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Dear Friends and Neighbors,
The Washington State Supreme Court recently struck down our state's felony drug possession law. This means law enforcement cannot arrest someone who has a “personal use amount” of drugs in their possession. This sets a dangerous precedent and could result in the release of thousands of inmates back onto the streets or into a judicial system that is not designed to handle so many cases at once.
I will be joining my House Republican colleagues next week in proposing legislation to provide a fix for this overreach of the court so we can insert some common sense and balance back into our drug laws. Without this legislation, drug use – including hardcore drugs like heroin and fentanyl – may become more rampant, along with the property crimes associated with drug users desperate to pay for their next fix.
Last spring there was an increase in Spokane County property crimes with the release of thousands of inmates due to COVID. In addition, more detectives previously assigned to property crimes are now being pulled off those cases to help address the 186% increase in homicides in 2020. This puts further strain on our law enforcement at the exact moment thousands more inmates could flood our system. We need to address the court's ruling, but the majority party in Olympia has given no indication they intend to do so – at the expense of the safety of our families and communities.
Many of you have asked me about the governor's emergency powers and why he has so much power. This is another important issue that must be addressed before the 2021 legislative session adjourns. The Tacoma News Tribune published an editorial last week on why the governor's emergency powers need to be pulled back some. You can read that editorial here. Below is an excerpt:
The problem is that there's little appetite among Democrats to challenge Inslee. That's a shame. Power-sharing between the three branches of government shouldn't be a partisan issue.
In the long run, this isn't about whether you agree or disagree with a particular governor. It's about preserving a balanced, constitutionally sound government, where the public's voice is carried by the 147 representatives and senators they elect.
Automatically granting felons the right to vote is a bad idea
In my last email update to you, I mentioned House Bill 1078 which would automatically grant felons the right to vote after leaving correctional custody. This is a bad idea for many reasons. My colleague, Rep. Michelle Caldier, and I wrote an op-ed on why we think this bill is the wrong direction for our state. You can read that op-ed here. Below is an excerpt:
Currently, certain procedures are in place convicted felons may use to restore their voting rights in Washington state, including through court order, through a certificate of registration issued by the governor, through a final order of discharge issued by the state's Indeterminate Sentence Review Board, or a certificate of discharge issued by the sentencing court. Procedures are also in place to allow voting rights to be restored if felons are making a good-faith effort toward paying restitution and legal financial obligations. Released felons should be required to prove they are reformed before being allowed to vote, which is the purpose of these procedures. It should not be automatic.
This bill is offensive to every crime victim who has suffered under a felon's hands, and a slap in the face to every person and child assaulted and/or raped by a sex predator. When a person chooses to commit a felony — and yes, it is a choice — they choose to give up their freedoms. Restoring those freedoms should not come as easy as their choice to harm their victims.
Our voting rights are precious because they empower the people to decide the government of the people. Felons, especially sex offenders under lock and key, shouldn't automatically be empowered to vote and make the law for everyone else when they aren't willing to follow the law – which is why we vigorously oppose House Bill 1078 and encourage you tell your state lawmakers to do the same.
I continue to work hard on your behalf to keep our communities, cities and towns safe. My goal is to bring balance into our state justice system as we see so many proposals coming forward that attempt to shift that balance away from crime victims, seeking instead to favor the violent criminals. While this may be something citizens in Seattle want, it does not represent what I'm hearing from you.
Please feel free to contact me with your thoughts, opinions and concerns as we head into the last month or so of the legislative session. My office is here to serve you. And stay tuned for a post-session ZOOM townhall meeting and a resumption of my mobile office days where I'll make appearances around the district to meet with you.
It is an honor to represent you in Olympia.
435 John L. O'Brien Building | P.O. Box 40600 | Olympia, WA 98504-0600
(360) 786-7962 | Toll-free: (800) 562-6000