Sen. Darneille Newsroom

Update from Olympia

Session is under way!

Last Monday marked the beginning of the 2020 legislative session, and we got right down to business for this short, 60-day session. These short sessions occur in even-numbered years, and can often feel like a sprint to the finish line with the entire legislative process condensed into just eight weeks.

I-976’s effects on transportation funding

Unfortunately, in this short session we’re faced with increased budget challenges due to Initiative 976, known as the “$30 car tabs” initiative. Prior to its passage, the state’s transportation funding stream was already unable to keep up with the demand for maintenance, preservation, safety and projects across the state. The passage of I-976 devastated transportation funding across the state.

Although the measure is being contested in the courts, we must prepare for the worst by writing an all-cuts transportation budget, because it’s only responsible for us to prepare for the worst. Whatever the outcome, there will be significant delays with projects, and the situation will get worse before it gets better. Nevertheless, we are committed to keeping essential projects for safety and preservation, and prioritizing transit services for vulnerable persons in our state.

Upcoming committee work

This year, I continue to chair the Senate Human Services, Reentry & Rehabilitation Committee, where I take an open and inclusive approach to the decision-making process. The issues this committee tackles represent the heart and social safety net of our state. How will our state respond to the needs of those affected by federal cuts to assistance programs like SNAP (food stamps benefit), families in need of federal assistance, children in foster care, or youth involved with the juvenile justice system?

I will also be fighting to put people first in my positions on the Senate Housing Stability & Affordability and Ways & Means committees, as well as the Behavioral Health Subcommittee to the Senate Health & Long Term Care Committee.

Meet my team

This session I have a great team made up of my legislative assistant, Lisa Fisch, session aide Noelle Kappert and intern Laura Amador. They are helping me answer your calls, emails and meetings requests.

Please reach out to our office with your concerns about legislation at 360-786-7652 or at the toll-free legislative hotline at 1-800-562-6000. You can also send an email to Also, if you are having difficulty navigating problems with a state agency, you are welcome to contact my office.

We hope to hear from you soon!

Take care,

Sen. Jeannie Darneille



January 20th, 2020|E-News|

When Running Away From Home Means Getting Locked Up

A must read from The Appeal. Thank you to Charlotte West for her work looking at Washington state and our efforts to end detention for status offenses.

April 8th, 2019|Uncategorized|

March 22 Newsletter

“For all my years in public life, I have believed that America must sail toward the shores of liberty and justice for all. There is no end to that journey, only the next great voyage. We know the future will outlast all of us, but I believe that all of us will live on in the future we make.”

-Edward Kennedy

Liberty and justice for all

You may know that I focus much of my work in the Legislature on improving the lives of children and youth in our state. I serve on the Ways and Means Committee that writes the budget. Among all of its columns and numbers are the programs we use to improve those lives; our child care system, our early childhood education programs, our K-12 education system, and our higher education institutions. We all recognize that the bright future for these children is linked to our health as a state and nation.  

I serve on the Housing Stability & Affordability Committee, where we are working to end homelessness by increasing the stock of affordable housing in our state. 40,000 school-aged youth and their families are homeless or at immediate risk for homelessness. Additionally, I am a member of the Behavioral Health Subcommittee, addressing the mental health and substance use treatment for both adults and children. 

Finally, I am the Chair for the Human Services, Reentry, and Rehabilitation Committee, where we work on issues relating to children’s safety, foster care, and juvenile justice, as well as issues relating to public assistance programs and the adult corrections system. 

I wanted to spend a few moments writing about some of the justice-related bills that I have introduced this session and which have already moved from the Senate to the House for consideration. 


Sen. Darneille presides as Chair

SB 5288 “Sentencing for Persistent Offenders”

Initiative 593, which put our 3-strikes laws on the books, passed by a wide margin in 1993 to keep persons who have been convicted of three very serious crimes in prison for life without parole. While most of the many crimes listed in the Initiative are Class A Felonies or very serious crimes, Robbery in the 2nd Degree is neither a very serious offense or one that involves any injury to another person. SB 5288 would remove Robbery in the 2nd Degree from the 3-strikes list, so would not result in one of the toll of crimes that would result in a life sentence. The standard range for penalty would remain up to 10 years in prison and up to $20,000 in fines.

SB 5290 “Eliminating the use of the valid court order exception to place youth in detention for noncriminal behavior”

Washington State juvenile courts currently incarcerate more children for what are known as “status offenses” than any other state in the US.  A status offense is not a crime, but includes things like truancy, being incorrigible or oppositional, smoking, drinking, running away from foster care, or breaking curfew. The bill proposes to phase out the use of this federal allowance to jail children for these offenses. 26 states have already stopped this practice, and every other state jails fewer children than Washington. Over 800 children every year face jail time for these offenses; the bill would instead promote a service-based response to youth and families.

SB 5291 “An act relating to alternatives to total confinement for certain persons with minor children”

This bill expands access to a successful program that has deferred or reduced the sentences for some parents. Instead of incarceration, these parents remain with or are reunited with their children. These sentencing alternatives involve intensive supervision, parenting guidance, electronic home monitoring, meeting contractual goals for positive interactions with children, and having no further infractions or criminal activity. This program has resulted in reducing recidivism rates while giving parents the ability to return to gainful employment and enjoy the benefits found in an intact family.

SB 5876 “Creating a gender-responsive and trauma-informed work group within the Department of Corrections”

Last fall, I was able to visit nearly 50 women prisoners who were transferred from the women’s prison at Purdy to the Yakima County Jail. I discovered that the conditions were deplorable and did not match the programming expectations and values of the State of Washington corrections system. The women were mixed with women in the general jail population, so coercion, assault, and tensions were very high. There was no programming. Many experienced anxiety so high that they were medicated. There was no accommodation for women with disabilities. The food was intolerable. The women had no ability to observe their religious traditions. I was very proud that my efforts to move these women to a better facility was accomplished with the Governor’s help within three months. But that experience raised my awareness that there was really very little effort to identify gender-responsive programming and that we must work toward the rehabilitative needs of women inside these facilities.

Inside Olympia

To hear more about the topics I’ve been working on and the approach I have taking on these issues, please take some time to watch this week’s edition of Inside Olympia with Austin Jenkins. I appeared with Sen. Maureen Walsh to discuss many of the topics above.

Floor Debate

Sen. Darneille speaks during floor action

Town Hall

Lastly, I want to ensure you’ve been invited to our annual 27th Legislative District Town Hall taking place tomorrow morning.

Rep. Jinkins, Rep. Fey, and I will be hosting a forum at the Eastside Community Center from 10:00am-12:00pm to report back on the ongoing legislative session and take your questions.

The Eastside Community Center is located at:

1721 E 56th St, Tacoma, WA 98404

We can’t wait to see you there!

Take care,


Sen. Jeannie Darneille

March 22nd, 2019|Uncategorized|

Inside Olympia – Justice For All

Here is the link to the full episode of Inside Olympia talking with Austen Jenkins about justice issues! We’ve got so many important issues facing the Legislature this year, but we must continuing fighting to ensure our justice system is working for all.

Thanks to Sen. Walsh for her thoughtfulness in our continued dialogue.

March 21st, 2019|Uncategorized|

Town Hall – March 23

Please join Rep. Jinkins, Rep. Fey, and I for a 27th district town hall on March 23rd. We’ll be gathering at the Eastside Community Center to hear from you and report back on the 2019 legislative session!

March 8th, 2019|Uncategorized|

Conversation Hours this Spring

Join Sen. Jeannie Darneille, Rep. Laurie Jinkins, and Rep. Jake Fey for informal conversation hours around Tacoma. Be sure to bring your thoughts, questions and concerns about state government or legislative issues. See you soon!


Tuesday, May 1

6:00 p.m.

Bay Terrace Community Room

2550 South G Street

Tacoma, WA


Tuesday, May 8

6:00 p.m.

Telephone Town Hall

You can either sign up to receive a call ahead of time by visiting or you can call in the evening of the event by dialing 877-229-8493 and entering the pin number 116282.


We hope to see or hear from you then!



April 19th, 2018|Uncategorized|
  • Permalink Gallery

    Washington Senate passes reforms to reduce recidivism and racial disparities in juvenile justice system

Washington Senate passes reforms to reduce recidivism and racial disparities in juvenile justice system

The Washington state Senate today passed groundbreaking legislation extending juvenile justice jurisdiction for some youthful offenders to age 25.

Current Washington law requires that 16-17 year olds who commit certain crimes are automatically tried as adults without any consideration of brain development, criminal history, upbringing or other potentially mitigating circumstances. Some of these crimes include: first degree robbery, first-degree burglary (if the offender has a prior felony or misdemeanor), and any violent offense in which the offender is alleged to have been armed with a firearm.

Over the course of two decades, these provisions have been proven to disproportionately impact people of color and increase recidivism due to youthful involvement with the adult criminal justice system.

Senate Bill 6160, sponsored by Sen. Patty Kuderer, D-Bellevue, reforms these provisions and places them within the jurisdiction of juvenile court instead of adult court.

“In making any change to the juvenile justice system, it is critical we keep at the forefront our goal to truly rehabilitate our young people and give them a fair chance to participate in society meaningfully,” said Kuderer. “When one third of offenders incarcerated as a young adult ultimately re-offend, it’s clear we must do more. This legislation takes a significant step to address some of the failings in our system and begin the difficult work of positive change.”

The legislation would also extend the age limit for confinement in a juvenile rehabilitation institution from 21 to 25 for juveniles adjudicated of these offenses.

“We have found that many of the young people who have been incarcerated experienced some kind of significant trauma,” said Sen. Jeannie Darneille, D-Tacoma and chair of the Senate Human Services & Corrections Committee. “The evidence is clear that early exposure to the criminal justice system can be seriously detrimental in the development of young lives. Now is the time to move forward from an era of policies which all too often failed to rehabilitate children who make mistakes early in life.”

SB 6160 represents a compromise between all corners of the criminal justice system, including prosecutors, law enforcement professionals, criminal defenders and advocates who work directly with youth.

The bill passed on a vote of 35-12 and now moves to the House of Representatives for further consideration.

February 12th, 2018|Uncategorized|
  • Permalink Gallery

    Legislation phasing out youth detention for non-criminal offenses passes Senate

Legislation phasing out youth detention for non-criminal offenses passes Senate

Landmark legislation to phase out detention of minors for status offenses such as truancy, running away from home, and other non-criminal behavior today passed out of the Washington state Senate.

Washington currently incarcerates more youth than any other state in the country by a significant margin. Senate Bill 5596 would phase out the use of juvenile detention for status offenders by July 1, 2020.

“In 2016, over 1,700 young people were incarcerated for non-criminal behavior in our state,” said bill sponsor Sen. Jeannie Darneille, D-Tacoma. “The logic of existing law, that we ought to take kids out of school for failing to attend, is backward. Now is the time for our state to rectify a broken system that has been proven to inflict more harm than good on our young people.”

During the phase-out period leading up to full implementation, the bill requires status offenders in detention to be separated from juveniles detained for criminal offenses.

“Our system is simply not working for the young people and families of our state who are in desperate need of additional resources to address serious obstacles they may be facing in their lives,” added Darneille. “This legislation sends a clear message that incarceration is no longer an acceptable avenue for addressing the barriers our children face on the path to becoming healthy participants in our society.”

SB 5596 passed on a bipartisan 26-22 vote and now moves to the House of Representatives for consideration.

February 7th, 2018|Uncategorized|

Tacoma legislators commend Point Ruston resolution

Three Tacoma legislators are commending the resolution of the years-long Point Ruston development dispute following the approval of an interlocal agreement forged between the cities of Tacoma and Ruston.

Tacoma Democrats Sen. Jeannie Darneille, Rep. Laurie Jinkins, and Rep. Jake Fey all supported legislation this year that opened fresh dialogue on the waterfront development.

“After being engaged with all parties on this issue for four years, an agreement that makes legislation unnecessary is good news for the residents of Ruston, Tacoma and Point Ruston,” said Jinkins. “I’m glad the bill helped bring all the parties to the table to ensure the success of this development and the rebirth of our waterfront.”

The delays have stalled not only the revitalization of the superfund site but the competitive, living-wage jobs that will be created by these projects.

“The 27th delegation has long had concerns about the process and progress at Point Ruston, a project critical to the economic security of our region and our future as the best community in the Northwest,” said Darneille. “From the outset we have been focused on expediting the project and the conversation we started this year has exceeded our expectations in achieving that end.”

Senate Bill 6487 and House Bill 2880 each passed out of their respective policy committees on Feb. 1st.

“I’m happy that we could help encourage both cities to put their disagreements aside, compromise and finish a project that’s so important to the waterfront of both towns,” said Fey.

With an agreement between Ruston and Tacoma in hand, there is no longer a need for the bills to move forward in the Legislature.

February 7th, 2018|Uncategorized|
  • Permalink Gallery

    Darneille to serve as chair of Senate Human Services & Corrections Committee

Darneille to serve as chair of Senate Human Services & Corrections Committee

OLYMPIA – Sen. Jeannie Darneille, D-Tacoma, was today elected by her peers in the Senate Democratic Caucus to serve as the chair of the Human Services & Corrections committee for the 2018 Legislative Session. Over the last five years, Darneille has served as the minority-ranking democratic member on the committee.

“I am honored to be elected chair of the committee and continue our work to improve the lives of the poor, disabled, and disenfranchised,” said Darneille. “The issues addressed by this committee represent the heart and social safety net of our state. How will our state respond to individuals experiencing homelessness, those in need of mental health treatment, children in foster care, or youth involved with the juvenile justice system? This committee has the good fortune of always having a bipartisan working relationship regardless of the majority party. I will continue to have an open and inclusive decision making process as the chair. We must work together on these jointly-held values to improve lives for children and families in our state. I am ready to work with my colleagues to help empower all Washingtonians and their families.”

Darneille will continue to serve on the Senate Law & Justice committee and the Ways & Means Committee.

After winning a critical special election in the 45th Legislative District earlier this month, Democrats gained a one-seat majority in the Senate. In the majority, Democrats will set the agenda of Senate committees and will determine which bills will be brought forward for votes.

November 13th, 2017|Uncategorized|