Monthly Archives: February 2015

Five bill hearings in 90 minutes!

February 13th, 2015|

Dear friends and neighbors,

 Earlier this week I had one of the most unusual days in my 15 years working in the legislature. Five of my bills had hearings on the same day, stretched across three separate committees in an hour and a half! This was certainly a record for any Senator and a unique experience for myself, an event that will probably never have the chance of happening again.

All the bills I testified on hit a different but equally important element of my mission statement. These bills concern everything from opt-out HIV testing, to child support credits to veterans, to access to mental health services.

 Five bills in ninety minutes…readysetGO!

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Two bills in Law & Justice

Starting the day off was my testimony in the Senate Law & Justice Committee on Senate Bill 5653, which would create a consistent protocol for collecting DNA samples at our jails and prisons as part of the standard intake process.

DNA samples can mean the difference between innocent and guilty. Since DNA samples are so important, this bill aims to strengthen DNA retrieval laws, requiring offenders who are serving a term of confinement in a city or county jail to give DNA samples immediately after sentencing and as standard procedure. This way, we will be able to get more entries into the CODIS system and hopefully solve more cold cases.

You can hear me speak on SB 5653 here.

Immediately after that my bill on veteran benefits was heard, which you can watch here. Under Senate Bill 5793, when the Dept. of Veterans’ Affairs apportions a veteran’s benefits to pay child support on behalf of the child, the amount paid will be treated as if the veteran paid the benefits toward the satisfaction of child support obligation. This bill aims to help children in poverty while also giving credit where credit is due.

One bill in Health Care

In my second committee of the day, I testified in the Senate Health Care Committee on Senate Bill 5728, which would permit opt-out screening for HIV infections.

This bill is a big leap forward from the experiences of three decades of HIV response when there was a great amount of stigma attached to HIV testing. At one time not so long ago secret and anonymous testing was the norm to protect people from insurance carriers who would cut health care benefits if it was known that a person was HIV positive.

Today, we have protections in place – HIPAA laws and restrictions on insurance providers from excluding patients based on preexisting conditions. Our new norm is for early testing to assure easy access to medications that will save lives and lower the chance for infecting others.

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Two bills in Human Services, Mental Health and Housing

From there I moved directly on to the next committee, Human Services, Mental Health & Housing for the final two bills of the day.

The first bill heard in this committee, Senate Bill 5792, would establish a centralized Office of Forensic Mental Health services in the Department of Social and Health Services. Forensic evaluators provide services related to competency to stand trial and criminal insanity. The Office of Forensic Mental Health would have responsibility to, among other things, operate control of all forensic evaluation services, train forensic evaluators and develop a system to certify forensic evaluators and monitor the quality of forensic evaluation reports.

Here is the hearing on SB 5792.

My fifth and final bill, Senate Bill 5839, had a hearing. This bill is a technical fix related to our state’s answer to the U.S. Supreme Court case, Miller v. Alabama, which decided it was unconstitutional to sentence juveniles to life without parole if they committed the crime as a juvenile.

This bill clears up any questions that might arise about whether sentencing enhancements apply when determining parole eligibility down the road. The bill adds cross-references that were missed in last year’s bill.

Successfully juggling and effectively multitasking all of these hearings was a day unlike any other for me in the legislature. An even bigger shock is that all the bills are destined to make it out of their committees…what a day!!

As always, it is my pleasure to take on these challenges to make progress on these important issues and work for you, my constituents, in Olympia.

Take care,

darneille

HIV testing could soon become part of routine medical care

February 10th, 2015|

OLYMPIA – A bill heard today in the Senate Health Care Committee would make screening for HIV a routine part of diagnostic and screening tests for all patients 13 to 64 years old and for all pregnant women in Washington state. The opt-out screening plan would align the state with guidelines the Centers for Disease Control released nearly a decade ago.

The bill also aligns with Gov. Jay Inslee’s proclamation on World AIDS Day to take bold actions to reduce the rate of new HIV diagnoses in Washington state by 50 percent by 2020.

“This bill is a big leap forward from the experiences of three decades of HIV response when there was a great amount of stigma attached to HIV testing,” said Sen. Jeannie Darneille, D-Tacoma, the bill’s sponsor. “At one time not so long ago secret and anonymous testing was the norm to protect people from insurance carriers who would cut health care benefits if it was known that a person was HIV positive. Today, we have protections in place – HIPAA laws and restrictions on insurance providers from excluding patients based on preexisting conditions. Our new norm is for early testing to assure easy access to medications that will save lives and lower the chance for infecting others.”

Senate Bill 5728 would allow patients to opt-out of HIV testing without risk of being denied health care services by their medical provider. New York State passed similar legislation in 2010.

In the private sector, Darneille spent 18 years as the executive director of the Pierce County AIDS Foundation, an advocacy organization that provides HIV preventions and care services to people living with HIV/AIDS.

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    Darneille bill would improve sentencing in juvenile justice system

Darneille bill would improve sentencing in juvenile justice system

February 10th, 2015|

OLYMPIA – Legislation to improve the state’s juvenile justice system, especially the way juveniles are sentenced, was heard in the Senate Human Services, Mental Health and Housing Committee on Monday, Feb. 9.

“I am happy to bring the recommendations of the task force forward in this bill,” said Sen. Jeannie Darneille, D-Tacoma, the bill’s sponsor. “Juvenile justice sentencing reform is an ongoing national movement. In the juvenile justice system, our state has made improvements but we have more work to do to update our sentencing laws for youth and make sure that we are adequately fulfilling one of the goals of the juvenile justice system which is rehabilitation.”

Senate Bill 5652, the result of work by the Joint Legislative Task Force on Juvenile Sentencing Reform, is omnibus legislation aimed at reforming the way youth are sentenced and improving the intersection between the state’s adult and juvenile justice systems. Each of the recommendations included in the final report was approved by at least a two-thirds majority of members on the task force. The bill encompasses nearly all of the policy recommendations made by the task force, including:

  • Eliminates exclusive adult court jurisdiction for 16 and 17 year olds who have committed serious violent offenses;
  • Restricts discretionary decline hearings to determine juvenile or adult criminal court jurisdiction to juveniles age 14 and older;
  • Gives the court discretion to impose a sentence below the standard range based on consideration of the youth’s age, sophistication, and role in the crime when the offender is under adult jurisdiction for a crime committed as a minor;
  • Gives the court discretion to impose an exceptional sentence below the standard range based on consideration of the youth’s age, sophistication and role in the crime when the offender is under adult court jurisdiction for a crime committed as a minor.

“The Washington State Partnership Council on Juvenile Justice found that in 2013 less than a quarter of the youth who were auto declined identified as white,” said Darneille. “The way our current automatic decline law is structured significantly impacts youth of color. With updates to juvenile sentencing reform laws we will be able to begin to address disparities within the system.”

Passed in 2014, Senate Bill 5064 created a new sentencing scheme for juvenile offenders convicted of aggravated murder and authorized the possibility of parole for juvenile offenders with sentences longer than 20 years. This new sentencing structure aligns with the United States Supreme Court’s decision in Miller v. Alabama that held it unconstitutional to sentence juveniles to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

The Joint Legislative Task Force on Juvenile Sentencing Reform was also created through passage of SB 5064 to review the state’s juvenile justice system and make recommendations for reforms targeted to improve outcomes for youth, public safety and taxpayer resources. The final task force report was delivered to the Legislature in December of 2014.

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    27th Legislative District delegation to host telephone town hall

27th Legislative District delegation to host telephone town hall

February 2nd, 2015|

Sen. Jeannie Darneille, Rep. Laurie Jinkins and Rep. Jake Fey will join constituents over the phone at 6 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 5, for a telephone town hall. Constituents will hear a brief overview of what’s happening in Olympia and will have the opportunity to ask their lawmakers questions and get answers in real-time.

WHO: Sen. Jeannie Darneille, Rep. Laurie Jinkins, Rep. Jake Fey

WHAT: 27th Legislative District Telephone Town Hall

WHEN: From 6 to 7 p.m., Thursday, Feb. 5, 2015

WHERE: On the phone – if you would like to call in and participate, dial: 877-229-8493 and enter ID Code:18646