protection order provisions. This bill creates a civil protection order for stalking victims who do not qualify for a domestic violence protection order.
- Senate Bill 5105 – Addressing conditions under which the Department of Corrections (DOC) provides rental vouchers to an offender. This measure requires that the DOC limit the concentration of approved housing providers in a single neighborhood and work with local governments to develop a community impact statement before approval a provider of housing for offenders. The legislation is in response to concerns in neighborhoods, such as Marysville and Puyallup, where DOC paid providers to house sex offenders. See the KOMO 4 news report. | Read the Puyallup Patch report. | Read the Puyallup Herald report.
- Senate Bill 5145 – Allowing fire departments to develop a Community Assistance Referral and Education Services (CARES) program. Four fire agencies in Washington have developed CARES programs for their communities (Kent Regional Fore Authority, Olympia Fire Department, SeaTac Fire Department, and South King Fire and Rescue). CARES programs are intended to provide community assistance and outreach to residents covered by the agency to advance injury and illness prevention. This measure allows CARES programs to be developed by any fire department, fire protection district or regional fire authority.
- Senate Bill 5182 – Addressing the disclosure of vehicle owner information. This is a measure to protect the safety of private investigators and attorneys. The law had required that if the Department of Licensing (DOL) provided the name or address of a vehicle owner to an attorney or private investigator requesting that information, it had to also notify the vehicle owner and provide the name and address of the attorney or private investigator. Under the new law, DOL may only disclose to the vehicle owner that his/her name and address has been disclosed to an attorney or private investigator and the date of the disclosure.
- Senate Bill 5437 – Regarding boating safety. This measure creates a new “Boating under the Influence” or BUI law. Under the new law, BUI becomes a gross misdemeanor punishable by a maximum fine of $5,000 and 364 days in jail. A person may be considered under the influence if they show an alcohol concentration of .08 or higher on a breath or blood test. Similarly, a THC concentration of 5.0 or higher is the limit for marijuana use. The law also allows for implied consent, which means an officer can require a boat operator to take a breath or blood test if the officer believes the operator is boating under the influence. If the operator refuses, he/she could be issued a $1,000 civil infraction.
We want our highways, our communities, our schools and our neighborhoods to be safe. That means being vigilant and continuing to adapt the laws to a changing society. I'm proud that Washington state leads in this effort.
It has been said, “Being safe is like breathing — You never want to stop.” I will continue to support ways to protect our freedoms and our communities. And I thank you for your support in these efforts.
In your service,