RESTORE PUBLIC SAFETY
People feel unsafe in their communities as crime, drug use and mental illness soar
Democrat fixes for last year’s anti-police bills don’t go far enough
Latest update after the 2022 Legislative Session
The only bills from “Safe Washington” to survive the Democratic majority:
Senate Bill 5245 – Expanding the program to notify victims when offenders are released (Brown)
Senate Bill 5612 – Ensuring domestic violence victims are able to make a statement during the sentencing of their attackers (Wilson, L)
House Bill 1571 – Providing protections and services for indigenous people who are missing, murdered or victims of human trafficking (Mosbrucker)
During the 2021 legislative session, the majority dropped the ball on public safety. It removed critical tools from police, reduced punishment for criminals, missed opportunities to protect the public from repeat DUI offenders, and flat-out surrendered on the war on drugs.
The impacts of those decisions on the lives of Washingtonians were devastating and immediate. Violent gang- and drug-related crimes are on the rise, as property crimes are impacting families and businesses alike. Instead of criminals being handcuffed, it is members of law enforcement who are hindered from doing their job. Even after receiving pushback from the public, the majority was back at it again this year, introducing new measures to reduce the punishment for drive-by shootings a and impaired drivers.
To address these critical issues, Washington’s House and Senate Republicans unveiled a package of common-sense solutions to the public-safety crisis ravaging communities and destroying lives across the state.
Unfortunately, the majority dropped the ball again this session, failing to act on many key components of the Safe Washington plan.
Out of the 47 bills in our Safe Washington package, only 3 are going to become law. The majority has shown a lack of resolve to fix many of last year’s mistakes through inaction on many important public-safety bills this year. There were some improvements made in three areas: use of force, detaining because of mental health and the removal of the prohibition on the use of non-lethal items like “bean bags.”
Pot-shop protection bill fails to clear Democrat-controlled House
In the days since the end of the session, the news statewide has been filled with stories about armed robberies at cannabis retailers, including some that resulted in deaths. Unfortunately, I predicted this would be the case when Democrats failed to act on my bill to address this issue.
Senate Bill 5927 would have added a year to the prison sentence of someone convicted of first- or second-degree robbery of a cannabis retail outlet. It’s the same extended sentence that goes with the robbery of a pharmacy and would be applied to robberies of cannabis retailers when the crime is planned and carried out by two or more people.
Due to federal banking rules, these businesses are almost entirely cash-only operations, making them a target for robberies and a magnet for criminals. The number of robberies of cannabis stores is on the rise, and this bill would have benefited not just the retailers but the community as a whole.
Majority blocks bills to help address fentanyl crisis
According to the state Department of Health, opioid overdose deaths in Washington rose from 2013 through 2020, driven by heroin deaths, and more recently, fentanyl deaths. Deaths involving fentanyl and other synthetic opioids are now more common than those involving heroin, with the highest death rates and largest increases being seen in rural counties, such as Yakima and Klickitat.
To address this crisis, I introduced two bills this session. Senate Bill 5509 would have excluded fentanyl-testing equipment from the definition of “drug paraphernalia.” Because a single dose of the deadly substance can kill a user, testing can save lives. Senate Bill 5524 would have imposed a life sentence for those convicted of committing a controlled-substances homicide involving fentanyl-laced drugs.
Our testing-strip bill passed the Senate unanimously, but never even received a hearing from the House Public Safety Committee. Our bill increasing the penalty for those convicted of committing homicide with fentanyl-laced drugs was completely ignored by the Senate majority.
Democrats run out the clock on bipartisan pursuit bill
In addition, the majority also ran out the clock on ESB 5919 – Concerning the definition of “physical force,” “necessary,” and “totality of the circumstances,” and the standard for law enforcement authority to use physical force and providing the authority for a peace officer to engage in a vehicular pursuit when there is reasonable suspicion a person has violated the law and the officer follows appropriate safety standards. (Van De Wege) This compromise legislation would have improved the standards for police pursuit, making it easier for law enforcement to do its job.
As reported by RaeLynn Ricarte at The Center Square:
Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich blasted Sen. Majority Leader Andy Billig for failing to move the bill, which would have restored most police pursuits.
“Bottom line, it was Sen. Billig who had the power to put that bill on the floor,” he said. “We knew we had the votes lined up – all it had to do was hit the floor.”
“SB 5919 had been approved by the House on March 4. The Senate, which passed the original version, needed to concur with several amendments made by the House and then the legislation could have been signed into law by Gov. Jay Inslee.
Three attempts by Republicans to bring the measure to the Senate floor on the final day of session were rebuffed.
The end result of Billig’s inaction, said Knezovich, is that 2021 restrictions placed on police pursuits remain in place, so it is “Independence Day” for criminals.
“The criminals know the law and they know they don’t have to stop,” he said.
An excerpt from a post-session Shift interview with Senate Republican Leader John Braun
The Democrats failed to keep their promise to fix the many flaws within their disastrous 2021 anti-police reform bill. Specifically, Democrats failed to repair the laws regarding police pursuit which criminals have used to avoid being detained. What repairs do you believe still need to be done to the Democrats’ “police reform” package?
One of the mistakes Democrats made in 2021 was addressed in a minimal way, with the passage of House Bill 2037. This will provide clarity about officers’ use of force, and it’s going to the governor only because Republicans provided the votes needed to pass it in the Senate. Only 11 of the 28 Senate-majority members supported the bill.
What happened to the pursuit bill shows just how soft the Democrats are when it comes to public safety. Senate Bill 5919 passed in the Senate with our 21 votes and support from 10 Democrats. That was with a month left in the session. With less than a week to go, the House majority stripped out the better language we’d put in, and sent it back with an overwhelmingly bipartisan vote. We would have supported the weaker version. Instead, the hard-left Democrats in the Senate blocked every attempt to take a vote, and let the bill die with hours left to go in the session. How does enabling criminals to avoid capture make the public safer?
The pursuit law isn’t the only thing still needing fixed. Washington ranks dead last in the number of law-enforcement officers per capita, so Republicans filed legislation to help communities hire more officers. Sure enough, the majority kept SB 5841 bottled up. Look for these to be on our agenda in 2023.
In a joint effort with House Republicans, Senate Republicans rolled out a package of legislation designed to fix many of the wrongs that have resulted from the Democrats’ anti-police bills and others that threaten your public safety.
Find out more about SAFE WASHINGTON.
With a fervor fed by nationwide protests, the majority in the Washington State Legislature pushed a police reform agenda that is proving to be unworkable and dangerous. Law enforcement agencies across the state have spoken out recently to shed light on how the new laws are making protecting the public difficult and, in some cases, impossible.
Our communities are at risk and Washingtonians are only now realizing what the Senate Republican Caucus has been saying throughout 2020: Majority Democrat policies are jeopardizing your safety.
To learn more, follow the links below to read the legislation, watch floor speeches where members of the Senate Republican caucus argue against the bills, listen to audio clips and read articles and opinion pieces appearing in recent news sources.
For more clarification on what the new laws mean, read the following resource from local law enforcement:
Read joint Republican leadership statements:
Released Aug. 11, 2021:
Republican leaders call for special session to fix confusing, controversial police reform bills
Democrat sponsor of bills admits fixes necessary
Released July 23, 2021:
Wilcox and Braun call on Democrats and governor to fix the problems created by controversial police-related bills
Republicans warned House Bill 1310 and House Bill 1054 would make communities less safe, offered amendments that were rejected
PODCAST: The Elephant in the Dome
The Senate Republican leader is calling on Democrats to fix problems created by controversial police-related bills. Law enforcement, EMTs, and others are concerned about the legislation passed by Democrats. July 29, 2021
Legislation with audio & video clips:
HB 1054: Police tactics and equipment
Senators Fortunato, Ericksen, King, Holy, McCune, J. Wilson and Sheldon
HB 1310: Use of force by law enforcement and correctional officers
Senators Schoesler, Holy, Ericksen, King, Honeyford, Warnick, J. Wilson, L. Wilson, Muzzall
SB 5051: State oversight and accountability of police officers
Sen. Mike Padden, 4th LD
Sen. Ron Muzzall, 10th LD
Sen. Jeff Holy, 6th LD
SB 5476: Addressing the State v. Blake decision on the legalization of hard drugs
Senate Republican Leader John Braun, 20th LD
Sen. Mike Padden, 4th LD
- Police say new laws prevented officers from pursuing suspect that rammed patrol vehicles (KOMO TV) Nov. 2, 2021
OPINION: ‘Public safety is fragile’: Three former SPD chiefs on why an anti-police, anti-criminal justice agenda is a recipe for chaos (Kathleen O’Toole, served as chief of police in Seattle and Police Commissioner in Boston, Carmen Best, former Seattle police chief and current adviser to ChangeWA, and Gil Kerlikowske, served as chief of police in Seattle and as President Barack Obama’s director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy/The Seattle Times) Oct. 15, 2021