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Some updates from our lobbyist

It’s been an exceptionally busy week-and-a-half. I hope to have a more detailed report this weekend, but thought I would send this status chart out to Executive Board members, Legislative Committee members, and those of you who I remember being more active. Please feel free to forward to others whom you believe may also be interested, or whom I forgot. Our combined effort significantly contributed to stopping SHB 1096 which would have changed discretionary sentencing of juveniles found to illegally possess a firearm into a mandate for detention. This despite evidence that deferral to community based programs is a frequently more effective way to encourage better future choices. Last Friday it looked like this bill was going to sail through the House. Four of us pulled members out to inform them of the problems created by the bill, sent emails, and encouraged activists from our organizations to do the same. Yesterday House members started telling us it looked like they no longer had support to bring the bill up for a vote. Based on the bill report, 22-76 juveniles who would have been put in detention, against the better judgement of the person hearing their case, will instead have the opportunity to benefit from family counseling, anger replacement therapy, restorative justice programs, or other evidence-based program. The public will also have between $1 million and $6 million to spend on something other than building new detention centers and paying additional people to guard the increased number of our children who would have gone to jail. Sadly, neither of the good bills to reduce gun violence passed. Yesterday it was announced the House had the votes to pass SHB 1588 to require background checks on all gun sales. After sitting for hours while nothing happened, everyone realized there actually was not a majority willing to vote yes on this bill. This is particularly frustrating as polling shows 78% electorate support. HB 1646, which might have done the most good of all three gun violence bills by encouraging increased use of lock boxes and trigger locks, did not even make it to through Rules. Another high point is that HB 1429–to support community college education in prisons–appears to still be alive; although, it will have to become a budgetary proviso to keep moving. Representative Seaquist’s office informs us the Speaker of the House has made a commitment to pass the bill as a proviso. Although there is question of the magnitude of the impact, and there seems to be many poorly designed studies of the issue, increased education appears to be one of the best predictors of reduced recidivism. The Washington Institute of Public Policy has determined state residents get a return of about $5,000/prisoner for each $1,000/prisoner spent on education. Other studies have shown a higher return the higher the education level; although, still other studies have shown no difference in the reduced recidivism/year of education (i.e. no difference whether getting a GED, High School Diploma, Vocational Tech training, or Post Secondary education). Both 1388 and 5064 have been cut off. There was fear that 1388–which we liked–would most likely be amended in the senate in ways that would make it unacceptable. It appears the 29 people currently in prison after being sentenced as juveniles to life without parole will have their sentences modified to require review for parole as a result of the the court ruling that precipitated the two bills, should neither bill pass and establish a different requirement. Based on the above, there did not seem to be anything lost if 1388 did not come to the House floor. Maintaining access to abortion by mandating coverage by insurance is now in the Senate. A mechanism exists to require all subscribers be provided access to abortion if the benefit is covered by an insurer; however, an insurer can decide, at present, to simply not sell policies that cover this procedure. It is believed that the mechanism established to respect the beliefs of those who object to abortion based on religion, especially employers, while protecting the choice of those who believe differently, mostly the aforementioned employers’ employees,  is so cumbersome and costly that insurance companies will choose to not cover any abortions unless required to do so. We had a great work session in the House Judiciary Committee on abolishing the death penalty. The goal of the event was to educate both the public and the legislature. I heard two different stories on KUOW built around the hearing. Although I did not check to see if TV stations picked it up, many cameras and reporters were present. Polling results show a majority in Washington continues to support the death penalty; however, virtually every lobbyist has a story about a legislator who modified his or her position after discussing the issue with them. Hopefully the coverage encouraged more in-depth consideration of the issue by the general public in preparation for the day the state will stop murdering people for murdering people. I confess to mostly writing up the issues listed for our Local Responses to Global Concerns Working Group and encouraging others to lobby their legislators. As most of the issues advocated by this group are still under consideration, and the majority from other two groups have been cut-off from further consideration, perhaps I should use this approach on all issues (jking). More later. Thank you each and every one for all you do to help actualize our Testimonies through legislated change. Peace, Steven
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