Dear Friends and Neighbors,
We're down to our last month of the 2021 legislative session and we're getting ready to vote on numerous pieces of legislation for three straight weeks, starting this weekend. More than 200 bills have moved to the Senate for further consideration. In the House we are currently voting on nearly 200 additional bills from the other chamber. Unfortunately, the majority party has already passed some bills that are not good for Washington.
Juvenile Accountability Bill
Senate Bill 5122 has an innocent title: “Concerning the jurisdiction of juvenile court.” It doesn't sound like much, but it is actually quite serious. In fact, this is the MOST CONCERNING thing I've seen in my time as a legislator. You would never know it by the title, but this bill would have a major impact on crime and on our children and youth.
Increases the Age of Criminal Accountability – this bill would increase the age range that children are presumed incapable of committing a crime, from under age 8 to under age 13.
I am truly shocked by this legislation. Essentially, the bill removes all accountability from children who commit crimes. It literally says that a child under the age of 13 is incapable of committing a crime.
Let me restate that. If you are a child under the age of 13 this bill says you do not have the mental maturity to know right from wrong. Therefore—according to this bill—if you are under 13-years-old and you MURDER someone, you cannot be held criminally guilty of that crime, unless certain conditions are proven by the prosecution.
I offered two reasonable amendments in committee, which you can view here. The first one tried to lower the criminality standard to under the age of 10, instead of 12. We all know that most 12-year-old kids know right from wrong. But they turned it down, which totally shocked me, but not as much as what happened next.
They said they actually want to create a study group to consider raising this criminality standard to the age of 19! To be clear, if this were to pass in the future, someone under the age of 19 could get away with murder – or any other crime – in the state of Washington.
They did add a provision that would allow the court to charge someone between the ages of 8 and 12 if the court could prove the child had the capacity to understand and know the act they committed was wrong, but only in the case of murder 1 or murder 2.
Crime of Forcible Rape Amendment Rejected – with my second amendment, I tried to add the crime of forcible rape to the bill, which would mean a child could still be held accountable for this crime if the prosecutor could prove they knew what they were doing was wrong. They said no.
Again, I was completely shocked. You're telling me that a 12-year-old kid that would forcibly rape some other kid doesn't know that's wrong? This is extremely troubling, yet this is the kind of legislation the majority is pushing this session. And they are doing it during a remote session when no one is paying attention.
Crime Recruitment to Increase – another scary aspect of this bill is the impact it will have on our kids. It's common knowledge that the illicit and evil actors in our society will always seek to bend, break, or look for loopholes in the law to pursue illegal ends.
Additionally, they are always looking to expand their reach and recruit new members, especially influential youth. If this bill becomes law, it will provide a loophole for crimes committed by youth, making our youth an even greater target for criminal recruitment. I believe this bill will be referred to as the “Mafia, Cartel, and Gang Youth Recruitment Act of 2021.”
This is terrible policy, and it's a shame we have to even consider it, but it I feel it's my duty to bring it to your attention. I will do everything in my power to stop this bill.
Open Carry Gun Bill
Unfortunately, this isn't the only bad bill I need to tell you about. After more than five hours of debate and close to 20 solid amendments, almost all of which were rejected, Senate Bill 5038 passed the House Floor on party lines, Sunday evening.
Although there are exceptions, we typically don't do the work of the people on Sunday. However, this was no ordinary Sunday. It was Palm Sunday, a holy day for those in the Christian faith. Many of you have asked me if the majority party purposely chose this day so people wouldn't be paying attention.
I don't have the answer to that, but either way, they could have held this debate on the Friday before or the Monday after. Yet, they forced all of us to come in on Sunday when, I believe, the number of people paying attention to this very bad bill was much lower.
And make no mistake, this is a terrible bill for many reasons, not the least of which is because it violates the constitution. Senate Bill 5038 would prohibit the open carry of firearms and other weapons within 250 feet of permitted demonstrations, rallies, and other events.
I believe this bill tries and fails to equate subjective feelings of intimidation with the foundational rights expressly articulated in our nation's and state's constitutions.
This bill will embolden bad actors and is no small matter. We are trampling on the foundational values of our nation and state with this bill.
We need to protect our foundational rights. This badly written bill does the exact opposite. It also weakens the security options each of us can have, and the overall collective security of our state. Please tell the governor you don't want him to sign this unconstitutional policy.
Update on My Bills
Now for some good news. I'm happy to report that House Bills 1314 and 1296 have both been voted out of the House and passed through their respective committees in the Senate. They are now awaiting a vote by the full Senate.
House Bill 1314 – Providing More Health Care Options for Veterans
This bill would require a facility to inquire about a person's veteran status after arrival in a behavioral health facility and coordinate with Veteran's Health Administration facilities if the person is a veteran or eligible for veteran's services.
I'm proud of this legislation because it is the culmination of a lot of hard work to get it right for our veterans. I'm grateful to everyone who worked together in a bipartisan manner to get this bill where it needed to be, and I'm grateful it's moving forward in the process.
House Bill 1296 – Keeping My Promise, Providing for Health and Economic Recovery
This bill would allow health or social welfare organizations to take a B&O tax deduction on amounts received as compensation for providing mental health services or substance use disorder treatment services under a government-funded program.
There couldn't be a more opportune time or window for a bill like this to come out of the Legislature to help our behavioral health organizations. We know this is a proven economic tool that works, and to provide it now shows that we're being responsible to the needs of the health pandemic we have in front of us.
Both bills would improve health care efforts in our state, and I'm excited to see them move forward. I'll keep you updated on their progress.
In Case You Missed it: Public Service Announcements
I also wanted to bring a couple of other items you may not have seen to your attention:
State Launches New Round of Small Business Grants – The Washington State Department of Commerce opened applications for Working Washington Grants: Round 4 on March 29. Business owners can find information about the program and a link to the application portal at commercegrants.com. The application portal will be open until 5:00 p.m. PDT on April 9.
Businesses can contact Commerce's technical support center by phone or by email: (855) 602-2722 or email@example.com. Assistance in alternative languages to English will be available March 29 – April 9 by phone only at (206) 333-0720.
Priorities for funding are:
- Businesses required to close.
- Businesses with lost revenue as a result of closure.
- Businesses with added expenses to maintain safe operations.
- Equitable distribution of grant funds across the state and to businesses owned and operated by historically disadvantaged individuals.
Application information and technical assistance is available in multiple languages and is accessible to a wide range of people with disabilities. All applicants who meet eligibility requirements and apply between March 29 and April 9 at 5:00 p.m. PDT, will be considered.
Kitsap Transit Now Offering Southworth Fast Ferry –On Monday, March 29, Kitsap Transit began its Southworth Fast Ferry service to downtown Seattle. Washington State Ferries is working with Kitsap Transit to create an interim and a permanent Fast Ferry passenger holding area near its Southworth terminal building, as riders will load and offload using their vehicle transfer span.
Stay Connected with The Legislature
As a reminder, you can visit my website here and follow the bills I'm sponsoring here. You can watch all committee and floor action on TVW by clicking here. And you can learn more about how you can stay involved in this remote legislative session, including testifying remotely, by clicking here (House) or here (Senate). If you're not sure how to testify remotely, click here for help.
Thank You for Allowing Me to Serve You
Thank you again for your continued support. I'm dedicated to representing you and being your voice in the Legislature. Please keep reaching out to me to share your thoughts, opinions, and concerns. I look forward to meeting in-person with you again as soon as we can. Until then, you can contact me by phone and email, as well as via Zoom. I can also be reached in-district at 360-480-5970. I will continue reaching out to you with further updates and other forms of communication. Thank you!
In strength and honor.