Washington State Capitol Building in Olympia. 	File photo

Washington State Capitol Building in Olympia. File photo

Bills to follow in the 2021 Legislative session include police reform

It’s legislation filing season, and the floodgates have opened in Olympia.

After a year unlike any other in living memory, Washington state’s Legislature will reconvene in January, and already there’s been a number of significant bills filed.

This newspaper gave the pre-filing docket a look and outlined some bills that may be of interest to readers.

A number of bills deal with policing, including the expansive HB 1054, sponsored by Reps. Jesse Johnson (D-30th District) and Debra Entenman (D-47th District). The bill comes in the wake of nationwide protests last summer against police brutality following the killing of George Floyd, a Black man, by Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin.

Floyd’s death shocked the nation and spurred large protests in downtown Seattle as well as cities around King County, including in North Bend.

The bill would prohibit police officers from using chokeholds or neck restraints as well as unleashing their K-9 dogs to arrest or apprehend someone. Additionally, police would not be allowed to own or use tear gas, and military equipment would need to either be returned to the federal government or destroyed. This would include .50-caliber ammunition, machine guns and silencers, and armored vehicles, including ones like the mine-resistant armored vehicle owned by the Snoqualmie Police Department.

On top of this, the proposal would ban police from intentionally hiding their badge information, and would rewrite rules on when and how officers could pursue suspects in vehicles.

Another pair of bills dealing with law enforcement, HB 1000 and HB 1001, were filed by Reps. Jacquelin Maycumber (R-7th District) and John Lovick (D-44th District). The first would expand mental health support and suicide prevention efforts for law enforcement officers, and three pilot projects to address these issues. The second bill would help law enforcement agencies recruit and retain officers. These agencies should reflect the demographics of the communities they serve, the bill states, and having a diverse and community-oriented police force will improve community relations and increase effectiveness. It would create a grant program for local law enforcement agencies to increase diversity on their police forces.

Grow-your-own marijuana is also on the Legislature’s agenda thanks to HB 1019, sponsored by Reps. Shelley Kloba (D-1st District) and Drew MacEwen (R-35th District). The bill would allow adults older than 21 to grow up to six marijuana plants at home, with a limit of 15 plants at any given residence. Residents who choose to grow would not be able to sell or process their pot.

Several bills were filed seeking to limit the governor’s power. It’s maybe unsurprising as many members of the business community across the state have expressed displeasure at the COVID-related closures over the past year.

One piece of legislation filed by Sens. Mark Mullet (D-5th District) and Lynda Wilson (R-17th District) would require all gubernatorial emergency orders to get Legislative approval after 30 days. SB 5039 would include rolling shutdowns on businesses under Gov. Jay Inslee’s “Stay Safe, Stay Healthy” order, which has restricted the number of people allowed in stores and closed indoor dining to limit the spread of the coronavirus.

As of Dec. 30, no bills trying to limit the sale or possession of semi-automatic firearms or devices like 30-round magazines had been introduced. However, SB 5038, filed by Sens. Patty Kuderer (D-48th District) and Mona Das (D-47th District) would bar people from open carrying firearms and other weapons at or within 1,000 feet of demonstrations in public places. It would also prohibit people from open carrying firearms on State Capitol grounds. Violation of either provision would be a gross misdemeanor.

Guns, and consequent shootings, have been seen in Washington state and around the country this year, and armed protesters have squared off with each other. In early December, three people were arrested after a man was shot at a protest in Olympia.

On housing, SB 5043 would allow the board of directors of school districts to build housing for their employees. This would include houses, cottages, schoolhouses and multi-family housing.

Finally, a low-carbon fuel emission standard is sure to be a flashpoint in the 2021 session. A bill introduced by Reps. Joe Fitzgibbon (D-34th District) and Vandana Slatter (D-48th District) would push the state to adopt rules that reduce the amount of emissions from transportation fuels.

The state must reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 10% below 2017 levels by 2028, and 20% by 2035. The clean fuels program would need to begin by Jan. 1, 2023.


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