Author Archives: kimberlywirtz

Common sense, accountability needed to fix bad police pursuit law

By kimberlywirtz | Published on January 31, 2023

OLYMPIA…There’s a data war happening in the Washington State Senate. It’s over the need for reform to the recent change in law that prevents police from pursuing a suspect unless the authorities have probable cause.

Senate Republican Leader John Braun, R-Centralia, believes we must pass legislation that improves Washington’s police-pursuit law after the results of Democratic legislation passed two years ago have proven to be a threat to public safety. He is skeptical about the value of partisan legislation currently being considered that would punt the public-safety issue to an unelected state commission, unlike the clear solution found in other legislation sponsored by both Democrats and Republicans.

Both sides have presented statistics they say supports their argument on whether to change the law to allow police to pursue based on reasonable suspicion. The data provided by Democrats, however, has come under stiff scrutiny by an independent review commissioned by a member of the House of Representatives. And it was found wanting.

Professor Matthew J. Hickman, chair of the Department of Criminal Justice, Criminology & Forensics at Seattle University wrote, If this analysis was submitted for peer-review, it would be summarily rejected as it does not satisfy threshold criteria for quantitative scientific work.  The analysis should be disregarded in its entirety and should not be used to inform legislative decision-making.”

Sen. John Braun provide the following statement to clarify confusion surrounding the use of the data:

“The chair of the Senate Law & Justice Committee refuses to give most of the police pursuit reform bills a hearing, citing a study that claims there has been a 73% reduction in deaths resulting from current law. However, that study has been debunked by a third-party statistician who specializes in data about law enforcement and crime. He says the study should be entirely disregarded.

“Alternatively, we have reliable statistics showing a dire need for pursuit reform. According to the King County Sheriff’s Office, there were 518 incidents in 2022 of suspects eluding police without pursuit in King County alone. That’s almost three times the number of incidents recorded only two years earlier. We are seeing similar results in other counties.

“At some point, you need to look at the hard numbers and let common sense be your guide. Those numbers show that the need for police pursuits is growing as the ability of law enforcement to pursue has been severely restricted. Common sense says that this is because criminals are emboldened by the current law, rather than deterred by it. Crime is increasing because, in the minds of criminals, they have a better chance of evading capture.

“How many more people have been victimized because current law sends a permissive message to criminals? Senate Bill 5352, which would allow police to pursue a suspect based on reasonable suspicion would help correct this. Unfortunately, it’s more likely that Senate Bill 5533 will get a hearing because that bill would take the issue out of the hands of the Legislature and subject it to agency rulemaking by the Criminal Justice Training Commission. It would allow Democrats to avoid accountability by making it the CJTC’s problem. The Legislature should fix its own mistakes.”

Communications Staff

By kimberlywirtz | Published on January 10, 2023
OfficePhoneAssignment
Kim Wirtz
Cell: 253.209.8890
210 LMB360.786.7561Communications Director
Leadership & Caucus
Booker Stallworth
Cell: 360.338.5936
208-15 LMB360.786.7536Deputy Communications Director
Members: Senators Boehnke, McCune, Torres, Wagoner
Eric Campbell208-26 LMB360.786.7503Sr. PIO/ Senior editor
Members: Senators Braun, Rivers, Wilson L.
Tracy Ellis
Cell: 360.223.8172
109-A LMB360.787.7066Audio/Video Coordinator
Laudan Espinoza
Cell: 253.282.0416
208-23 LMB360.786.7504Sr. PIO/ Director of Community Engagement
Members: Senators Fortunato, Muzzall, Warnick
Tricia Gullion208-20 LMB360.786.7395Sr. PIO/Manager Internal Communications
Members: Senators Dozier, Gildon, Hawkins
Erik Smith208-18 LMB360.786.7037Sr. PIO
Members: Senators MacEwen, Short, Wilson J.
Brian Zylstra
Cell: 360.827.0811
208-25 LMB360.786.7869Sr. PIO
Members: Senators Holy, King, Padden, Schoesler

Senate Republicans elect 2023 deputy leadership

By kimberlywirtz | Published on January 09, 2023

Washington State Senate Republicans today elected 2023 deputy leadership.

Deputy Leader                    Sen. Chris Gildon, Puyallup

Caucus Vice Chair              Sen. Ron Muzzall, Oak Harbor

Deputy Floor Leader         Sen. Nikki Torres, Pasco

Deputy Whip                       Sen. Perry Dozier, Waitsburg

Senate Republicans announce 2023 committee assignments

By kimberlywirtz | Published on December 07, 2022

 

 

 

 

 

OLYMPIA…The Washington State Senate Republican Caucus announced its committee assignments for the senators who will serve the Legislature in 2023.

2023 Ranking Republican Committee Assignments by Member:

  • Agriculture, Water, Natural Resources & Parks: Sen. Ron Muzzall, R-Oak Harbor
  • Business, Financial Services, Gaming & Trade: Sen. Perry Dozier, R-Waitsburg
  • Early Learning & K12 Education: Sen. Brad Hawkins, R-East Wenatchee
  • Environment, Energy & Technology: Sen.-elect Drew MacEwen, R-Shelton
  • Health & Long-Term Care: Sen. Ann Rivers, R-La Center
  • Higher Education & Workforce Development: Sen. Jeff Holy, R-Cheney
  • Housing: Sen. Phil Fortunato, R-Auburn
  • Human Services: Sen.-elect Matt Boehnke, Kennewick
  • Labor & Commerce: Sen. Curtis King, R-Yakima
  • Law & Justice: Sen. Mike Padden, Spokane Valley
  • Local Government, Land Use & Tribal Affairs: Sen.-elect Nikki Torres, R-Pasco
  • State Government & Elections: Sen. Jeff Wilson, Longview
  • Transportation:
    • Ranking: Sen. Curtis King, R-Yakima
    • Assistant Ranking: Sen. Jeff Holy, R-Cheney
  • Ways & Means:
    • Ranking, Operating Budget: Sen. Lynda Wilson, R-Vancouver
    • Assistant Ranking, Operating Budget: Sen. Chris Gildon, R-Puyallup
    • Ranking, Capital Budget: Sen. Mark Schoesler, R-Ritzville
    • Assistant Ranking, Capital Budget: Sen. Ann Rivers, R-La Center
    • Assistant Ranking, Capital Budget: Sen. Judy Warnick, Moses Lake

 

2023 Standing Committee Assignments by Member:

Sen.-elect Boehnke- Business & Financial Services, Environment, Energy & Technology, Human Services, Ways & Means

Sen. Braun- Housing, Labor & Commerce, Ways & Means, Rules

Sen. Dozier– Business & Financial Services, Early Learning & K-12 Education, State Government & Elections

Sen. Fortunato- Housing, State Government & Elections, Transportation

Sen. Gildon- Business & Financial Services, Housing, Ways & Means, Rules

Sen. Hawkins- Early Learning & K-12 Education, Higher Education & Workforce Development, Transportation

Sen. Holy- Healthcare, Higher Education & Workforce Development, Transportation

Sen. King- Labor and Commerce, Transportation, Rules

Sen. McCune- Early Learning & K-12 Education, Law & Justice

Sen.-elect MacEwen- Business & Financial Services, Environment, Energy & Technology, Labor & Commerce, Transportation

Sen. Muzzall- Agriculture, Water, Natural Resources & Parks, Health & Long-Term Care, Ways & Means, Rules

Sen. Padden- Health & Long-Term Care, Law & Justice, Transportation

Sen. Rivers- Health & Long-Term Care, Housing, Ways & Means, Rules

Sen. Schoesler- Labor & Commerce, Ways & Means

Sen. Short- Agriculture, Water, Natural Resources & Parks, Environment, Energy & Technology, Local Government, Rules

Sen. Torres- Law & Justice, Local Government Land Use & Tribal Affairs, Ways & Means,

Sen. Wagoner- Agriculture, Water, Natural Resources & Parks, Law & Justice, Ways & Means

Sen. Warnick- Agriculture, Water, Natural Resources & Parks, Human Services, Ways & Means

Sen. Jeff Wilson- State Government Tribal Relations & Elections, Housing, Human Services, Transportation

Sen. Lynda Wilson- Law & Justice, Ways & Means

Senate Republicans retain top leadership for 2023

By kimberlywirtz | Published on November 29, 2022

OLYMPIA…Washington Senate Republicans today reelected their top leadership team for the 2022-23 legislative term. Deputy leaders will be chosen during the first caucus of the legislative session.

Leader: Sen. John Braun, Centralia

Caucus Chair: Sen. Judy Warnick, Moses Lake

Floor Leader: Sen. Shelly Short, Addy

Whip: Sen. Keith Wagoner, Sedro-Woolley

 

Sen. John Braun shared the following perspective:

“I’m honored to have been chosen by my colleagues to lead the Senate Republican Caucus again this year. Now that we are back in person and the full power of the Legislature has been restored, I’m anxious to get to work addressing critical issues facing our state.

“We have record crime rates. The cost of everything is increasing beyond the means of the average family. And our children are suffering from a significant learning loss. My focus will be fighting to restore public safety, return affordability and reboot education. Senate Republicans are preparing common sense, realistic solutions to these issues. I hope they will receive bipartisan support.”

Braun: Bipartisan emergency powers reform must happen in 2023

By kimberlywirtz | Published on October 31, 2022

OLYMPIA…Senate Republican Leader John Braun, R-Centralia, shared the following comments in response to the end of the state of emergency declared by Gov. Jay Inslee 975 days ago in response to the outbreak of COVID-19.

“Ending the state of emergency is long overdue. Washington was under one-man rule for 975 days. With this finally behind us, I hope the majority party will be willing to discuss legitimate bipartisan reform of the governor’s emergency powers. It doesn’t matter what party the governor belongs to – shutting the people out of the decision-making process is wrong. The reforms we have proposed wouldn’t prevent future governors from declaring a state of emergency or issuing executive orders to respond to an emergency. They would, however, preserve legislative oversight and approval if the declaration continues beyond 30 days. That’s reasonable reform and it needs to happen in 2023.”

Price tag for public employee raises could have funded tax relief for everyone, says Braun

By kimberlywirtz | Published on October 03, 2022

OLYMPIA…Senate Republican Leader John Braun, R-Centralia, released the following statement in response to the announcement today by the Office of Financial Management (OFM) that the collective bargaining agreements with the public employees union, negotiated by the governor and his campaign donors in secret, will cost more than $1 billion.

“I don’t fault public employees for wanting raises. Right now, we only know that the collective bargaining agreements will cost more than $1 billion from the general fund and $1.6 billion in total funds. But there’s more than $1 billion in additional costs not accounted for yet. For what it will cost to give raises to a relative few, we could have given tax relief to everyone. Inslee and Democrats said no. Our plan to cut the gas tax would have shared the benefit among more than 7 million people statewide. Instead, the governor and the public employee unions who donate millions to his campaign crafted a raise and benefits package that rewards a fraction of Washingtonians.

“All we heard in response to our gas tax relief proposal last session was that the state couldn’t afford it. Apparently, it could. It just didn’t want to. And saying that the proposal would benefit the oil companies was a false, but convenient and triggering, talking point for the governor. Perhaps he just wanted to reserve the money to placate his donors and tax relief for everyone threatened that.

“Even worse is that the agreements were negotiated in secret. The governor refuses to open up negotiations. The only opportunity the Legislature has to provide input is to either approve them as is or not. We can’t change any of the specifics. And although the governor has pointed to the Joint Committee on Employment Relations as the mechanism for legislative oversight, the bipartisan group of members on the committee get no additional details beyond what is released to the public. They, too, must wait until after the deals are reached. Any claim that the existence of the committee means the Legislature is involved in the negotiations is nonsense.”

 

The “known” costs of the collective bargaining agreements come to just over $1 billion from the general fund and $1.6 billion in total funds. Not included in that estimate are the costs of the agreements for nonemployees (e.g. – SEIU homecare workers), ferry workers, state patrol, and employees of the Department of Corrections. Also, these figures do not include any costs for the collective bargaining agreement with higher education unions, which negotiate directly with the respective institutions. Since tens of thousands of workers are employed at Washington’s higher education institutions, the additional cost will be substantial.

Shorter sentence for man convicted in brutal car crash is terrible result of war on public safety, senators say

By kimberlywirtz | Published on September 30, 2022

Robert Jackson was among 3,000 prisoners released in earlier Department of Corrections fiasco

OLYMPIA – Resentencing of a man who got life without parole after he killed his girlfriend in a bloody 2015 car crash is a travesty that illustrates the terrible human consequences when the Legislature goes “soft on crime,” Republican senators say.

Robert Jackson was resentenced to 33 years Friday by a King County Superior Court judge, the result of a bill passed by legislative Democrats during the 2021 legislative session that weakened the state’s Three Strikes law. Jackson, 45, will be eligible for parole and possible release.

Jackson’s conviction for vehicular homicide is especially notable because it figured in a high-profile case of mismanagement at the state Department of Corrections six years ago. Jackson was among approximately 3,000 convicted felons who were released from prison early due to a computer-programming mistake, and who committed new crimes when they should have been behind bars. Jackson was one of two felons whose new crimes resulted in death.

“Robert Jackson has become the symbol of the misguided effort we have seen in the Legislature to reduce sentences and get convicted felons back on the streets sooner,” said Sen. Mike Padden, R-Spokane Valley. “He is the sort of career criminal voters had in mind when they passed our Three Strikes law in 1993. Three convictions for serious crimes are supposed to mean life without parole. Unfortunately, our colleagues last year decided to weaken the law, and they weren’t interested in asking voters if they approve.

“The case is especially appalling because it figured so heavily in the 2016 Department of Corrections scandal. Jackson should never have been released to commit the crime in the first place. When we debated the bill last year, we knew at least 100 repeat offenders would get lighter sentences. Everyone should have known we would see cases as egregious as this one. I hope my colleagues pause for a moment to consider Robert Jackson’s victim, Lindsay Hill, the brutality of the crime he committed, and our duty to ensure justice is served.”

Senate Republican Leader John Braun, R-Centralia, said the resentencing underscores the devastating consequences of the Legislature’s actions. “It is indefensible that Mr. Jackson now has a shorter sentence and the chance to seek parole, despite killing Lindsay Hill,” he said. “Lindsay’s family is devastated. The state let them down before when Inslee’s Department of Corrections negligently released Mr. Jackson and more than 3,000 other prisoners early. Had he served his full term then, Lindsay might still be alive. And now the state is letting her family down again by reducing the sentence of her killer.

“Increasingly, people feel they are no longer safe and that the rights of criminals are more important than the rights of victims. Sadly, thanks to extreme Democrat ‘reforms,’ they’re right. Where’s the justice for people like Lindsay?”

 

The bill weakening Washington’s Three Strikes law, SB 5164, was among 17 bills that reduce criminal penalties passed since 2018 under Democratic leadership of the state House and Senate. The measure, sponsored by Sen. Jeannie Darneille, D-Tacoma, removed second-degree robbery as a qualifying crime for a Three Strikes life sentence. The bill was retroactive, meaning mandatory resentencing hearings for those who already had been sentenced to life-without-parole under the Three Strikes law.

The Jackson case made headlines in 2015 and 2016 in part because of the early-release fiasco, but also due to the brutal nature of his crime. In 2015, Jackson was improperly released from prison four months early after doing time for armed robbery. He was driving the night of Nov. 11 when he slammed his car into a Bellevue utility box with such force that girlfriend Hill was thrown through the windshield and died of catastrophic head injuries. The body was discovered by Hill’s son, and Jackson was arrested after a witness reported seeing a blood-soaked man near Hill’s apartment.

When SB 5164 was debated on the Senate floor in 2021, Republicans presented a series of amendments that would have prevented mandatory resentencing for Jackson and others who already had been sentenced under the Three Strikes law. They included an amendment from Padden that would have eliminated retroactivity. Sen. Jeff Holy, R-Cheney, offered an amendment that would have allowed prosecutors to decide whether to seek resentencing. Sen. Judy Warnick, R-Moses Lake, offered an amendment that would have placed the issue on the ballot and allowed voters to decide.

The amendments were rejected by majority Democrats, and the bill passed the Senate on a caucus-line vote, 28-21. The measure passed the House 52-46. The bill was signed into law by Gov. Jay Inslee on April 26, 2021.

Decision on environmental policy places power back in the people’s hands, says Braun

By kimberlywirtz | Published on June 30, 2022

OLYMPIA…Senate Republican Leader John Braun, R-Centralia, released the following statement in response to the United States Supreme Court decision limiting the Environmental Protection Agency’s rulemaking authority. The court ruled that Congress must authorize new regulations to limit power plant emissions.

“Today’s opinion is about the rule of law. It is up to Congress to authorize new regulations that the EPA has been implementing on its own, especially regulations that carry billions of dollars in economic ramifications. Executive-branch officials don’t get to do this themselves. It’s entirely appropriate for the Supreme Court to reinforce the separation of powers between the branches of government.

“What is the governor really mad about? He knows our state Supreme Court also has ruled environmental policy is to be made by the people’s elected lawmakers. He has bragged about getting environmental policy through our state Legislature. How can he not understand that the same process should apply at the federal level? The Department of Ecology doesn’t have complete authority here, and the justices are right to presume Congress has not handed total authority to the EPA [citation below]. He criticizes the federal justices for not being elected, but EPA officials are not elected either.

“The effort to address climate change doesn’t have to be so partisan and divisive, despite the governor’s grandstanding. He’s wrong to suggest Republicans are indifferent about clean air and other environmental issues. Governor Inslee knows the first carbon legislation to clear either legislative chamber in Olympia wasn’t from Democrats – it was a Republican bill, way back in 2015.

“Today’s ruling literally places the power back in the hands of those who are elected – in the hands of the people. The governor apparently finds this inconvenient. That attitude isn’t surprising from someone who has clung to his emergency rule for 850 days and counting.”

From today’s ruling:

“We also find it “highly unlikely that Congress would leave” to “agency discretion” the decision of how much coal-based generation there should be over the coming decades. MCI, 512 U. S., at 231; see also Brown & Williamson, 529 U. S., at 160 (“We are confident that Congress could not have intended to delegate a decision of such economic and 26 WEST VIRGINIA v. EPA Opinion of the Court political significance to an agency in so cryptic a fashion.”). The basic and consequential tradeoffs involved in such a choice are ones that Congress would likely have intended for itself. See W. Eskridge, Interpreting Law: A Primer on How To Read Statutes and the Constitution 288 (2016) (“Even if Congress has delegated an agency general rulemaking or adjudicatory power, judges presume that Congress does not delegate its authority to settle or amend major social and economic policy decisions.”). Congress certainly has not conferred a like authority upon EPA anywhere else in the Clean Air Act. The last place one would expect to find it is in the previously little-used backwater of Section 111(d).”