Dear Friends and Neighbors,
We are spending long hours on the House floor, including late into the evening several nights this week. The cycle of “briefing, debating and voting on legislation” continues over each series of bills the majority party allows to the floor for a full vote. I wanted to inform you of a few bills that I have concerns about.
Reducing penalties for intentionally infecting someone with HIV
House Bill 1551 reduces the intentional transmission of HIV from assault in the First Degree to a misdemeanor or gross misdemeanor, essentially about the same penalty as stealing a candy bar or shoving someone. However, in criminal law, it's the intent that matters. Weapons are weapons, regardless of their ability to cause harm. If someone intends to cause great bodily harm with a disease, they should be punished accordingly.
The measure also has a “parental rights” component to it. The bill would allow a minor of 14 years of age or older to give consent to treatment to avoid HIV infection WITHOUT a parent or guardian's consent. If you have a 14-year-old child, I believe you – the parent – should be involved in their health care decisions, especially something like HIV. I am deeply concerned about the continuing push back against parental rights here in our state. The bill passed the House 57-40 with no Republican support. While the floor debate was very long and included several amendments, you can watch my floor speech on final passage here. You can listen to my radio interview with KONA and Robb Francis, here.
Sex education for kindergartners and first-graders?
Senate Bill 5395 requires sex education in ALL grades (K-12). The bill passed the Senate with no Republican support and has a public hearing in the House Education Committee on Feb. 20 at 8 a.m. The bill mandates “age appropriate” sex education in all grades, starting in kindergarten. But who determines “age appropriate”? What the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) deems age appropriate may not align with a community in eastern Washington or a school district in the Tri-Cities region.
Proponents of this bill also like to say that parents can still opt out their kids. But this just ostracizes children at a very difficult time in their development. In addition, the curriculum includes intense focus on gender identity, sexual orientation and other sensitive issues best left for parents, schools and local communities to discern what they deem to be sufficient teaching. In this case, “local control” is very important.
I can say that I haven't received a ton of phone calls or emails from my constituents demanding sex education be taught to five- and six-year-olds. The reason and motivation for this legislation is not clear. Some believe this is further indoctrination of our children and another blow to parental involvement and parental rights. I'm not sure I can disagree with that thought.
If you are concerned about this bill, please click here for information on how you can contact members of the House Education Committee. Email or call them to let them know what you think.
Telephone town hall
We will hold our 9th Legislative District telephone town hall on Tuesday, Feb. 25 from 6-7 p.m. If you have a land line, you should receive an invitation phone call from our automated system. However, if you don't have a land line and would still like to participate, you can call (509) 253-8513 beginning at 5:00 p.m. on the day of the event. I hope you can join us as our telephone town halls allow us to reach so many of you within the comfort and convenience of your own home.
Thank you for staying involved and for allowing me to serve you in Olympia.