Sen. Wilson talks new legislation with Senior Advisory Commission

Wilson covered a range of topics such as new pursuit laws, incarceration recidivism, mental and behavioral health, and drug addiction issues.

The Federal Way Senior Advisory Commission held its “Senior Connections” event on June 5, hosting District 30 State Sen. Claire Wilson as the guest speaker.

Wilson covered a range of topics, but primarily focused on new pursuit laws, incarceration recidivism, mental and behavioral health, and drug addiction issues. Wilson emphasized the importance of providing resources and support to individuals reentering society from incarceration, addressing mental and behavioral health issues, and ensuring access to healthcare.

Wilson said although she recently shared highlights from the 2024 legislative session at the Federal Way City Council meeting, she didn’t want to repeat herself.

“But then we also have many other pieces of legislation that we do that go beyond just the requests of the council. And those things are things that are, I think, concerns to all of us. Things like public safety, crime, the cost of housing, housing stock, housing supplies, and things like that. But there are also things like healthcare, drug prices, housing costs, rent and rent stabilization, issues around property taxes,” Wilson said. “All those things that just go beyond what a council might not have a priority over, but really their sphere of influences around other kinds of things, but things that you and I worry about every single day.”

Wilson said she wanted to attend the meeting to gauge what could be done legislatively to lift up the seniors.

Wilson first spoke on the new pursuit law. She said that previously, police were pretty restricted in pursuing suspects, and although the Federal Way Police Department won’t completely repeal some of the limitations, it gives officers more freedom to pursue suspects.

“The biggest concern for the Legislature was what we were learning about was the collateral damage, and that is the other people that are the victims that are hurt by what happens when we have a vehicular pursuit,” Wilson said. “So, our biggest challenge and concern is how do we have a pursuit be the last choice instead of the first choice, and what else do we need to do, and how can we change our thoughts about policing to make sure that we’re doing the right thing and we’re holding people accountable, but we’re also using every tool and resource we have.”

The prior standard after police reforms in 2021 was that officers could only engage in a high-speed pursuit if they had reasonable suspicion that the suspect had committed or is committing one of a specific set of offenses involving violence, sex crimes, intoxicated driving, or trying to escape arrest. Under the new legislation, officers can now pursue if they believe a suspect has committed any crime.

Another topic Wilson hit on was recidivism, and she cited the low “gate money” that is given to inmates leaving prison as a reason why many prisoners would return to prison. She said before the new legislation, inmates received $40 upon leaving prison.

“$40 does not cut it. $40 just gets you in more trouble. And so I was able to do a bill called the gate money bill, and was able to think what the consumer price index is and how the inflation rate is,” Wilson said. “And so now, with individuals released, the current CPI is $300. $300 is enough to buy a new pair of pants, perhaps, a shirt so I can go get a job, a pair of shoes.”

Wilson added that many people leaving prison have been incarcerated for many years, so they’re walking into a whole new world. She said this is why many people are in encampments and homeless. She said she’s solution-focused, wants to solve current problems, and is willing to put in resources to help.

Wilson said in the 2008 recession, many safety nets that cared for people with mental and behavioral health issues and other issues around homelessness and housing went away, and as a Legislature, they never committed to supporting those safety nets. She said after the COVID-19 pandemic, those issues only worsened.

Wilson related this lack of support for mental and behavioral health to the drug and opioid crisis. She said powerful synthetic opioids have been a contributing factor to the growing of mental and behavioral health issues.

“The people you see bent over in the street, or who are almost like frozen in time, they’re suffering. They are suffering. We have to help, and we have to support. And, when someone is in crisis like that, to ask them to be drug-free before we provide service, it just can’t happen. It’s just not realistic,” Wilson said. “And so we continue to have to figure out ways where we can provide pathways and opportunities for individuals to have access to harm reduction and medically assisted treatment.”

Wilson said she wants to work with seniors to figure out what can be done.

“I ask every day when I meet with people, ‘What do you need and what do you want,’ and what I also say is, ‘I’ll meet with anybody, anybody.’ I meet with everybody,” Wilson said. “There’s not a soul I don’t meet with because I want to know. Because I am a senior, I mean, seriously, I am. I didn’t know there was this many people in a room like me. I’m telling you, I’m coming back. But no, but seriously, what can we do together?”