Archive for Criminal Justice

Drone bill vetoed by Gov. Inslee

By | April 4, 2014 | 0 Comments

Citing privacy concerns, Gov. Jay Inslee vetoed a drone bill Friday and announced he is temporarily banning all state agencies from purchasing or using drones for the next 15 months except during emergencies or natural disasters.

“I’m very concerned about the effects of this new technology on our citizens’ right to privacy,” Inslee said before vetoing a bill that would have put restrictions on how public agencies are allowed to use drones.

House Bill 2789 would have required public agencies such as police departments to obtain a warrant before using a drone, except during emergencies when there is immediate danger of death or injury. It also would have allowed drones to be used for training, testing, wildlife and environmental monitoring.

Calling it “one of the most complex bills” his office has analyzed, Inslee said the measure contained too many ambiguities. In particular, he said the bill has conflicting provisions on the “disclosure and destruction” of personal information collected by the drones.

Inslee said his office will create a task force to study the issue and come up with a new drone bill for the 2015 legislative session. He said he is calling for legislation that provides a “clear and unambiguous” framework for government use of drones.

One of the drone bill’s sponsors, Rep. Jeff Morris, D-Mount Vernon, released a statement saying he was disappointed the governor vetoed a “well-worked, forward-looking” bill that was intended to “protect citizens from being spied on by their government without legal approval.”

“The measure passed both the House and the Senate with strong bipartisan support. It specifically permitted the use of drones for forest-fire surveillance, wildlife management, military training, and emergencies proclaimed by the governor, and it allowed development of the technology to continue,” Morris said. “It’s unfortunate that it’s so difficult to override a veto once regular session has ended. But I will continue working to ensure that we control technology – technology doesn’t control us.”

Governor signs dozens of bills into law

By | March 27, 2014 | 0 Comments

Gov. Jay Inslee signed nearly 50 bills into law during a bill signing ceremony on Thursday, including measures that address tanning beds, alcohol theft, state parks and drunk driving.

Gov. Inslee prepares to sign bills

Among the bills signed by the governor:

House Bill 2155: Gives the Liquor Control Board more authority to take action against liquor stores that have an “unacceptable”  rate of thefts, defined as two or more thefts over six months that result in a minor obtaining alcohol.

House Bill 2163: Makes it illegal for stores to sell a certain type of cough syrup to anyone under the age of 18. Young people are drinking cough syrups that contain dextromethorphan to get high, which Inslee described as a “growing problem.”

Senate Bill 6034: Allows certain types of advertising in state parks to help raise funds. It also allows parks to form partnerships with businesses, tribes, public agencies and other organizations. Parks cannot be renamed after a company.

Senate Bill 6065: Bans teenagers under the age of 18 from using tanning beds, unless UV radiation treatment has been prescribed by a doctor. Tanning salons will be charged $250 for each violation. Inslee acknowledged the parents of a woman who died from melanoma at the bill signing, saying the skin cancer can affect people of all ages. He said the new law will help young people “shield themselves from this increasing risk.”

Senate Bill 6413: Adds five new crimes to the list of offenses that can be counted as prior offenses when a person is charged with a DUI, including operating a boat, aircraft, snowmobile or commercial vehicle under the influence of alcohol or drugs. It also includes driving an off-road vehicle in a way that’s “likely to endanger” another person’s property. Inslee said the bill will help “reduce the scourge” of repeat drunk drivers. Lawmakers are continuing to work on legislation to provide full-time monitoring of repeat DUI offenders, he said.

Senate Bill 6424: Creates a state seal of biliteracy for the high school diplomas of students who are proficient in English and one or more other languages, including sign language and Native American languages. “This is a great idea,” Inslee said. “We love having citizens of the world coming out of our schools.”

TVW taped the bill signing and it will be archived at this link.

Inslee also spoke briefly with reporters following the bill signing ceremony about the Oso mudslide. “We do know this could end up being the largest mass loss of Washingtonians,” he said.

The governor said with a full-scale rescue effort underway, “we’re looking for miracles to occur.”

Watch the press conference at this link.

Legislative Year in Review

By | March 24, 2014 | 0 Comments

On this special one-hour edition of “Legislative Year in Review,” we recap the highlights from the 2014 session — from opening day to Sine Die. The show includes debate over issues such as the Dream Act, minimum wage, gun control, abortion insurance bill, death penalty, mental health, teacher evaluations, taxing e-cigarettes and the supplemental budget. Plus, a quick wrap-up of several of the bills that passed this year. Watch the show below:

2014 Roundup: What bills passed, what didn’t pass during session

By | March 14, 2014 | 0 Comments

The Washington State Legislature adjourned shortly before midnight on Thursday, the final day of the regular 2014 session. It’s the first time since 2009 that lawmakers finished their work without going into an overtime special session.

Here’s an overview of what lawmakers accomplished — and didn’t accomplish — during the session.

PASSED:

Supplemental budget: Both chambers agreed on a supplemental operating budget that spends about $155 million, including $58 for K-12 books and supplies. It also adds additional money to the mental health system, early learning and prisons. It does not include any new taxes or tax breaks, nor does it include teacher pay raises.

Dream Act/Real Hope Act: The Dream Act allows undocumented immigrants to apply for state need grants to help pay for college. The House passed its version of the Dream Act on opening day. The Senate renamed it the Real Hope Act and added $5 million to the state need grant. It was signed into law by Gov. Jay Inslee in February.

Homeless fees: As part of a last-minute deal, lawmakers agreed to extend until 2019 a $40 document recording fee that people pay during real estate transaction, such as buying or refinancing a house. The fee supports homeless shelters, affordable housing and other services and was scheduled to sunset unless the Legislature took action.

24 credit diploma: Starting with the class of 2019, high school students will have to earn 24 credits for a diploma. The current minimum is 20 credits, although some school districts require more than the minimum. The bill will also provide more opportunities for students to take career and technical classes that meet graduation requirements.

Tanning beds ban: Teenagers under the age of 18 would no longer be allowed to use tanning beds in Washington. Senate Bill 6065 bans minors from using tanning beds, unless they have a written prescription for UV radiation treatment from a doctor. Tanning salons would be fined $250 for violations.

Domestic violence: Washington residents under domestic violence restraining orders will soon be barred from owning guns. The bill says that someone who is under a protection, no-contact, or restraining order related to domestic violence must surrender his or her guns to law enforcement.

Drones: The Legislature approved a bill that puts limits government agencies that use drones, or remote-controlled monitoring devices, for surveillance. An agency may only use a drone after getting a warrant or under several exceptions, such as a fire or other emergency.

Religious holidays: State employees will be allowed to take two unpaid days off a year for religious reasons, and public school children will be excused for two days under a bill approved by the Legislature.

Military in-state tuition: Veterans and active duty military members will soon qualify for in-state tuition at Washington colleges and universities without having to first establish residency. Senate Bill 5318 waives the one-year waiting period for veterans, military members and their families.

Short-barreled rifles: Washington gun owners will soon be allowed to own a short-barreled rifle under a bill approved by the Legislature. It is currently a felony to own a gun with a rifle with a barrel shorter than 16 inches, or to have a modified gun that is shorter than 26 inches overall. (more…)

Limits on government drones advances through Senate

By | March 7, 2014 | 0 Comments

The  Senate advanced a house bill that limits government agencies in their use of drones, remote-controlled monitoring devices, for surveillance, under a bill passed Friday evening.

Sen. Mike Padden, R-Spokane, said lawmakers weighed a variety of needs.

“We’ve been trying to protect as much as we can the rights of privacy of citizens of our state, and at the same time balance the legitimate needs of law enforcement,” he said.

Sen. Adam Kline, D- Seattle, also spoke in support of the bill.

“It balances the expectations of law enforcement and the rest of us,” Kline said. “This is where law enforcement meets the civil liberties of the citizens of the state of Washington.”

Sen. Jim Honeyford, R-Sunnyside, introduced and withdrew several amendments, including one that compels Santa Claus to follow Washington law on drones.

“This is how ridiculous I think this piece of legislation is,” Honeyford said, as he withdrew the Santa Claus amendment.

He said if something can be photographed via plane, it makes no sense to ban drones from taking the same photo.

According to HB 2789 an agency may only use a drone after getting a warrant or under several exceptions:

  • For a non-criminal emergency, such as a fire, with immediate danger of death or serious bodily injury.
  • For training or testing if no personal information is collected.
  • For emergency response during a  governor-declared state of emergency.
  • Environmental or wildlife monitoring or  assessment, when collection of personal data is unlikely.

The bill passed 46 to 1, with Honeyford as the sole vote no.

Categories: Criminal Justice, WA Senate
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Domestic violence gun restriction heads to governor’s desk

By | March 7, 2014 | 0 Comments

Washington residents under domestic violence restraining orders would be barred from having guns, under a bill that passed out of the Legislature and is heading to Gov. Jay Inslee‘s desk.

HB 1840 passed unanimously out of the Senate Thursday night, after senators said that concerns about infringing on Constitutional rights had been addressed.

“There’s due process in this,” said Sen. Mike Padden, R-Spokane. “There has to be a notice, there has to be a hearing and the judge would have to find that the individual whose guns could be removed was a credible threat.”

The bill says that someone who is under a protection, no-contact, or restraining order related to domestic violence must surrender his or her guns to law enforcement. The bill says the person would have to surrender a concealed pistol license while under the order. The bill also prohibits someone under such an order from obtaining a firearm or a concealed pistol license.

Padden said the bill would also increase the safety of police officers responding to domestic violence protection order violations, and that the National Rifle Association had no objection to the bill.

Sen. Marko Liias, D-Mukilteo, said the bill would also help friends and family of victims of domestic violence, such as one of his constituents whose cared for her mother as the mother recovered from being injured by a domestic violence attack.

Ÿ”She was afraid every day that the partner would show up and perpetrate violence against her family or her mother,” Liias said.

On ‘Legislative Review:’ Death penalty hearing, supplemental budget proposals

By | February 27, 2014 | 0 Comments

On Wednesday’s edition of “Legislative Review,” several family members of murder victims testified at a Senate committee on a bill that would require death penalty cases to go through the state Clemency and Pardons Board process before the governor could issue a reprieve. It was brought in response to Gov. Jay Inslee‘s moratorium on executions while he’s governor.

We also have details on the supplemental budget proposal from House Democrats, as well as public testimony on the Senate’s supplemental budget proposal. Watch the show below:

Categories: Budget, Criminal Justice

House committee passes bill that targets shaved keys

By | February 26, 2014 | 0 Comments

One of thieves’ favorite tools, shaved keys, is getting scrutiny from Washington lawmakers.

The House Public Safety Committee voted to pass Senate Bill 6010 out of committee on Wednesday. The bill would ban the possession of shaved keys, which are altered to fit locks apart from their intended one.

Rep. Roger Goodman, D-Kirklandadded an amendment to the bill that requires police to find intent to commit a crime before convicting someone who makes, mends or possesses up to 10 shaved keys.

Supporters of the original bill, including Rep. Brad Klippert, R- Kennewick, argued the only purpose of the key is for criminal activity, making it worthy of a misdemeanor.

Mark Marsh with the Edmonds Police Department agreed.

“We come into contact almost daily with people who have shaved keys. Never do they have a legitimate reason to have them. The only reason to have shaved keys is to steal a car, pure and simple,” said Marsh.

The majority of committee members disapproved of original bill that would make having a key the sole grounds for an arrest, but support the amended version that makes intent a part of the arrest process.

Rep. Jeff Holy, R-Cheney, called the original legislation “a liability bill.” Holy said it has potential to not only make wrongful convictions, but it would also give police too much discretion.

In 2012, more than 3,500 motor vehicle thefts were reported in Seattle and there were about 1,900 motor vehicle thefts in Tacoma, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigations.

On ‘Legislative Review:’ Proposal for K-12 funding, prison college courses and crowdfunding

By | February 26, 2014 | 0 Comments

On Tuesday’s edition of “Legislative Review,” we cover a proposal by Senate Democrats to close tax breaks to raise money for education. We also have details on a bill to allow some prison inmates to take state-funded college courses, and another measure that would let Washington entrepreneurs raise money through crowdsourcing.

Watch the show below:

Anti-harassment bill would make it harder for prisoners to sue their victims

By | February 21, 2014 | 0 Comments

Criminals may soon face additional hurdles if they attempt to sue their victims from behind bars.

Senate Bill 2102 would require prisoners convicted of serious violent offenses to get court approval before filing lawsuits against their victim or the victim’s family. If the prisoner files a lawsuit without a judge’s approval, he or she would lose a chance of an early release.

The prime sponsor, Rep. David Sawyer, D-Tacoma, is pushing the bill after his friend was sued by the man who killed her husband.

In 1995, Paula Henry’s husband was murdered by his former business partner, Lawrence Shandola. Six years later, Shandola was sentenced to more than three decades in prison. But locking him up didn’t stop him from harassing Henry.

During tearful testimony at a previous House committee, Henry shared her experience of being stalked and sued by the criminal for about five years.

“All of the sudden a stranger knocks on the door and I thought it might be the cable guy or something. He throws all of these papers at me and the papers said you’re being sued by the man who blew my husband’s head off,” she said.

Now, she wants to make sure other victims do not suffer. Sawyer said Henry did not testify at Friday’s Senate committee because it was too upsetting to revisit the experience.

However, bill critics such as the American Civil Liberties Union said a system already exists to filter out frivolous lawsuits.

Greg Link with the Washington Defenders Association said at Friday’s Senate committee hearing that Henry’s situation is rare, and it does not justify the bill.

He added that it punishes criminals for actions outside of their original crime and prison behavior, straying from the structure of the Sentencing Reform Act. The act seeks to ensure that the punishment for a criminal offense is proportionate to the seriousness of the offense and the criminal’s history.

“It creates more holes than it fills,” said Link.

The bill unanimously passed out of the House. The Senate Law and Justice Committee took no action on the bill Friday.

Senate debates charging defendants for public defense

By | February 17, 2014 | 0 Comments

Criminal defendants with assets would have to pay a portion of their public defender costs, under a bill passed by the Senate.

Currently, those costs are covered by cities and counties who pay for attorneys for those who can’t afford it, and bill supporters say that is becoming a burden on cities and counties. SB 5020 would allow a defendant’s assets to be taken into consideration when determining whether he or she qualifies for a public defender.

Sen. Adam Kline (D-Seattle)

Sen. Tim Sheldon (D-Potlatch)

Sen. Adam Kline (D-Seattle) argued that asking defendants to include their assets as part of the determination would violate the sixth amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which guarantees the right to being represented by an attorney in a criminal court matter.

“When we include in the categorization of people people who can afford to pay for their lawyer folks that are earning at the bottom — 125 percent of the federal poverty level — then we have a problem. We are burdening the exercise of a very important constitutional right,” he said.

However, Bill sponsor Sen. Tim Sheldon (D-Potlatch) argued the bill would enable the courts to increase the number of people who get public defenders.

“By requiring individuals to partially or fully pay for their defense when they can afford it we are providing more money for people to have a defense that do not afford it,” he said. 

The bill passed 27-20, and will go to the House for consideration.

Categories: Courts, Criminal Justice

House passes involuntary mental health treatment bill

By | February 14, 2014 | 0 Comments

Doug and Nancy Reuter, whose son Joel died in a shootout with Seattle police, were on hand Friday to see the House of Representatives pass a bill that would allow the families of those with mental illness seek help for their loved ones through the courts.

HB 2725 would allow immediate families to ask the courts to commit or treat a person with mental illness involuntarily.

Joel Reuter

The family and friends of Joel Reuter, who had bipolar disorder, tried to get him help when his behavior became erratic, but were told repeatedly by authorities that his behavior never rose to the level of involuntary commitment.

“Joel needed to be involuntarily committed because he didn’t know that he was slipping into psychosis. But his family members knew. His parents knew, his friends knew,” said Rep. Jay Rodne (R-North Bend), on the House floor.

“We can not not afford to put this bill into law because it will save lives and early intervention will spare the tragedy that Joel and his family underwent,” Rodne said.

“This bill gives families one more option, one that I believe they need,” said bill sponsor Rep. Eileen Cody (D-West Seattle). “I am hoping this will give families one more option and prevent tragedies.”

Under the current involuntary treatment law, a designated mental health professional must sign off to commit someone involuntarily. The patient must be at grave risk to oneself or others, either through threatening to harm someone or oneself, or through becoming unable to take care of one’s basic needs.

House bill 2725 would allow immediate family members to petition the courts if the patient is denied involuntary commitment by the mental health professional. The courts can review denials and could  reverse the decision, taking the family’s testimony into account.

Friends and family of people with mental illnesses testified to being unable to help with their loved ones’ erratic and dangerous behaviors.

However, a House committee also received testimony against the bill earlier this month, that the bill would burden the already overcrowded system and wouldn’t help with capacity issues.

Republicans react to Governor’s decision to suspend death penalty

By | February 12, 2014 | 0 Comments

Republican lawmakers Wednesday criticized Gov. Jay Inslee for suspending the death penalty, saying it is a “misuse of power.”

Inslee announced he is imposing a moratorium on capital punishment while he’s in office, citing a flawed and expensive system.

Rep. Jay Rodne, Sen. Steve O'ban and Sen. Kirk Pearson (left to right)

Sen. Steve O’Ban, R-University Place, Rep. Jay Rodne, R-North Bend, and Sen. Kirk Pearson, R-Monroe called a press conference on Wednesday to respond to the governor’s decision.

The Republicans said the governor went around lawmakers by ignoring previous bills to end the death penalty that have stalled in the Legislature.

Rodne also took issue with the governor’s reasoning that suspending death penalties will save the state money. Since the moratorium only lasts while the governor is in office, Rodne said prosecutors will still pursue death penalty cases and the costly appeals process will not stop.

Rodne said issuing executive action over legislation is “cruel” to the inmates on death row because a future governor could reverse the policy, which would draw out the process.

Focusing on the families of victims impacted by the moratorium, O’ban said the decision robs loved ones of deserved justice.

He pointed out three offenders from Pierce County, Cecil Emile DavisAllen Eugene Gregory and Robert Lee Yates Jr., who will not face execution, as of yesterday. Women were murdered in all three of the cases.

“Part of capital punishment is to bring closure to families. I really hurt for them,” added Pearson.

Gov. Jay Inslee imposes moratorium on the death penalty

By | February 11, 2014 | 0 Comments

Gov. Jay Inslee announced Tuesday he is imposing a moratorium on the death penalty in Washington state while he is governor, saying there are “too many doubts” about capital punishment.

“There are too many flaws in the system today,” he said. “When the ultimate decision is death, there is too much at stake to accept an imperfect system.”

Gov. Jay Inslee speaks to reporters Tuesday

Inslee said he came to the decision after months of studying the issue and touring the death chamber at Walla Walla State Penitentiary, where nine men are currently on death row. Inmates in the state are executed by lethal injection or hanging.

Inslee said he will issue a reprieve if a death warrant comes across his desk while he is governor. It would not commute the sentence or pardon the offender.

“Those on death row will remain in prison for the rest of their lives. No one is getting out of prison, period,” he said.

Inslee acknowledged that the reprieve could be reversed by future governors. He said he chose a “relatively restrained use of executive power” so that the state could continue the conversation about the death penalty.

Washington’s Constitution grants the governor the ability to issue reprieves or stays of execution. Attorney General Bob Ferguson confirmed Tuesday the “governor has the authority to hit the ‘pause’ button for executions in Washington.”

The governor said he spoke with the family members of the murder victims as recently as Monday. “In the course of one day, I heard different things from different families,” Inslee said. Some were disappointed, while others told the governor that the death penalty appeals process is a source of constant anxiety.

“It’s a hard decision given what it means to everyone in the state, and I’m comfortable that it is the right decision,” Inslee said.

Republican Rep. Jay Rodne sits on the House Judiciary Committee, and issued a statement Tuesday saying the governor’s decision comes at the “expense of victims of violent crimes and their families.”

“This must be a difficult day for these families as they are confronted with the reality that the governor cares more about a few convicted killers than justice for their loved ones. It’s unfortunate and prolongs the closure they deserve,” Rodne said.

Most recently, Cal Brown was executed in 2010. The next execution is expected to be Jonathan Lee Gentry, who is on death row for the murder of 12-year-old Cassie Holden. The Washington Supreme Court rejected Gentry’s petition for release last month.

Watch TVW video of Tuesday’s press conference here.

On ‘Legislative Review:’ Senate floor action, DUI bills and liquor taxes

By | February 11, 2014 | 0 Comments

On Monday’s edition of “Legislative Review,” we cover a handful of bills passed off the Senate floor, including one that asks the U.S. Congress to update the 1996 Communications Decency Act. Supporters say the act needs to be updated to prevent child sex trafficking on escort websites.

Plus, we have details about four DUI bills considered in the Senate budget writing committee. And the owners of former state-owned liquor stores ask lawmakers to eliminate a 17 percent fee that they say is driving them out of business. Watch the show below:

On ‘Legislative Review:’ Cough syrup abuse, faith healing and a fuel tax break

By | February 7, 2014 | 0 Comments

On Thursday’s edition of “Legislative Review,” we have details about a bill that would make it harder for anyone under the age of 18 to buy cough syrup. Experts say kids are drinking of certain types of cough syrup to get high. Store clerks would be required to check IDs for anyone buying the cold medicine.

We also have highlights from a discussion about a bill that deals with faith healing. It was brought in response to the case of Zachery Swezey, who was 17 when he died of a ruptured appendix. His parents prayed for him to heal instead of taking him to an emergency room.

Plus, details about a bill that would close a fuel tax break to pay for schools. Watch the show below:

 

Categories: Criminal Justice, tax

On ‘Legislative Review:’ Minimum wage debate, teacher COLAs and felony DUIs

By | February 5, 2014 | 0 Comments

On Tuesday’s edition of “Legislative Review,” we have highlights from the minimum wage debate in a House committee. Lawmakers are considering a proposal that would raise the state’s minimum wage to $12 an hour by 2017.

In the second segment of the show, we have details from a hearing on a bill that would restore the cost-of-living pay raise promised to teachers and other public school employees. Voters approved an initiative granting the pay raises to teachers in 2000, but the initiative has been suspended four times during the recession. Lawmakers are considering a bill to restore the money.

And finally, we have details on a bill that would increase penalties for a felony DUI conviction. Watch the show below:

Bill proposes harsher penalties for felony DUI

By | February 4, 2014 | 0 Comments

Lawmakers Tuesday considered doubling the possible penalties for felony driving under the influence. Prosecutors say some are at risk for reoffense without community supervision. Driving under the influence becomes a Class C felony on the fifth offense in Washington.

Rep. Brad Klippert (R-Kennewick)

HB 2506 sponsored by Rep. Brad Klippert (R-Kennewick) would make it a more serious Class B felony instead.

“These people are getting out after serving their time, and there is no supervision whatsoever. And when they are not under supervision, they are simply getting intoxicated, and getting behind the wheel again and committing the same old crime over and over again,” he said. 

A Class B felony has a penalty of 10 years in prison and a fine of $20,000. The bill doesn’t change the seriousness of the crime, but gives law enforcement the ability to add community supervision on top of a prison sentence, says Amy Friedheim, a prosecutor in King County.

“It’s allowing us now to give them the 12 months of community supervision,” she said. “They are using up their entire statutory maximum in the DOC (Department of Corrections). And they are not getting any kind of community custody afterward.”

The bill also applies to people who drive with marijuana in their system with a THC concentration of 5.0, which is the legal limit set by Initiative 502. Medical marijuana advocate John Novak says many patients exceed that level with their medications.

“I get to the point where I can drive. I rely on cannabis to be honest with you. And this has been proved by my doctors. They have never taken my driving license away because of the cannabis stopping the seizures to the degree that it has.”

Medical marijuana advocates say a DUI should be based on impairment, not on specific THC levels.

Rep. Sherry Appleton (D-Pouslbo)

Rep. Sherry Appleton (D-Poulsbo) wondered if legislators could impose the community supervision without putting DUI on the same level as other serious crimes.

“Alcoholism is a disease. And what if we raise this to a Class B felony? There is manslaughter, and assault and other things that gravely injure people, and it’s sort of the on the level with murder. And I am not inclined to go there,” she said. 

However, Friedheim said that Appleton’s suggestion is not possible under current Class C sentencing.

“There’s no legal way to give them any kind of supervision after they’ve reached their statutory max,” she said.

The House Public Safety Committee also heard several other bills relating to driving under the influence:

  • HB 2344 - Concerning ignition interlock device requirements in vehicle sales.
  • HB 2503 - Concerning the operation of a vessel under the influence of an intoxicant.
  • HB 2728 - Concerning impaired driving.
The committee also heard HB 2549, about sentence enhancement for attempting to elude a police; HB 2507  about increasing the punishment for vehicular homicide and HB 2705, which is about reserve peace officers.
TVW aired the proceedings. Watch the hearing in our archives.

Controversial DNA testing bill considered in Senate committee

By | January 31, 2014 | 0 Comments

Anyone arrested for a felony in Washington state would be required to submit a DNA sample under a controversial measure considered Friday in the Senate Law and Justice Committee.

Senate Bill 6314 would require police officers to collect DNA samples of all adults arrested for felonies and certain gross misdemeanors, except for drug offenses. Only qualified lab personnel would have access to the DNA records, and personal identifying information would not be stored in the database.

Prime sponsor, Sen. Jeannie Darneille, D-Tacoma, is pushing this bill after she had a change of heart.

She said that she was responsible for stopping a similar bill that was introduced in 2005 because she felt that the DNA collection process was a threat to civil liberties. Today, she sees it as a tool to to protect more women and children from crimes, prevent wrongful convictions and eliminate racial bias.

“We have the opportunity to solve more crimes with accuracy,” Darneille said.

A rape victim, Laura Niblack, testified in support of the bill.  She believes that this technology could have stopped her perpetrator before he raped her and his other 22 victims.

Opponents said that DNA has not been shown to improve public safety and voiced concerns that marginalized communities would be unfairly impacted.  Shankar Narayan with ACLU also said that the $600,000 that would be used to execute this bill could be better spent to help solve more crimes.

No action was taken at the hearing.

Parents call for stricter day care reviews in wake of baby’s death

By | January 16, 2014 | 0 Comments

When Amanda and Kyle Uphold’s baby girl died at a licensed day care facility in Seattle, it was ruled that the cause of death was sudden infant death syndrome, or SIDS.

However, the Department of Social and Health Services discovered that five-month-old Eve was left unattended in a basement hallway for more than an hour and swaddled on her back with a waterproof covering that was crumpled; both acts violate state child care laws.

Eve’s day care-provider was found negligent. And this wasn’t the first time a death occurred under the same provider’s watch.

Twelve years ago, Andy and Barbara Hazard lost their son in a similar situation and until they heard about the second death they did not know the same facility had prior violations.

The Upholds and Hazards shared their stories at an emotional hearing Thursday to support House Bill 2165. The bill would require Department of Early Learning to conduct a formal review when a child dies at a licensed day care facility. The fatality reviews would be accessible to the public within 180 days of the event. The bill also requires that that parents are notified in the case of a near fatality.

During tearful testimony Amanda Uphold said, “Knowledge is power. But only when we turn that knowledge into action to ensure our children are being cared for with the utmost regard for their safety.”

The bill’s prime sponsor, Rep. Ruth Kagi, D-Shoreline, said the goal is to hold early learning programs accountable and protect kids from preventable deaths.

The Department of Early Learning’s communications manager Amy Blondin said they already conduct informal reviews, but the bill would add structure and transparency to their work.

Opponents said the bill will not solve the issue.

Margo Logan, a day care consultant and former investigator with the Department of Social and Health Services, said that current laws need to be enforced and state managers should be held responsible. Logan said law enforcement officers should be involved in the fatality reviews, which she says should be done by an independent committee.

The committee did not take any action on the bill Thursday.