Policing, Crime & Courts

Three years after George Floyd's murder and the beginning of the pandemic, justice in the legal system continues to be one of the most popular topic of bills proposed to the Washington Legislature. Bills under consideration range from drug possession laws to gun regulations and regulation of Washington prisons

Learn more about the legislative agenda in these Crosscut stories:

In 2023, WA lawmakers will decide the legal future of drug possession

Q&A: Washington Governor Jay Inslee talks housing, guns, climate

Why you should pay attention to the 2023 Washington Legislature

The past (and possible future) of Washington state gun bills


WA SB 5128 Helping jury diversity

Senate Bill 5128, an addition to RCW Chapter 2.36, aims to make it easier for those in need to participate in jury duty, as well as for additional demographic information about jurors known prior to court. It would achieve the former by implementing child care assistance programs and higher pay for jurors who qualify for a “means-tested state-run benefit program.” The latter will be provided by the administrative office of the courts and presented to the governor — the information includes but is not limited to race, ethnicity, age, sex, employment status, educational attainment, and income. SB 5128 would also give jurors the ability to opt-in for emails regarding jury summons and related communications.

Status: Bill is moving forward, introduced in the Senate Jan. 9


WA SB 5055 Repealing a ban on private prison contracts

Senate Bill 5055 repeals a number of acts in chapter 72.395 of the RCW, which contained a ban on contracting with private prisons in the wake of The Geo Group v. Newsom. Filed by Sen. Mike Padden, R-Spokane Valley, this bill would effectively reinstate for-profit prisons in Washington, but is not expected to make much progress through the Legislature.

Status: Bill is moving forward, introduced in the Senate Jan. 9


WA SB 5032 Alternative sentencing for drug offenders

Senate Bill 5032, filed by Senators Mike Padden, R-Spokane Valley, and John Lovick D-Mill Creek, introduces a “special drug offender sentencing alternative” for people convicted of driving under the influence without prior convictions. These alternatives involve either a sentence equivalent at a prison-based alternative if the minimum sentence is greater than 24 months, or a “residential treatment-based alternative” if the minimum sentence is less than 24 months. Qualification would depends on a number of factors, including if the offender has a substance use disorder and if treatment for that disorder is available, as well as if the offender and their community would benefit from the alternative. 

Status: bill is moving forward, introduced in the Senate Jan. 9


WA SB 5022 Exempting fentanyl testing equipment from the definition of drug paraphernalia

Senate Bill 5022, filed by Senators Ron Muzzall, R-Oak Harbor, and Annette Cleveland, D-Vancouver, seeks to amend RCW 69.50.102 by exempting equipment designed to test the presence of fentanyl from being considered drug paraphernalia. 

Status: bill is moving forward, introduced in the Senate Jan. 9


WA SB 5009: Requiring parental or legal guardian approval before a child participates in comprehensive sexual health education

Senate Bill 5009 seeks to require the written consent of a parent or legal guardian of a grade school student before the student’s sex education instruction at a public school. Starting in the 2023-24 school year, this proposal would make comprehensive sex education instruction an opt-in instead of opt-out as it has been. 

Status: Introduced in the Senate Jan. 9


WA HB 1177: Creating a missing and murdered indigenous women and people cold case investigations unit

House Bill 1177 proposes a cold case investigations unit that works with law enforcement and specifically looks into cases of missing and murdered indigenous women and people. This unit would take advantage of existing tracking software used by law enforcement, as well as keep in close contact with the families of the victims. Native American women are murdered at 10 times the national average, according to a federal study.

Status: Introduced in the House Jan. 9


WA HB 1134: Implementing the 988 behavioral health crisis response and suicide prevention system

House Bill 1134 aims to implement a set of informational materials, phone contact centers and a social media campaign, around the 988 crisis hotline. The material will be tailored toward veterans, members of LGBTQIA+ communities and American Indian and Alaska Natives. Consulted groups will include tribal nations, the American Indian Health Commission of Washington state, the Native and Strong Lifeline, the Washington State Department of Veterans Affairs, and representatives of agricultural communities. Workers must be trained in suicide assessment, treatment and management, with content that takes into account recommendations from the crisis training and secondary trauma programs developed by the University of Washington. The bill also aims to support mobile rapid response crisis teams. 

Status: Introduced in the House Jan. 9


WA HB 1080: Concerning body worn cameras

House Bill 1080 amends Washington RCW 42.56.240, allowing unredacted footage from a body-worn camera to be provided to a defendant’s attorney, consulting witnesses, defense investigators or court under seal. These recordings are considered private and may not be published publicly — violations may lead to sanctions under civil or criminal court rules. The bill would also make any costs of redaction be paid by the requester. 

Status: Introduced in the House Jan. 9


WA HB 1036: Clergy child abuse reporting

House Bill 1036 serves as an amendment to RCW 26.44.020, clarifying the definition of “member of the clergy” regarding cases of child abuse, also making clergy members required to report cases of suspected child abuse. This does not apply to cases of religious confession, as clergy-penitent privilege still applies in those contexts. The bill is very specific, however, that in any other situation, a member of the clergy is obligated to report their suspicions. The bill also would make failing to report punishable up to 10 years after the crime is committed. 

Status: Introduced in the House Jan. 9


WA HB 1024: Labor and income of incarcerated persons

House Bill 1024 would eliminate the state court’s ability to force people serving prison sentences to pay for their cost of incarceration, regardless of their economic status. Additionally, the bill would eliminate the mandatory work requirement for incarcerated persons and calls for the Department of Corrections to issue an itemized report on the costs related to all incarcerated persons to the governor and the Legislature by October 2023. 

Status: Introduced in the House Jan. 9


WA SB 5002 Lower blood alcohol level for drunk driving

Senate Bill 5002 seeks to lower the breath or blood alcohol concentration limit required to be considered driving under the influence from 0.08 to 0.05 percent. A substitute was suggested by the Law & Justice Committee, amending sections of chapter 46.20 RCW to reflect the lowered percentage, as well as delaying the implementation date from July to December 2023.

Status: Bill is moving forward, introduced in the Senate Jan. 9


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