WashingtonVotes NEWS: Friday, February 24, 2017.
Lawmakers busy moving bills out of committee as first cutoff deadline arrives today.
This year’s regular 105-day legislative session reaches a milestone today, the last day to move most bills out of committee in their originating chamber. Lawmakers have until next Friday, February 24th to move budget-related and transportation measures out of their respective committees.
After that, legislative focus will shift from committee work to floor action by the House and Senate, as members vote on hundreds of bills before the next legislative deadline arrives on March 8th. That is the last day, according to internal rules, for lawmakers to pass bills out of their house of origin. Most bills that do not survive these deadlines are considered dead for the year.
One bill to advance this week is a Senate measure that would institute important reforms in the Department of Corrections. SB 5294, approved with bi-partisan support by the Senate Law and Justice Committee on Thursday, would implement the recommendations of a 2016 investigation that discovered the improper early release of 2,700 convicted criminals by the Department. Two of the prisoners granted early release later committed murders, at a time when they should have been behind bars.
The bill, sponsored by Senators Mike Padden (R-Spokane) and Steve O’Ban (R-Pierce County), would create an independent ombudsman to serve as a watchdog over the Department, and would require the state Office of Financial Management, in its next audit of the Department of Corrections, to include a review of the inability of Department employees to use the whistleblower program to report the mismanagement that led to the early release error. The bill was referred to the Senate Ways and Means Committee for further action.
Also on Thursday, the Senate Law and Justice Committee passed SB 5073, which would make it easier to impose criminal charges on police officers who use deadly force. The bill’s prime sponsor is Sen. David Frockt, D-Seattle. The bill seeks to change existing law, which protects officers from conviction if they have acted in good faith and without malice when using deadly force. The bill redefines good faith and removes lack of malice as a justifiable homicide defense for law enforcement officers who use deadly force in the line of duty. It would also allocate additional funding for officer training, community outreach, and data collection on such incidents.
Senators Jan Angel (R-Port Orchard) and Lynda Wilson (R-Clark County) voted for a “Do Not Pass” recommendation. SB 5073 was referred to the Senate Ways and Means Committee for further action.
The Senate Commerce, Labor and Sports Committee gave a “Do Pass” recommendation on Thursday to a measure intended to facilitate completion of a professional basketball venue in Washington. SB 5792, co-sponsored by Senators Michael Baumgartner (R-Spokane) and David Frockt (D-Seattle) is a “Title Only” bill, meaning the actual provisions of the measure will be added later. Right now, it only states that it relates to “creating the designation of a national basketball association franchise facility as a project of statewide significance act of 2017.”