Monthly Archives: February 2018

Washington Legislature passes bump stock ban

February 28th, 2018|

KOMO News / Feb. 27, 2018
By Rachel La Corte

OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) — The Washington Legislature on Tuesday passed a bill to ban trigger devices that allow semi-automatic rifles to fire more rapidly.

The measure received a final 31-18 vote in the Senate Tuesday after the chamber accepted changes made by the House, which passed the bill on a 56-41 vote Friday. The House amended the bill with a provision that would allow the Washington State Patrol to set up a yearlong “buy back” program for people who already own the devices, known as bump stocks.

“It is crucial that we ensure that weapons are not turned into illegal machine guns,” Democratic Sen. Manka Dhingra said after the vote. “I think the culture has changed, where a lot of people really want to see sensible, targeted gun legislation.”

The move to ban the devices came in response to last October’s mass shooting at a country music festival in Las Vegas that killed 58 people and left hundreds more injured. The ban would make it illegal for anyone in Washington to manufacture or sell bump stocks beginning July 1. In July 2019, it would become illegal to own or possess a bump stock in Washington.

Democratic Sen. Tim Sheldon, who caucuses with Republicans, said before the vote that “we can do better than this.”

“When a legislative body acts under pressure and feels they must act right away we often don’t get it right,” he said during the floor debate, and noted arguments made previously by Republican Sen. Mike Padden who questioned how much the buyback program could ultimately cost the state.

The measure now heads to the desk of Gov. Jay Inslee, who is expected to sign it.

“This is a modest, common sense piece of legislation that will help prevent further gun violence, though there’s a lot more we can do this session,” Inslee posted on Twitter after the vote.

Lawmakers are also weighing a new bill that was just introduced last week in the wake of the school shooting in Parkland, Florida that killed 17 people. That measure would raise the age to purchase certain semi-automatic rifles or shotguns from 18 to 21, and would bring background checks requirements for those guns mostly into line with those required to buy a handgun in the state. The bill, which received a public hearing on Tuesday, also creates a program that would allow students and others to report concerns about unsafe, dangerous or illegal activities and creates another program for schools implement emergency response systems to expedite emergency response in the event of a threat.

Hundreds turn out for Eastside gun-control meeting

February 28th, 2018|

Renton Reporter / Feb. 26, 2018
By Aaron Kunkler

Hundreds of people gathered in Kirkland on Sunday to rally for increased gun control.

The meeting was put on by the Washington state chapter of Moms Demand Action Eastside in the Kirkland Middle School cafeteria.

Seats were scarce as around 300 people squeezed in for the presentation. Many attendees wore red shirts with the organization’s name on the front and “Everytown for gun safety” printed on the back.

The slogan heralds back to the group’s origins following the 2012 Newtown shooting, which left 26 people dead, most of them children.

Erin Cizmas, head of the Eastside group, addressed the crowd.

“The tide has officially turned,” she said. “People everywhere are banding up to say enough is enough.”

The turnout for the Sunday meeting was even more impressive considering the previous one had 11 people in attendance, Cizmas said.

“We refuse to accept that this is the new normal,” she said.

Renewed attention to reforming gun-control laws has emerged after the Feb. 14 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, where 17 students were murdered by the alleged suspect, Nikolas Cruz.

It has sparked a national response with high school students often leading the conversation.

There have been renewed calls nationally to ban rifles similar to the AR 15, semi-automatic weapons that have been used in many mass shootings.

At the Kirkland meeting on Sunday, the brother of one of the women who was shot during the shooting in Las Vegas last year spoke.

That shooting left 58 people dead and 851 injured as a man named Stephen Paddock used weapon modification called a bump stock to pump more than 1,100 rounds into a concert audience. Bump stocks use the recoil of a weapon to significantly increase the rate of fire for semi-automatic assault weapons.

The speaker described what happened to his sister the night she was shot in the back.

“This is uniquely American, you know; no other developed nation deals with this stuff,” he said. “We’re tired of watching innocent people die.”

When he pointed her out in the audience, the rest of the crowd at Sunday’s meeting rose and gave her a standing ovation.

State Senator Manka Dhingra also spoke about the Legislature’s efforts to enact gun-control measures.

These include a proposed ban on bump stocks that passed the state House and will be sent back to the Senate for approval.

Another bill that would allow people to put themselves on a “do-not-buy” list for firearms sales is also being hashed out in Olympia. The rule would keep those on the list from being able to legally purchase firearms and was designed with people suffering from depression or other mental illnesses in mind.

A further bill would ban people convicted of domestic violence from buying guns.

State Democrats hope to eventually raise the age limit for buying all guns to 21, which is the age limit for buying pistols.

Anyone 18 years of age can buy a wide range of longarms, including AR 15s, in the state.

Other measures Dhingra discussed included the Senate allocating money in its budget toward clearing the backlog of pistol transfers in the state as well as assembling a task force to study school shootings and how to prevent them.

Moms Demand Action has been influential in getting previous measures passed, including the universal background checks that are currently law in Washington.

They also helped pass the ban on high-capacity magazines in California.

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    Fed up with skyrocketing property taxes? Don’t pay bill in full, say some state lawmakers

Fed up with skyrocketing property taxes? Don’t pay bill in full, say some state lawmakers

February 26th, 2018|

KOMO News / Feb. 22, 2018
By Jennifer Sullivan

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SEATTLE – It’s a plan you might never think would be endorsed by state lawmakers: don’t pay your entire property tax bill in full, at least for now.

Sen. Mark Mullet (D-Issaquah) and Sen. Dean Takko (D-Longview) say they have a plan to reduce skyrocketing property taxes – which in some places in the Puget Sound region have increased by 30 percent.

Neither senator could explain exactly how much each property owner could see reduced, but they suggest people pay their first tax installment due in April then wait to see what remedies the Legislature can offer before paying in full.

“Pay your April as you would normally then before your October payment is due it gives us time to recalculate it based on the new state rate, so your October payment will be substantially less than what you paid in April,” Mullet told KOMO in Olympia Thursday.

Takko, a former county assessor himself, explained that if people pay their property tax in full now, and the Legislature comes up with a way to reduce the balance they had after making the April payment, there will be no way for people to recoup that money.

Mullet, who lives in King County, said he’s heard the complaints from constituents and has seen a painful jump in his own taxes.

“That’s why I’m sponsoring the bill,” he said. “I can appreciate the misery everyone is going through.”

Mullet said Substitute Senate Bill 6614 needs support from five Republicans before it can be sent to the House. Officials in the Senate Republican caucus say they’ll likely support it, but wish the tax cuts were bigger.

The Democrats’ plan is to take $435 million destined for a rainy day fund and dedicate it to reducing property taxes.

The Republicans say there should be $1 billion used to reduce taxes. The Democrats counter that they can’t use that much money because there are state funding requirements for education and mental health.

“The hope this year us Democrats can do something to make sure that people aren’t being taxed out of their homes,” said Sen. Manka Dhingra (D-Redmond).

Dhingra is supporting legislation that would help seniors who are being forced from their homes because of high taxes. Senate Bill 6251 would change the eligibility requirements for senior property tax exemptions to base it on each county’s median household income.

But Mark Richards, who lives in Seattle’s Central District, said the assistance being offered by the Legislature isn’t enough.

Richards, 65, said he will be selling his house of more than 20 years and moving to California because he can no longer afford living in Seattle. His taxes had just jumped from $5,251 to $6,593.

Richards said he doesn’t qualify for senior property tax exemptions because he earns more than $50,000 per year working three jobs. Even if Dhingra’s legislation passes and lawmakers are able to slash people’s property taxes, it won’t be enough to get him to stay. He worries that taxes will keep climbing in the years to come and the city taxes keep growing.

“It’s much bigger than on the state level. It’s the city as well,” Richards said Thursday. “It doesn’t take into consideration the tax levies, the property tax levies, that Seattle is doing to take care of homeless, to take care of schooling to do a lot of different things.”

Current gun safety bills up for debate in Olympia

February 26th, 2018|

KEPRtv / Feb. 22, 2018
By Elise Haas

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OLYMPIA, Wash. – The latest mass shooting in Parkland, Florida, where 17 people died, has revived Washington lawmakers who are pushing for enhanced background checks and restrictions on firearms.

We’ve watched students around the country and in the Tri-Cities speak out on gun violence and school safety.

Now there are several bills in the House and Senate that aim at keeping automatic rifles and high-powered weapons out of the hands of people who are more likely to do harm.

Action News heard from our Washington legislators to find out where these bills stand.

“I think we should all say this on a bi-partisan basis, thoughts and prayers are not enough,” Gov. Jay Inslee said in a news conference Wednesday. “Our students and our families deserve action.”

Governor Inslee said the voices of victims and survivors of mass shootings need to be listened to in Olympia.

“There are a handful of modest, common sense bills that if passed can take reasonable measures to reduce the threat of gun violence,” he said.

Inslee voiced that he’s in support of several bills, including:

  • SB 6298 would make it harder for people involved in domestic violence to get access to weapons,
  • SB 5992 would ban bumps stocks, and;
  • SB 5444 would enhance background checks for assault weapons and high capacity magazines.

“I hope these bills get to my desk for signature,” he said.

As a sponsor and co-sponsor of a couple of these bills, Sen. Manka Dhingra said they target people engaging in violence.

“When you look at mass shootings, and one of these things that these guys have in common is that they are perpetrators of domestic violence,” Sen. Dhingra said.

The bill banning bump stocks passed in the senate, and just passed in Rep. Laurie Jinkins’ house committee.

“There is no single law that is going to end gun violence and I would never argue that,” Rep. Jinkins said. “But there are many things we can do that will help.”

Above all, Inslee said children and parents should not have to worry about gun violence in their schools, churches and shopping malls.

“I know this is an emotional issue and where good people have widely disparate beliefs, but I think it is very important to realize that these bills are not regulating guns that are out there for hunting and self-protection,” he said.

“We are talking about regulating weapons that are out there for quick and effective mass slaughter and we’re talking about simply closing loop-holes that have no sense whatsoever.”

Gov. Inslee said it’s now the legislators turn to make a difference.

“I urge legislators to listen to the voices of our students and Washingtonians who want common sense gun safety, for our kids and for all of us,” Inslee said.

A couple proposals drew bipartisan support, including SB 5992 to put a ban on bump stocks and SB 6298, prohibiting possession of firearms from people who’ve committed domestic violence against family members.

These bills have passed in the senate and are making strides through the house.

House lawmakers approved SB 5992 in committee, and the bill is awaiting a floor vote.

SB 6298 passed through the Senate and is scheduled Friday for a House committee vote.

However, the bill concerning enhanced background checks for assault weapons has only been introduced in the senate.

The latest version of SB 5444 would treat purchases of assault-style rifles similar to how Washington now regulates pistols.

The minimum purchase age would be raised to 21, and a gun-buyer would go through both a federal and state background check.

Lawmakers don’t have much time to see these proposals through, the legislative session is scheduled to end March 8.

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    New unit will work to remove guns from potentially dangerous people in King County

New unit will work to remove guns from potentially dangerous people in King County

February 26th, 2018|

KOMO News / Feb. 22, 2018
By Matt Markovich

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SEATTLE – It’s been two years in the making, but now Ellie’s Place on the fourth floor of the King County Courthouse is officially open for business.

Named after the official courthouse dog that passed away in 2015, Ellie’s place will house three programs including one that is very timely, the Regional Domestic Violence Firearms Unit.

The unit will consist of 12 people, including officers from the Seattle Police Department, deputies from the King County Sheriff’s Office, victim advocates and deputy prosecutors that are trained in weapons retrieval.

SEATTLE – It’s been two years in the making, but now Ellie’s Place on the fourth floor of the King County Courthouse is officially open for business.

Named after the official courthouse dog that passed away in 2015, Ellie’s place will house three programs including one that is very timely, the Regional Domestic Violence Firearms Unit.

The unit will consist of 12 people, including officers from the Seattle Police Department, deputies from the King County Sheriff’s Office, victim advocates and deputy prosecutors that are trained in weapons retrieval.

In 2016, voters passed a statewide initiative allowing anyone who has evidence that a person who owns guns may pose a threat to others, could have those weapons taken away temporarily by a court order.

It’s known as the Extreme Risk Protection Order or ERPO for short.

“If an individual’s made threats, if an individual has been volatile, destroyed property, if he’s harmed animals, if he has a history of assaultive behavior, it’s evidence a judge can use for an ERPO,” said Anne Levinson, a retired Seattle Municipal Court Judge was instrumental in getting Ellie’s Place up and running.

Ellie’s Place will also house the Children’s Justice Center, where children and their families who’ve been victims of violence can come into a family-friendly setting for forensic interviews and legal assistance in getting an ERPO.

“There’s not another one like it in the entire country and we’ve already seen they are increasing the number of guns recovered from the most dangerous hands,” said Renee Hopkins, CEO of the Alliance for Gun Responsibility, the group that backed the ERPO initiative.

But, it took a $1 million appropriation, shared between King County and the City of Seattle, and hundreds of volunteer hours to get Ellie’s Place operational.

Ellie’s Place will also benefit smaller cities like Bothell in King County, that couldn’t afford the resources of the firearms retrieval unit.

Not all counties and cities in the state are wealthy enough to do the same.

“These are great ideas, but they are unfunded mandates and they are being placed on departments with more unfunded mandates, it’s just making it very problematic,” said Bothell Police Chief Carol Cummings.

Democratic State Senator Manka Dhingra of Redmond is sponsoring a bill to get guns out of the hands of people convicted of domestic harassment, and realizes the funding hole gun retrieval laws represent.

“If we are asking more of our officers, we have to make sure they get the funding they need to get the work done,” said Dhingra.

No state monies are being set aside for ERPO’s and their enforcement.

It’s up to each individual law enforcement agency to figure out how it’s going to comply with these court orders, which can be very risky to execute.

Education Funding on the Eastside

February 13th, 2018|

Sen. Manka Dhingra is joined by Sen. Lisa Wellman and Sen. Patty Kuderer to discuss the importance of education funding for Eastside school district including: Bellevue, Issaquah, Lake Washington, Mercer Island, North Shore, Renton, Riverview, and Snoqualmie Valley.

 

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    Senate passes Dhingra bill to provide property tax relief for seniors, veterans

Senate passes Dhingra bill to provide property tax relief for seniors, veterans

February 12th, 2018|


OLYMPIA – The Senate today unanimously passed legislation introduced by Sen. Manka Dhingra, D-Redmond, to provide property tax relief to those who can least afford an increase—senior citizens, persons with disabilities, and veterans who reside in areas with a high cost of living.

“Affordability is a huge problem in the 45th Legislative District and surrounding communities,” Dhingra said. “Seniors and people on fixed income, many of whom have called the 45th home for decades, are being priced out of their homes.” 

Under current law, the senior property tax exemption is calculated based on statewide income thresholds, which do not account for the disparate cost of living in different counties. Senate Bill 6251 will change eligibility to be based on each county’s median household income.

“Current exemptions do not account for regional difference,” Dhingra said. “This bill fixes that.” 

Senate Bill 6251 passed with a vote of 47-0.

 

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    Senate passes Dhingra bill to protect children from young mistakes

Senate passes Dhingra bill to protect children from young mistakes

February 10th, 2018|

OLYMPIA – The Senate today passed legislation introduced by Sen. Manka Dhingra, D-Redmond, to bring state law into the 21st century and help protect our children.

Washington law currently makes no distinction between minors who make, send or possess sexually explicit images of themselves and minors who maliciously send images of others. The result is that penalties are severe. Under current law, any minor sending an image of themselves to another person his or her own age could face felony charges, up to five years in prison, and mandatory sex offender registration.

As every parent knows, kids sometimes make mistakes,” Dhingra said. “We hope the mistakes they make become opportunities for learning and growth. Children today face a new set of challenges as evolving technologies have opened the door to mistakes that can haunt them for the rest of their lives.”

Senate Bill 6566 does not alter existing safeguards like harassment protections or a prosecutor’s ability to make a special allegation of sexual motivation. Additionally, it directs the Washington Coalition of Sexual Assault Programs to establish a workgroup to study the harms caused by the exchange of intimate images by minors and report its findings to the Legislature.

Teenagers should not be labeled sex offenders and felons for sending intimate pictures of themselves to someone they know,” Dhingra said. “This bill ensures that kids are held responsible but have the opportunity to learn and recover from their mistakes, while still holding accountable those who distribute explicit photos of others.”

Senate Bill 6566 passed with strong bipartisan support by a vote of 31-16.

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    Senate votes to increase protections for victims of domestic violence

Senate votes to increase protections for victims of domestic violence

February 9th, 2018|

OLYMPIA – The Senate today passed legislation introduced by Sen. Manka Dhingra, D-Redmond, to increase protection for victims of domestic violence.

Senate Bill 6298 would add harassment to the list of domestic violence crimes that prohibit a convicted batterer from possessing a weapon.

“More than half of all women murdered with guns in the United States were killed by intimate partners or family,” Dhingra said. “We are helping to protect survivors of domestic violence and ensuring they don’t become causalities.”

In the state of Washington, in most cases, individuals convicted of domestic violence offenses lose their right to possess a firearm until that right is restored by a court of law. SB 6298 will ensure the state holds all perpetrators of domestic violence equally responsible, including those convicted of harassment.

“Crimes of domestic violence are some of the hardest to prosecute, and the most deadly call that law enforcement officers respond to,” Dhingra said. “This bill will help us keep weapons out of the hands of those who are likely to misuse them. The legislation is very narrowly tailored to impact only those individuals who have been convicted in our courts.”

The legislation is supported by the City of Seattle, the City Attorney’s Office, the Washington Coalition Against Domestic Violence and the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office.

SB 6298 passed in the Senate by a strong bipartisan vote of 34-13.