By the time you read this, the state of Washington will have changed.
The Washington State Legislature was busy this year, passing hundreds of pieces of legislation. And the vast majority of these laws are taking effect today.
And there was more to the session than budgetwrangling and legalizing same-sex marriage. There were bills that made life harder for metal thieves and human traffickers, that gave tax incentives to filmmakers, that implemented the federal health care overhaul.
And though that took longer than the allotted 60 days (it actually took another 30-day special session, and eight hours of a second special session to hammer out a deal), the legislative meat grinder churned out plenty of paper for Gov. Chris Gregoire to sign.
Here are four laws that are going to change the way things are done in Washington.
It took the deaths of two cops in Western Washington to spur the development of a warning system designed to apprehend those who harm police and firefighters.
In 2011, Rep. Mike Hope, R-Lake Stevens, who is also a Seattle police officer, proposed a bill establishing a statewide Blue Alert system after a colleague of his was killed in a drive-by shooting. The bill languished through much of that year’s session.
Then, in 2012, a state park ranger and state trooper were killed two months apart.
“Without question, Trooper Tony [Radulescu’s] death definitely brought it back to the forefront,” Hope says.
The new program is similar to AMBER Alert, a longstanding protocol of getting the word out about children who have possibly been abducted. A Blue Alert would broadcast to the public and police agencies information about a person suspected of killing or injuring a police officer or firefighter.
In the House and Senate, the bill passed unanimously. Scott Stephens, interim police chief of the Spokane Police Department, which had its last line-of-duty death in the 1980s, embraced the law.
“The Blue Alert program,” Stephens says, “will provide the sort of quick information dissemination needed.”
An End to Impersonation
Spokane Mayor David Condon. Spokesman-Review columnist Doug Clark.
What do these men have in common? Fake Twitter accounts dedicated to aping them, day in and day out (see p. 32). And while their impersonators make clear that they are just phonies having a few laughs, a new bill would give people the grounds to sue impersonators on social media sites.
“It’s an issue in this day and age, and the law ends up having to catch up with the culture,” says Rep. Timm Ormsby, D-Spokane, who cosponsored the bill. “Cyberspace being what it is, we needed to make some adjustments to protect our constituents’ interest.”
Only New York and California have laws similar to Washington’s, which gives the impersonated grounds to sue their impersonators if they do harm to their reputation or body.
The law only applies to actions done on social media sites or online bulletin boards, and includes exemptions for impersonations done for parody or historical purposes. It passed both houses unanimously.
Election Disclosure and Contributions
Two bills championed by Rep. Andy Billig, D-Spokane, have beefed up laws relating to contributions for school board races and to campaign disclosure.
“In the last election, there were 17 races in this state for school board that exceeded the limits that would be implemented by this law,” Billig told the Legislature earlier this year.
One of those took place last year, when Sally Fullmer ran for Spokane school board and received a donation of over $6,300 from a supporter.
Now, donations to school board candidates are capped at $800 per person, under a law introduced by Billig.
His second proposal requires that any time a political committee supporting a ballot measure puts up an advertisement costing $1,000 or more, the ad must display the committee’s top five donors — if said donors have spent more than $700.
But while both these bills passed, they didn’t garner a ton of votes from their Republican colleagues.
“I think he was probably mainly involved in introducing [that bill] because of the one race in the Spokane school district,” says Sen. Mike Padden, R-Spokane Valley, who voted against both bills. “I didn’t see a problem there.”
Padden believes elections should be open to people who want to run in them, and that these laws don’t help.
“I think people ought to be able to get involved on a lot of these things,” he says.