Washington state legislators will assemble Jan. 9 for an action-packed session this year.
For one, it’s a “long” session, lasting 105 days through April 24. Lawmakers must negotiate the state’s biennial budget for 2023-2025. And major bills on drug possession, the housing crisis, police vehicular pursuits and a proposed ban on assault weapons (typically defined as semi-automatic firearms, such as an AR-15 style rifle) loom on the horizon.
Locally, District 30 Rep. Kristine Reeves will be sworn into office on Jan. 9. She succeeds Rep. Jesse Johnson, who was elected in 2020 and declined to run for a second term. Reeves previously served in the same position in the two terms immediately preceding Johnson’s, winning election in 2016 and 2018.
Lawmakers have also been hard at work pre-filing bills to be considered, and those bills give insight into each representative or senator’s priorities. Here’s what local legislators (District 30, greater Federal Way area) have filed so far.
SB 5114, sponsored by Human Services Committee Chair Sen. Claire Wilson, aims to “create a network of healing, support, and transition services for adults with lived experience of sex trafficking.” That includes anyone 18 or older who has been forced or coerced into performing a commercial sex act.
The bill would partner with nonprofit and community organizations and set up support centers around the state to help people directly affected with sex trafficking. The services would include support for housing, substance use disorders, mental and behavioral health, education and job training, legal advocacy, emergency financial support and safety. At least one service provider would be set up on the east side of the state, and another on the west side, according to the text of the bill.
The goal of the bill isn’t to punish those people for their situation, but to help give them a pathway out, Wilson said in a phone interview.
“The focus of this legislation is to support individuals who have experienced, or are experiencing sex trafficking, or work in the sex trade, and have an interest in being in a supportive environment, where they may make … a pathway out of sex trafficking,” Wilson said. “We know (that) especially younger folks, brought in as children, have less of an opportunity and are in the situation a much longer period of time. … It’s not about criminalizing or victimizing further. It’s about providing safe spaces and the resources necessary for an individual to be able to make the choice.”
Wilson also plans to push for legislation boosting services and financial support for people getting out of prison (SB 5134), shielding some of the money given to inmates from the outside for commissary purchases from the deductions normally required by the Department of Corrections (SB 5131), limiting the situations where detainees can be placed in solitary confinement (SB 5135) and clarifying some exemptions to public records requests of school districts (SB 5127).
The other big-ticket item ahead involves the future of the former Weyerhaeuser headquarters, which the state could repurpose it into a public services building with dedicated space for education, workforce training, economic development and nonprofits. Wilson secured a planning grant for the building last session and will seek to continue that work this year.
Rep. Jamila Taylor, vice chair of the Housing Committee and elected to serve as the House Majority Caucus vice chair, has pre-filed three bills: HB 1080, concerning body-worn cameras; HB 1038, concerning anesthesiologist assistants; and HB 1102 on pro-tem judges.
HB 1080 would allow law enforcement agencies to provide unredacted copies of body cam recordings to defense attorneys, if their defendant would otherwise by entitled to an unredacted copy because of the legal discovery process. The defense attorneys would need to sign an agreement to maintain exclusive custody of the recording, to use it only for the criminal case at hand, and to treat it as confidential under the law. The attorney could make a redacted copy available for the defendant, and grant unredacted copies to expert witnesses and investigators.
“This bill was a request by the City of Kent to reduce the costs associated with providing body-worn camera recordings to defense attorneys,” Taylor said in an email, “and to potentially expedite the of resolution of many criminal cases.”
HB 1038, meanwhile, would create a licensing system for aspiring anesthesiologist assistants to improve workforce shortages in health care. Aspiring anesthesiologist assistants would need to complete a program and pass an examination, and would be able to obtain a temporary license if they accomplish the former before finishing the latter. It would also limit anesthesiologists to only supervise up to four assistants at a time.
“The medical and behavioral health industries are facing an acute workforce shortage,” Taylor said. “I introduced HB 1038 to allow licensing of anesthesiologist assistants in our state to help patients get better and faster access to surgical care.”
HB 1102, by request of the Administrative Office of the Courts, would allow retired judges and justices to receive the same compensation as practicing attorneys do when they serve as a judge pro tempore (substitute) during a trial. Under the law currently, retired judges and justices can only receive 60 percent of the amount judge pro tempores normally receive. Retired judges and justices could still choose to decline compensation, if they wanted.
Rep. Reeves has pre-filed HB 1120, which aims to require insurance producers to “act in the best interest of the consumer” when recommending annuities and to require insurers to supervise recommendations to make sure consumers’ insurance needs and financial goals are effectively addressed.