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Dear Friends and Neighbors,

This update contains information on three controversial policy bills making their way through the legislative process: police pursuit reform, the Blake “fix,” and a parental rights measure.

With just over three weeks to the finish, these bills and others that have survived the Legislature’s various deadlines will take center stage on the legislative agenda.

Restoring law enforcement’s ability to engage in vehicular pursuits is a top priority for many constituents, communities, and police chiefs across the state.

Background: In 2021, the majority party approved an extremely broad and damaging police tactics reform bill that, among other things, changed the threshold for police to engage in vehicle chases from reasonable suspicion to the more stringent probable cause.

That’s an important distinction. The new higher standard, which requires concrete evidence rather than the appearance or “suspicion” a crime is being committed, means seeing someone driving a stolen car doesn’t qualify for pursuit. If fact, in many cases, suspects can (and do) speed away.

  • Changes to the law have sparked soaring levels of crime, including car thefts and people fleeing police. In fact, a new report ranks Washington state third in the nation for auto theft, just behind California and Texas – which have significantly higher populations.
  • Even worse, it’s likely officers’ inability to engage in vehicle pursuits caused the death of 12-year-old Immaculee Goldade, killed in a hit-and-run crash by a man who had stolen a flatbed pickup truck.

This session, House Republicans sponsored House Bill 1363, which would allow pursuits for any crimes, assuming an officer had reasonable suspicion. That bill was not allowed to proceed.

Instead, the majority party has amended and moved Engrossed Senate Bill 5352 through the legislative process. Recently approved in committee by a vote of 7-2, the measure would loosen the restrictions on police, but it doesn’t go far enough.

  • Under the bill, a vehicle pursuit can occur if there is reasonable suspicion, but only for violent offenses, sex offenses, vehicular assault offenses, assault in the first-to-fourth degree involving domestic violence, an escape, or a driving-under-the-influence offense.
  • What’s next for this bill? The measure now sits in the Rules Committee awaiting scheduling by the majority party for debate and decision on the House floor. If that happens, I’d like to see the bill amended back to its original form and intent.

Another controversial measure, the Blake “fix,” Senate Bill 5536, is the majority party’s latest attempt to address the State v. Blake decision.

Background: In 2021, the Washington State Supreme Court ruled the state’s felony drug possession statute was unconstitutional. By invalidating the statute, the possession of hard drugs – like fentanyl, methamphetamines, and heroin – became legal in Washington state.

  • After the court’s ruling, the Legislature could (and should) have recriminalized drug possession. Instead, the majority party approved a bill making drug possession a misdemeanor after two pre-arrest “referrals” for substance abuse, then punted the bill for a “fix” down the road by sunsetting the law in July of this year.
  • Since the Blake decision and the lack of a substantive legislative response, constituents, law enforcement officials, and city leaders across that state have demanded change.

Introduced this session, Senate Bill 5536, sought to address this issue by making possession of fentanyl, cocaine, heroin, and methamphetamine a gross misdemeanor after three diversions.

However, in a 6-3 partisan vote this week, the House Community Safety, Justice and Reentry Committee amended the bill. The change would, again, treat drug possession as a simple misdemeanor.

  • What’s next for this bill? Like the police pursuit reform bill, it now sits in the Rules Committee awaiting scheduling for a vote by the House. If approved, it will be sent back to the Senate to concur on the amendments.

Watch my recent video update on Senate Bill 5599, the Blake “fix” measure, and police pursuit reform.

Engrossed Senate Bill 5599, a measure that would erode parental rights, seeks to exempt youth shelters from notification requirements if a child is seeking or receiving “gender-affirming” treatment or reproductive health care services.

Under current law, minors can already receive those services without parental knowledge or permission. However, proponents suggest this change is necessary to protect children in abusive households.

Unfortunately, the policy as written would separate even healthy, supportive parents from the healthcare choices of their minor children.

  • In committee, Republicans offered five amendments that would have improved the bill. The majority party rejected all five amendments.
  • Moms and dads providing safe, nurturing homes have the right to know where their minor children are. I’m concerned this bill would further break the family unit in our state.
  • Parental rights are protected under the U.S. Constitution. In fact, the Supreme Court has ruled multiple times the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment secures parental rights that would be eliminated under this bill. 

Click here to watch as I question testifiers before the committee about ESSB 5599.

  • What’s next for this bill? Referred to the Rules Committee, it’s likely the House will vote on the bill soon. Similar to the Blake “fix” bill noted above, if approved by the House, the measure will be sent back to the Senate to concur on the amendments.

Legislative Resources

  • My legislative website | My contact information, bio, news releases, email updates, videos, opinion pieces, bills, and other information.
  • Participating in the Process | Information about how you can participate in the legislative process
  • The Capitol Buzz | A weekday roundup of online news stories.  
  • The Current | An online legislative publication from the Washington House Republicans.
  • TVW | TVW broadcasts floor and committee action live online.
  • The Ledger | A legislative news aggregator.
  • Legislature’s website | Bill reports, committee agendas, and information about upcoming activities in the Legislature here.

Thank you!

Please contact me if you have questions about the bills noted above, the legislative process, or other important issues facing our communities and state.

It’s an honor to serve you!

Sincerely,


Jim Walsh

State Representative Jim Walsh, 19th Legislative District
RepresentativeJimWalsh.com
428 John L. O'Brien Building | P.O. Box 40600 | Olympia, WA 98504-0600
jim.walsh@leg.wa.gov
(360) 786-7806 | Toll-free: (800) 562-6000