House passes law enforcement, legislative conduct measures in first floor votes of session

  • Wednesday, January 30, 2019 1:30am
  • Opinion

By Franz Wiechers-Gregory

Washington Votes

State lawmakers took their first recorded votes of this year’s session in the House of Representatives on Jan. 24, passing a resolution (House Concurrent Resolution 4401) on legislative ethical conduct, and a compromise bill (House Bill 1064) to amend Initiative 940, which was approved by state voters last November.

Both measures passed unanimously on a recorded roll call vote of 98-0. It is customary to pass such unanimous consent legislation via a simple voice vote, but members called for a recorded vote on these measures.

HCR 4401 sets a code of ethical behavior for legislators, staff, lobbyists and members of the state capital community in general, requiring that they must:

• Conduct themselves with self-awareness, self-respect, and professionalism;

• Treat all others with respect, dignity, and civility, regardless of status or position; and

• Refrain from engaging in hostile, intimidating, offensive, or unlawful activities or behaviors that may amount to discrimination, harassment, sexual harassment or bullying.

The measure grew out of well-publicized sexual misconduct and harassment allegations involving legislators. Among the lawmakers who resigned in the wake of these allegations just as this year’s session convened are Rep. Matt Manweller (R-Ellensburg) and Sen. Kevin Ranker (D-Orcas Island).

Rep. Alex Ybarra (R-Grant County) was appointed to replace Rep. Manweller in the 13th Legislative District. Sen. Ranker’s vacant 40th District seat is expected to be filled in early February with a candidate chosen by party leaders. In both cases, the newly appointed lawmakers will have to run for election this year to retain their seats.

House Bill 1064 would modify the provisions of Initiative 940 relating to de-escalation training for police, investigations of deadly force incidents, and rendering of first aid. It would also require the state to reimburse a peace officer for reasonable defense costs when he or she is found not guilty or charges are dismissed in certain circumstances

These modifications to Initiative 940 were included in a bill last session after agreement among law enforcement and community leaders, but the state Supreme Court ruled it unconstitutional and ordered that the original measure be placed before voters.

Washington state law provides that for two years an initiative that was approved by voters can only be amended or repealed by a two-thirds supermajority vote in both chambers. Passage of HB 1064 met that requirement with its unanimous passage in the House. It must also meet the two-thirds vote requirement to pass the Senate.

Two Spokane Valley legislators again introduced a bill to create a new state by separating rural eastern Washington from the mostly urban western area of the state. On Wednesday, Rep. Matt Shea (R-Spokane Valley) and Bob McCaslin (R- Spokane Valley) submitted House Bill 1509, to create the new state of Liberty.

According to the bill, Liberty’s western edge would follow “the crest of the Cascade mountains and the western borders of Okanogan, Chelan, Kittitas, Yakima, and Klickitat counties.” The eastern, northern and southern boundaries would be the current state lines.

If the proposal were to pass in Olympia, the United States Congress would also need to approve the new state. To date, Virginia is the only U.S. state to be divided, when West Virginia was created out of its territory during the Civil War.

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