Dear Friends and Neighbors,
This second week of the 2016 legislative session was an interesting one. Monday was Martin Luther King Day where his legacy and life were honored on the House floor with speeches. We had the annual March for Life rally which attracted a huge crowd at the Capitol steps. We had Potato Day, where staffers, lobbyists, legislators and visitors are treated to a free baked potato with all the fixings, courtesy of the Washington State Potato Commission. And there were several “gun bills” heard in a the House Judiciary Committee which brought out advocates and concerned citizens on both sides of this issue. I'm continually amazed at the public's involvement in our form of government. It's exciting to see and be a part of.
Department of Corrections releases inmates too soon
Last month we became aware that the Department of Corrections had released as many as 3,200 prisoners early since 2002 because a software coding error miscalculated sentences. Two deaths have already been tied to this early release. The department knew about the glitch in 2012, but lawmakers were just informed last month. A fix to the computer system is expected soon, but we need to hold state agencies accountable for these types of situations. The investigation continues as we hope to get some answers as to how this could possibly happen over such a long period of time.
Here is an article in today's Seattle Times with more details. The Senate has taken the extraordinary step of using its subpoena powers to get further information from DOC and the governor's office. It will be interesting to see what comes out when all is said and done.
Human Rights Commission's transgender ruling
Last month the Washington State Human Rights Commission ruled that bathroom, shower and locker room use in public buildings be based on gender “identity” not gender “anatomy.” That means if a man “identifies” as a woman, he is allowed to use the women's restroom or locker room.
I am very concerned about potential abuses of the system and to our most vulnerable citizens – children, the disabled and seniors. The rights of everyone need to be considered, including the right to privacy, and the Human Rights Commission failed to do this. While there is legislation being worked on to repeal or amend the rule, however the chair of the House Judiciary Committee has said she will not allow any bill to be heard on this issue. So much for allowing the people to have a voice.
I'm also concerned about the way the commission went about establishing this new rule. It appears they may have violated state law. I'll keep you updated on this issue throughout session.
The Second Amendment
I am continually contacted by folks back home about guns. While the vast majority of those communications are in support of the Second Amendment, I do get some from folks who want to see increased restrictions on gun ownership. They usually include the words “we have to do something” somewhere in the e-mail, phone message or letter.
While the president and our governor decided on “doing something” via executive orders, the fact remains: according to the FBI's own yearly statistical analysis, violent crime and homicides committed with a firearm continue to decline. This has been a decade long trend. In the last few years we have a record amount of firearms being purchased for protection, while violent crime and homicides decline.
The gun legislation in Olympia ranges from placing more taxes on guns and ammo purchases, to giving local jurisdictions more ability to restrict firearms, to the liberal progressive favorite of banning so-called “assault” rifles and high-capacity magazines.
I have been – and will continue to be – a supporter or the Second Amendment. I review every proposal that comes in front of me and I consider it based on how it impacts our Second Amendment rights. I will continue to support the Second Amendment.
Great Spokane Incorporated
I had the honor of speaking to GSI (Greater Spokane Incorporated) this week. They were on their annual visit to Olympia to meet with legislators and discuss issue important to them. It was a good discussion. I'm very happy with the work this organization does to help create a jobs-friendly climate for the entire Inland Northwest.
Thanks for reading my e-newsletter and for staying involved in your state government.