Sen. Darneille Newsroom

Justice system reform top priority for Darneille in 2021 session

Dec. 1, 2020

OLYMPIA – Sen. Jeannie Darneille (D-Tacoma) will regain a seat on the Senate Law & Justice Committee for the upcoming legislative session after a two-year hiatus, and was reelected yesterday to chair the Human Services, Reentry & Rehabilitation Committee*.

“With my return to the Law & Justice Committee, I look forward to collaborating with my colleagues to bring about criminal justice reform and reduce racial disproportionality in our justice system,” said Darneille. “My work on these two committees will allow me to be involved with the entire arc of the justice system, from the establishment of new crimes, to the conditions of incarceration and preparation for return to the community following justice system involvement.”

The Human Services, Reentry & Rehabilitation Committee will continue to address an array of issues affecting the state’s more vulnerable populations:

  • Strengthening the social safety net, to ensure benefits such as food assistance, cash assistance, and disability benefits are available to those in need, even in the face of increased demand due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Ensuring child welfare and well-being by protecting children from abuse and providing services to families in crisis, as well as prioritizing the needs of children with disabilities and their families.
  • Working to reform the juvenile justice system by providing therapeutic services to youth in a safe rehabilitative environment to reduce the likelihood of re-offending.
  • Keeping communities safe by providing the tools for safe and successful reentry to the community after incarceration.

Darneille will also continue to serve on the Senate Ways & Means committee in the upcoming legislative session, which begins Jan. 11, 2021.

*Committee assignments are determined by each caucus and are effective for two years. Committee assignments are not official until they receive a confirmation vote by the full Senate, which will take place at the start of the 2021 legislative session.

December 3rd, 2020|Uncategorized|

See you after November!

Because of election year restrictions, I will be unable to update my website or send e-mail updates beginning May 11. However, my office will remain open, so if you need to contact me or my staff, please contact my office at (360) 786-7652 or

May 8th, 2020|E-News|

Information for Unemployed Workers

Dear neighbors,

The good news is Washingtonians are doing a great job at following the governor’s “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” order, and the curve is beginning to flatten. We have to keep up the good work and continue to stay home in order to make sure the curve continues to flatten.

Unfortunately, with so many people out of work, it’s no wonder there is a strain on our unemployment insurance system right now. As you know, this has left many people frustrated and anxious about whether they will be able to access these vital benefits.

At the same time, many of us have realized that the immigrant community is being hit particularly hard, with many unable to qualify for unemployment, the federal stimulus, and other government relief programs.

Today I’d like to share some information from the Employment Security Department, along with a list of resources for immigrants dealing with the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Accessing Unemployment Insurance Benefits

The Employment Security Department (ESD) has been receiving record numbers of new claims for unemployment insurance, including extremely high numbers of phone calls and emails. We know many people have questions about the recent federal stimulus package and the enhancements to eligibility and available benefits for individuals.

To address your questions and to find out more information, please do not call their toll-free numbers first. Instead, visit their website at There you will likely find answers to the questions you were going to ask and you will get them sooner than you will waiting on a back-up phone line. You can also sign up for action alerts to receive the most up-to-date information on these benefits. So please view the ESD’s Frequently Asked Questions for Workers and also for Businesses and use their checklist before applying for benefits.

To be clear, ESD’s toll-free numbers need to be reserved for individuals who need assistance with claims that have been filed. So, again, check their website, which has answers to most questions you may have.

COVID-19 Resources for Immigrants

Click here for a comprehensive list of resources to help our state’s immigrant community through the unique challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.

This bilingual English/Spanish guide provides links to:

  • general COVID-19 information in various languages
  • federal, state and county resources
  • information on education, housing and unemployment
  • resources specifically for undocumented folks
  • resources for Muslim communities
  • mutual aid, well-being, and anti-racism resources

Washington Food Fund

While facing the impacts of the current crisis, an estimated 1.6 million Washingtonians are at risk of not having enough to eat, and that number is expected to grow in the coming weeks. While our statewide food supply remains steady and grocery stores continue to receive deliveries, donations to food banks and pantries have dropped dramatically while demand has skyrocketed.

Woman handing a bag of groceries to an older man

This week, Governor Inslee joined key nonprofits and philanthropies to launch the WA Food Fund, a new statewide public-private relief fund to coordinate and distribute food and supplies to food banks and pantries across the state. The state of Washington is

working hard to make sure everyone has access to food during this crisis.

The curve is flattening and the weather is great, but please do not give into the temptation to start gathering with friends and loved ones. The COVID-19 crisis is not over, and it will not subside unless we keep up the good work, be consistent, and continue to follow the Stay Home, Stay Healthy order. Doing so will keep you and your loved ones healthier and will literally save lives.

As always, please feel free to reach out to my office. We want to do everything we can to support you in these difficult times.


Sen. Jeannie Darneille

April 13th, 2020|Uncategorized|
  • Unoccupied booths and chars in an empty restaurant.
    Permalink Unoccupied booths and chars in an empty restaurant.Gallery

    Relief for small businesses, the self-employed and independent contractors

Relief for small businesses, the self-employed and independent contractors

Dear neighbors,

I know many of you are small business owners, self-employed or independent contractors who are struggling to make ends meet due to the COVID-19 response. Here are some resources that may help you through these tough times.

Paycheck Protection Program

The federal government has funded the Paycheck Protection Program with $349 billion intended to help organizations keep employees on payroll between now and the end of June 2020.

Applications can be filed starting April 3 and funds will be distributed on a first-come, first-served basis, so it’s important to get your application in early.

The program is for any small business with less than 500 employees (including sole proprietorships, independent contractors and self-employed persons), private non-profit organization or 501(c)(19) veterans organization affected by the COVID-19 crisis. Some businesses with more than 500 employees may also be eligible.

Learn more about the program and how to apply at

State and Federal Resources for Small Businesses

Visit the following links for more information about resources and programs to provide relief to small business owners:

Rest assured, the challenges you face weigh heavily on the hearts and minds of your state legislators. In addition to legislative action we taken for an initial investment of $200 million for the COVID-19 response, we support Gov. Inslee in his executive responses and stand ready to provide additional help as events continue to evolve.

Please reach out to my office if you have questions not addressed by these resources.


Sen. Jeannie Darneille

April 2nd, 2020|E-News|

Special Update: Coronavirus

March 18, 2020

Dear neighbors,

We wrapped up the 2020 legislative session last week, and updates about legislation will be coming soon.  For now, I’d like to take a moment to assure you that the Legislature and our state agencies are taking our current health crisis very seriously.

This is an urgent message.  The coronavirus pandemic has hit Washington.  You and I and every person we come close to are partners in a great social contract.  We are responsible for each other.  If I fail you, or you fail me, in keeping our promise in that social contract, we will fail to contain this virus.

It is not a time for business as usual. Every time we step out of our homes, each of us must imagine that we are the virus.  If we don’t self-isolate when we have any symptoms, fail to cover our cough, or forget to maintain a gap of 6 feet between us and every other person, we can infect that person.  A woman who is pregnant, a clerk in a grocery store, the driver of the bus you rode, your parent or grandparent, your friend at church, every person.

It is good news that many infected people are being released from hospitals to continue healing at home.  But the virus is spreading quickly, and our health care system is not scaled to meet the predicted level of need.  Rationing of services is expected to happen.

We need to make a serious commitment to that social contract.  Today and every day for the foreseeable future.

I recognize that many people living in the 27th District don’t have a choice about whether they isolate themselves during this health crisis.  To all the first responders, health care workers, support staff, persons who work at grocery stores, pharmacies, food providers, long term care providers, and all others who are necessary to maintaining core services, I thank you and hope you, too, are remaining as safe as possible.

The Legislature’s Actions

The Washington State Senate convenes for floor session - Feb. 19, 2020

We have now appropriated $200 million to fund our state’s response, including monitoring, testing and support for local health departments.

We have also acted to:

  • ensure that people receiving unemployment insurance benefits will be able to receive them even if they can’t meet the work search requirement due to quarantine.
  • mitigate costs to businesses due to increased numbers of workers receiving unemployment insurance
  • reimburse nursing homes that aid in the coronavirus response
  • keep school employees eligible for health insurance for the rest of the school year even if they don’t meet the required number of work hours because of the coronavirus state of emergency.

The Governor’s Actions2020-03-16 Governor Inslee gives a press conference on coronavirus

To minimize public health risks, in recent days Governor Inslee has:

For the latest updates on the Governor’s actions, click here.


Resources for Information and AssistanceScreenshot from the state's coronavirus website.

Are you looking for the latest updates or answers about how to cope with the disruption of daily life and the new financial strain caused by missed work? Do you want to know what state agencies are doing to help? Visit, where you can find all the information in one place.

Other resources in our area for information about coronavirus include:

Special Enrollment Period for Washington Health Benefit Exchange

In response to the potential growth of coronavirus cases, the Washington Health Benefit Exchange is holding a limited-time special enrollment period for qualified individuals who are currently without insurance. This special enrollment period runs through April 8, 2020, and will allow uninsured individuals 30 days to enroll in health insurance coverage through Washington Healthplanfinder. You can call 1-855-923-4633 between 7:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Thank you for your cooperation in this difficult time, when social distancing is required to slow the spread of the virus to ensure the safety of all members of our communities. Don’t forget to help your friends, family and neighbors who may be struggling to make ends meet right now.

My office will continue to welcome your thoughts and concerns, so please let us know what issues are important to you and your community at this time.


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Stay in touch

What are the issues that are important to you and your community? Your participation helps improve our district for all! Contact my office to make sure your voice is heard!

Click here for contact information.


March 18th, 2020|E-News|

Dana Hicks serves as page in Washington State Senate

OLYMPIA – Dana Hicks, 15, served as a page in the Washington State Senate during the week of March 6.

Pages are typically sponsored by the senator from their legislative district. Sen. Jeannie Darneille (D-Tacoma) sponsored Hicks’s week in the Legislature.

The page program offers a hands-on opportunity for students to find out how state government works. The interactive learning experience includes classes focused on topics like budget writing and how a bill becomes a law, and culminates in pages creating their own bills in a mock committee setting. The educational experience is furthered by guest speakers.

Page Dana Hicks, March 3, 2020.

Page Dana Hicks, March 3, 2020.

“I wrote a bill about classroom sizes in K-6 education for our Page School mock committee and I really enjoyed researching and writing my bill.  I wish I would have had more time to put more breadth and depth into my bill, but this place is fast paced,” said Hicks.

Pages also have the opportunity to work on the Senate floor. Their maroon coats and credentials allow them access to all parts of the Capitol Campus.

“I had the chance to work on the Senate floor on Tuesday and they were debating a really important and contentious bill, and I found it really interesting how both parties strategized their response to the bill being introduced and debated.  Although the Senators had very strong feelings about the bill, I never saw any of them attack each other or say demeaning things to each other.  It was all relatively civil,” added Hicks.

Senate page Dana Hicks with a colleague addressing questions of school children visiting the Washington State Capitol.

Senate pages Sarrah Khan (center) and Dana Hicks (right) address questions of school children visiting the Washington State Capitol.

“Being here has positively impacted me to think about a career in public service because I found out the Senators here have regular jobs outside of the Legislature that they go back to when the session is over.  I really like the idea of having an opportunity to come here and serve my community but still be able to go back to doing something else in my community.  It would give me the opportunity to pursue multiple passions,” remarked Hicks.

Hicks is in the 10th grade at The Science and Math Institute. In her free time, she enjoys restorative justice work, volunteering, and science.


For more information about the Senate Page Program, contact

March 9th, 2020|News Release|

Senate passes several criminal justice reform bills

OLYMPIA – Several criminal justice reform bills that moved out of the Senate Human Services, Reentry & Rehabilitation Committee last week were passed in the Senate this week.

“We are approving important legislation that puts people first by setting them up to thrive in our communities when emerging from incarceration,” said Sen. Jeannie Darneille (D-Tacoma), chair of the Human Services, Reentry & Rehabilitation Committee. “After someone finishes serving their time, they must be given a true chance to succeed.”

 House bills passed by the Senate this week include:

HB 2576 will direct the state to carry out a study of health and safety issues in private detention/correctional facilities in the state, such as private jails. Additionally, HB 2640, which will clarify that private detention facilities like the Tacoma Northwest Detention Center are not “essential public facilities,” meaning they are subject to local land use regulations and would need approval from local authorities in order to expand.

HB 2393 would allow a qualifying person to earn 10 days’ credit each month they are in compliance with the terms of their community custody. This was recommended by the Washington Criminal Sentencing Task Force to reduce recidivism through incentives for compliance.

HB 2394 would require terms of community custody to run concurrently unless a court expressly orders them to run consecutively. For individuals currently serving sentences, DOC would recalculate scheduled end dates for terms of community custody. This change was recommended by the Washington Criminal Sentencing Task Force to provide clarity for staff and to increase consistency among all counties.

HB 2417 will reform Swift and Certain sanctioning programs for individuals in community custody, allowing DOC to use nonconfinement sanctions for low-level violations and to consider additional circumstances when deciding whether to impose a confinement sanction for low-level violations. DOC requested this change to provide more appropriate sanctions and address concerns over the impact of jail confinement on a person’s stability in the community.

HB 2794 would streamline the sealing of juvenile court records once a youth has turned 18, completed confinement and supervision, and paid restitution owed to any victims.

The Senate and the House of Representatives must reconcile any changes made to these bills in their respective chambers before the governor can sign them into law.

March 4th, 2020|News Release|

Update from Olympia

Dear neighbors:

Please don’t forget to join us this Saturday for the 27th Legislative District town hall in Tacoma! It will take place from 10 am to noon at the Eastside Community Center, 1721 E 56th St., Tacoma.



In other news, the 2020 legislative session has been a whirlwind of activity, and last night we wrapped up another phase.  Yesterday marked the cutoff deadline for bills to pass out of the chamber where they were introduced. Only these bills will move forward as the session advances.

Below you’ll find information on criminal justice reform bills I’m proud to have helped move forward, and that I’ll continue to support through the session.

Senate Bill 5488 is a bill I sponsored that would allow judges to use discretion when making sentencing decisions for a juvenile who has been tried in adult courts for a felony committed while under the age of 18. Judges would be allowed to depart from mandatory sentencing guidelines to take into account factors indicating maturity such as age, lack of sophistication, susceptibility to peer pressure, and youStatue of lady justice holding scales of justice and sword, deep blue sky in background with wispy clouds.thfulness at the time of the offense.

This bill codifies recent decisions from the Washington Supreme Court that recognized judges’ authority to use their discretion for sentencing juveniles, and acknowledged neuroscientific research showing that the brain does not fully develop until age 25.

Senate Bill 5291 is another bill I sponsored, and it would give more parents who are found guilty of crimes the opportunity to maintain bonds with their children by serving time through a parenting sentencing alternative. The bill would expand eligibility for existing programs that allow people to receive intensive community supervision and services while on electronic home monitoring in lieu of incarceration.

Not only do family sentencing alternatives help to maintain family bonds and improve the lives of children, they also provide participants with better outcomes and reduce recidivism because they receive more intensive case management and other services, such as parenting classes and counseling.

House Bill 2640 is the companion to a bill I sponsored in the Senate. It would clarify that private for-profit facilities like the Tacoma Northwest Detention Center are not “essential public facilities,” and are not exempt from local land use regulations. This means under the City of Tacoma’s local land use regulations, that facility can expand only if it is approved for a permit through the City’s conditional use permit process.

The current statute (RCW 36.70A.200) lists types of state, regional, and local facilities that are considered essential public facilities and not subject to local development regulations. Federal or privately owned and operated facilities and detention centers are not listed in the statute. This legislation would settle this issue and prevent continued litigation costs to Tacoma taxpayers.

Senate Bill 6112 would prohibit the use of solitary confinement in juvenile institutions and would place restrictions on the use of other types of isolation. Research shows solitary confinement does not improve behavior and is emotionally and psychologically damaging to young people.

This legislation would align Washington’s laws with those of 10 other states that have similarly limited solitary confinement for juveniles in recognition of its harm and lack of effectiveness.

I’ve been happy to work on these bills as well as countless other meaningful bills under consideration thus far. I was also pleased to sponsor Senate Resolution 8681 in honor of the 100th anniversary of the League of Women Voters on February 14.

Stay tuned for more e-news updates as the session continues. My office will continue to welcome your thoughts and concerns throughout the session, so please let us know what issues are important to you and your community!


Jeannie Darneille

February 20th, 2020|E-News|

Senate passes bill to reform youth sentencing guidelines

OLYMPIA – Legislation passed today by the Senate would permit courts to consider the maturity of a defendant in sentencing decisions.

Sponsored by Sen. Jeannie Darneille (D-Tacoma), Senate Bill 5488 would allow judges to use discretion when making sentencing decisions for a juvenile who has been tried in adult courts for a felony committed while under the age of 18. Judges would be allowed to depart from mandatory or standard sentencing guidelines to take into account factors indicating maturity such as age, lack of sophistication, susceptibility to peer pressure, and youthfulness at the time of the offense.

“This bill codifies recent decisions from the Washington Supreme Court in State v. Houston-Sconiers and State v. O’Dell,” said Darneille. “These cases acknowledged the authority of superior courts to exercise discretion when sentencing juveniles, and recognized neuroscientific research showing that the brain does not fully develop until age 25. This aligns our laws with modern advances in the juvenile justice system.”

The Houston-Sconiers case stemmed from an incident where two Tacoma teenagers ages 16 and 17 robbed Halloween candy from several people and received sentences of 31 years and 26 years, respectively. The supreme court decision permitted resentencing that took into account their youthfulness at the time of the events and allowed sentence enhancements to be served concurrently for that reason.

The bill now moves to the House for consideration.

February 18th, 2020|News Release, Uncategorized|

Senate approves expansion of sentencing alternatives

OLYMPIA – Today the Senate passed legislation that would expand access to alternatives to incarceration for parents convicted of certain crimes and who have minor children.

 Existing programs allow eligible persons to receive intensive community supervision and services in lieu of incarceration. Senate Bill 5291, sponsored by Sen. Jeannie Darneille (D-Tacoma), would expand eligibility and add more types of parental relationships that qualify for these alternatives to incarceration.

“Research shows children of incarcerated parents are more likely to end up in the criminal justice system, as well,” said Darneille. “Family sentencing alternatives are meant to maintain family bonds and end the cycle of criminal activity.

“People who participate in these alternatives also have better outcomes than those who are simply released on community custody. They receive more intensive case management and other services, such as parenting classes and counseling.”

All participants are on electronic home monitoring during the program.

The rate of return to prison on new felonies for people who have completed these sentencing alternative programs is just 11%, compared to 33.5% for people who have not had access to such programs.

 The bill now moves to the House for consideration.

February 17th, 2020|News Release|