Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson has targeted national guard members, consumers and hardcore sexual predators in his 2014 wish list of bills for the Legislature.
Ferguson unveiled his legislative agenda Tuesday with four proposed bills for the 2014 legislative session, which begins Jan. 13. All of Ferguson's bills have pre-selected sponsors in both the House and Senate.
Former Attorney General Rob McKenna traditionally came up with a slate of bills to push each session. Last year, since Ferguson entered office just a few days prior to the legislative session, he pushed for only one bill, which addressed courthouse security. It passed.
Ferguson's first bill would guarantee that military service members ordered on duty by the governor — such as those in the Washington National Guard called up to fight forest fires — would receive the same legal protections as military members called up by the president. (Reserves, headed for Iraq, for example.) These state-related protections would include safeguards against evictions, lease disruptions and court case defaults — all hazards faced by service members called away from home.
Ferguson said that the state has received roughly 600 complaints about this type of matter in the past several months.
Another Ferguson bill would eliminate a requirement that the state pay attorney fees to the winner if the Attorney General's office loses a consumer protection case. Private attorneys already have this protection in these cases, but the state does not.
In 2011, McKenna pushed a similar bill, which died in both House and Senate committees in the face of corporate opposition. This time around, Rep. Jay Rodne, R-Issaquah, will sponsor the House version, while Sen. Jeannie Darnielle, D-Tacoma, will sponsor the Senate version. Whether it will survive the Legislature's push and pull remains to be seen.
The third bill would address violent sexual predators incarcerated on McNeill Island. Currently, Only 37 percent of McNeill's almost 300 sex-crime inmates participate in treatment for their compulsions and they don't have to participate in annual reviews of their treatment as a condition for their release. The proposed bill would require all inmates to go through those annual reviews before the state would pay for an expert to testify on an inmate's behalf. The bill would also improve the legal definition of "treatment" in these cases.
Ferguson's final priority is a bill that would require all state and local officials covered by the state's public records laws to undergo training on the subject.
In 2012, the state auditor found roughly 250 potential cases of local governments possibly violating state laws with inadequate advance notice of public meetings, inconsistent recording of minutes and elected officials informally reaching agreements in private — such as by email — instead of deliberating in public meetings.