If state Rep. Roger Goodman (D-Kirkland) had his way, Washington courts would have the discretion to order those convicted of vehicular homicide due to alcohol or drugs to pay child support to the victims' minor children. To prove it - much like he did with a similar bill last session - Goodman made it the basis for HB 1151.
But after a question-filled hearing Thursday in the Public Safety Committee - which Goodman chairs - the lawmaker tells Seattle Weekly it ain't going to happen. His effort has once again been futile.
"I think the bill's in trouble," he says. This despite the fact Goodman calls the effort one of "the most popular propels I've ever made," among his constituents.
Giving judges the discretion to order those convicted of vehicular homicide due to drugs or alcohol to pay child support sounds like a straightforward enough idea, and one that would be hard to argue against. And, as you'd expect, Goodman says no one is arguing with the fact drunk or drug-impaired drivers should be held responsible when they kill someone on the roadways. But the political system is rarely straightforward, and Goodman says enough technical questions emerged Thursday to effectively halt the bill in its tracks.
Specifically, among other things, fellow lawmakers wondered how come just drivers convicted of vehicular homicide due to drugs and alcohol were being singled out - why not all vehicular homicides? Questions were also raised about whether or not it was fair to punish impaired drivers who killed someone with kids more than an impaired driver who killed someone without a child. And all of this is on top of questions about why the civil damages and Crime Victims Compensation Fund payments that victims of vehicular homicide can already pursue aren't enough.
In all, Goodman says it equates to more questions than the bill can overcome.
"It's always painful to see one of your bills die," says Goodman.
It's not the first time it's happened, however. Goodman attempted to champion a similar bill last legislative session, and it died in the Senate - thanks in large part to many of the same questions being raised. So why did Goodman try again, especially given the fact he admits that "lurking in the back of my mind were all these questions?"
Goodman says he's never received a "more positive outpouring" in support of a bill he's proposed during his time in Olympia, and that by focusing on drunk driving he's simply going after one of the greatest causes of harm in our society. He says he's also been inspired to action by the death of former Microsoft employee Steve Lacey, who was killed in a drunk driving accident in 2011.
"Although it seems like a good idea, fostering justice, and making a family whole again," says Goodman of his doomed effort, "I don't see a clear path" for the bill's passage.
So goes life in Olympia.