Mandatory sex education bill headed to Gov. Inslee’s desk for signature

March 5th, 2020|

From Q13 Fox

A measure that makes K-12 sex education mandatory in Washington public schools is headed to the governor’s desk for his signature.

The proposal, requested by the state Superintendent of Public Instruction Chris Reykdal, would require all public schools in Washington state to teach age-appropriate comprehensive sex ed. to 6th-12th graders starting in the 2021-2022 school year, then expand it to all students by the 2022-2023 school year.

The state Senate passed the measure with a 27-21 vote over the weekend.

It’s been a controversial topic throughout the Legislative session, and not everyone believes it’s in students’ best interests.

“These amendments will just drive more people into private schools or home schooling so parents will have some control over what their kids are taught,” said state Sen. Curtis King, a Yakima Republican.

State Sen. Manka Dhingra, D-Redmond, defended the bill, noting that the curriculum is age-appropriate and will teach older students about consent.

The bill is set to become law pending a signature from the governor.

Sex education will be required in Washington public schools

March 5th, 2020|

Sex education will be required in every public school district of Washington, under legislation cleared by the State Senate on Saturday and sent to Gov. Jay Inslee for his signature.

The legislation, stalled for two years in the House of Representatives, drew fierce Republican opposition. It passed the Senate on a 27-21 party line vote, with murmurs that opponents may seen to send the issue to voters in a referendum.

“Republicans have never seen a compelling reason to mandate a sex education curriculum at the state level, and each of us believes those decisions should continue to be made at the local level, where parents can be heard directly,” the Senate Republican Caucus said in a statement after the vote.

State Sen. Steve O’Ban, R-University Place, argued: “We’ve always believed that the best government is one that is local.” Other GOP lawmakers have argued darkly that the legislation is the product of people and groups with “agendas.” What those “agendas” are has not been defined.

Under the legislation, every public school in Washington must have a comprehensive sexual health education program, one that meets certain requirements. Parents can choose to take their offspring out of the program.

School districts will have criteria tools to review, as well as criteria established by the state’s Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction. The legislation requires school districts to annually report the criteria they are using.

The sex education requirement kicks in this September for grades 6 to 12, and in September of 2021 for kindergarten through 5th grade.

State Sen. Claire Wilson, D-Federal Way, an educator and chief sponsor, termed the requirement sensible and necessary. “We must ensure that our kids have the tools and know they need to recognize and resist inappropriate behavior,” she argued. “This important education will help prevent younger kids from being targeted by pedophiles and help teens who feel pressures to have sex.”

The debate saw first-term State Sen. Mona Das, D-Kent, get personal and move colleagues with her story. Das related that male babysitters sexually abused her as a little girl, and that a male relative sought to abuse her when she was a teenager.

“I wish I had this education in school,” she told colleagues. “I wish someone taught me about consent. I wish someone told me that ‘no meant no’. I know that I am not alone.”

Twice in recent years, in 2009 and 2012, opponents organized by the religious rights have taken the Legislature’s actions to a vote. In 2009, the state voted in favor of legalizing domestic partnerships for same-sex couples. Three years later, Washington became one of the first three dates to vote in favor of marriage equality. The state’s first same-sex wedding was performed by King County Superior Court Judge Mary Yu, who now sits on the Washington State Supreme Court.

The Family Policy Institute of Washington, a force behind previous referendum campaigns, has fiercely opposed mandatory sex education in public schools.

Sex education is “driven by Planned Parenthood” and “seeks to indoctrinate and sexualize children all the way down to kindergarten,” the Center’s web site argues. It accuses advocates of promoting “a sexuality that is contrary to God’s Word, encouraging sexual experimentation, affirming gender dysphoria and same-sex attraction.”

The curriculum is a product of “neo-Pagans (nonbelievers) and the new Socialists to change our culture and values of sex and marriage,” it adds.

State Sen. Manka Dhingra, D-Redmond, a deputy King County Prosecutor, offered a far different perspective, saying in debate: “Instead of consistently reacting to violence against women, we now actually will be in a position where we are preventing future victimization and preventing future violence.”

By Joel Connelly

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    Beyond the backlog: Washington lawmakers looking to change way, where rape kits are stored

Beyond the backlog: Washington lawmakers looking to change way, where rape kits are stored

March 4th, 2020|

From The Seattle Times

In recent years, Washington, like many other states, has been overwhelmed with a backlog of untested rape kits. The state has invested millions of dollars to reduce the number of untested kits — which reached nearly 10,000 in 2015 — and hopes to eliminate the backlog by December 2021.

But even as the number shrinks, lawmakers are realizing that the backlog isn’t the only issue affecting how sexual assault cases are being handled. This legislative session, lawmakers are discussing how to better collect, store and track important forensic evidence.

Under a bill, sponsored by Rep. Tina Orwall, D-Des Moines, local law enforcement would be responsible for all evidence collected during a sexual assault exam, even when survivors are still deciding on whether to file a police report. Standards would be set in order to preserve that evidence for years.

“We wanna do more than test,” Orwall said. “If we truly want justice and want to take dangerous people off the streets, we need to investigate and really potentially prosecute and find justice.”

The Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs (WASPC), however, cited concerns over holding material that isn’t yet part of a police report — something the bill would require them to do.

WASPC argued that rape kits not associated with a reported crime are “not evidence,” and holding on to them is “a precedent that we’re not comfortable setting.”

Depending on the jurisdiction, law enforcement or hospitals may hold on to a sexual assault kit after it has been administered. An individual can decide whether to report their assault to the police. If they do not immediately choose to report a crime, their kit is referred to as an “unreported SAK.” There is currently no statewide clarity as to how the kits are then stored or tracked, or how long investigatory records associated with a case are kept.

Sexual assault kits are white boxes that contain instruments and instructions to collect fluids and tissues that could contain the DNA of the perpetrator. They are used by nurses who are specially trained in conducting sexual assault exams, and are stored in climate-controlled environment. Blood and urine samples are sometimes collected in addition to the kit. But state law does not define what a kit actually includes, which means those additional pieces of evidence may not be kept with the white box or included in the State Patrol’s tracking system.

“This has led to evidence related to the same assault being stored in multiple places,” said Lauren McDonald, health access policy director at Washington State Hospital Association.

Assault examination kits cannot be destroyed, thanks to a temporary moratorium spearheaded by Orwall last year, but the investigatory reports and notes associated with the kit can be. Before the moratorium, hospitals and law enforcement had discretion as to when an unreported kit could be destroyed. Investigations found that jurisdictions across the country — including in Washington — were destroying unreported kits.

There have been cases where tested kits get a “hit” — or match — in the DNA database, only for prosecutors to find that important notes about the case no longer exist, said Katharine Hemann, a Washington assistant attorney general.

House Bill 2318 would define sexual assault kits to include all evidence collected during a sexual assault exam, require the preservation of investigation records related to the kit, and require local law enforcement to hold on to unreported kits for 20 years.

Obstacles to prosecution

The State Patrol has already found hundreds of hits in sexual assault kits that the state has tested, but those hits rely on offenders’ DNA being submitted to the federal Combined DNA Index System (CODIS). Although all felons are required to do so, sometimes they don’t. House Bill 2813 attempts to close what some are calling a “loophole” in the law.

Under the current system, the court may order an offender to provide a DNA sample. But if offenders are not taken into custody immediately, they are expected to return within a period of time to provide that sample, meaning there is little enforcement of the requirement. HB 2318 would require offenders to submit their DNA before leaving the court’s presence, so long as the courtroom has the ability to collect it.

When the rape kit backlog was at its peak, King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg estimated that of all offenders asked to return to submit their DNA, only about a quarter actually did.

The loophole may represent many missed opportunities at justice. But even with many offenders missing from the federal database, the attorney general still anticipates almost 1,000 more hits to come back once the backlog is eliminated, and argued that it would be pointless for the state to test the kits if they don’t intend to investigate.

The attorney general requested $1.79 million for fiscal year 2021 in order to help fund a new sexual assault cold case team of seven people. The governor’s proposed budget partially fulfilled this request, and the House and Senate must now work together to generate a supplemental budget.

Logistical and “philosophical” concerns

HB 2813, along with the proposition of a cold case team, has received pushback from law enforcement.

James McMahon, WASPC policy director, told lawmakers that unreported sexual assault kits should be properly stored, but not by law enforcement. He argued that local law enforcement is responsible for storing evidence associated with crimes, and that an unreported sexual assault kit only becomes “evidence” once a crime is reported.

“They should be stored, they should be secured,” McMahon said. “But getting into the practice of having law enforcement agencies store materials that are not yet evidence, that’s a precedent that we’re not comfortable setting.”

The argument caused a rift among survivors advocating for the bill.

“Nobody goes out and gets a rape kit for fun,” Leah Griffin, a survivor on the Sexual Assault Forensic Examination Best Practices advisory group, said. “This concept that this is not yet evidence is absurd.”

Proponents of the bill also argue that hospitals are not trained to store forensic material, and that a proper chain of custody is necessary to ensure that kits hold up in a court of law.

Concerns about whether law enforcement will have enough space for the kits also have been raised, and an amendment was adopted to allow law enforcement to move found property such as bicycles and other items not immediately associated with a crime to other departments in order to make space for sexual assault kits. Orwall also noted that a centralized storage location may be considered in the future for a longer-term solution.

A culture change and an apology

After years of working on legislation to address the issue, Orwall says she still hears problematic ideas about sexual assault. For example, she said she’s heard that some think an assault by someone you know is somehow less real than one committed by a stranger, and is not able to be prosecuted.

“It should still be investigated. It’s still sexual assault, and you don’t know how many cases that may link to,” Orwall said. “You’ll never catch a serial rapist unless you test every kit.”

Chris Loftis, a spokesman for the State Patrol, says officials are now understanding the “investigatory value” of testing every kit. Even when officials know whose DNA is in the kit, it might “be the linchpin in unlocking another investigation to another crime, exposing a pattern of behavior.”

In addition to the bill to address the storage of sexual assault kits and investigatory documents, Orwall has been working closely with Rep. Gina Mosbrucker, R-Goldendale, and Sen. Manka Dhingra, D-Redmond, to address what officials have called a “patchwork” response to sexual assault across the state.

Mosbrucker is pushing to expand access to training so more nurses in rural areas are able to conduct sexual assault exams, while Dhingra is sponsoring a bill to develop model protocols for when victims present at a hospital.

“I think the next step is public service announcements — I think we need to apologize” to victims, Orwall said. “I think people have the right to know what happened. The state failed.”

By Claudia Yaw

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    Senate resolution honors 100-plus years of Sikh contributions to Washington

Senate resolution honors 100-plus years of Sikh contributions to Washington

March 2nd, 2020|

From the Kent Reporter

The Washington State Senate last Friday honored Washington’s Sikh community with a resolution sponsored by Sen. Mona Das, D-Kent, and co-sponsored by Sen. Manka Dhingra, D-Redmond.

Joined by Gov. Jay Inslee and Lt. Gov. Cyrus Habib, more than 50 Sikh community members were present at the State Capitol in Olympia for an official reading of the resolution and community reception.

“As Sikh Americans, it’s important for us to build relationships with our elected officials so that we can increase Sikh awareness and community power,” said Kent City Councilmember Satwinder Kaur in a press release from the New York-based Sikh Coalition. “To be formally recognized by our state’s Legislature is meaningful to Sikhs who have made Washington our home.”

Efforts to build understanding about Sikhs and their history in Washington have increased in recent years, after violence targeting Sikhs have made local and national headlines. In 2017 in Kent, a gunman reportedly shot and injured a Sikh man in his own driveway while telling him, “go back to your own country.” Just last December, a Sikh Uber driver was allegedly viciously attacked in Bellingham and law enforcement is continuing to investigate the case as a hate crime.

“The Sikh American community is part of the great diversity that helps Washington thrive,” Das said in the release. “We are strongest when we stand together, and this resolution recognizes the vital contributions and deep community roots of Sikh Americans. Their commitment to community service and unity has woven neighbors and families together throughout history.”

In addition to raising Sikh awareness through local government, Sikhs in Washington are equipping educators to teach about Sikhism accurately in the classroom through the C3 framework. After an alleged hate crime was reported in 2017 in Kent, Washington’s Sikh community leaders also organized a hate crime forum focused on hate crime prevention alongside public officials, law enforcement and interfaith leaders.

The Sikh Coalition is one of the largest Sikh civil rights organizations in the United States, that works to create lasting impact in the courtroom, classroom, community and halls of Congress.

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    Child sex trafficking survivors deserve to be protected, not criminalized

Child sex trafficking survivors deserve to be protected, not criminalized

February 28th, 2020|

From Crosscut

by Manka Dhingra & Tina Orwall & Shoshana Wineburg

She was violated and raped in plain sight at all hours of the day and night. She was sold and threatened with violence and death. She scratched and kicked the walls of her motel room. She cried for help from anyone who could hear. Instead of helping, motel staff told her to “keep it down.” She would later be arrested for prostitution that she was forced into.

Her story isn’t unique. It’s the story of American sex trafficking and it’s trapping girls in every community in the sexual-abuse-to-prison pipeline.

Between the ages of 12 and 15, a woman known only as M.L., was raped up to 10 times a day at a Motel 6 in Washington state. After employees allegedly turned a blind eye or enabled her abuse, she’s now fighting back with a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court of Tacoma against the major motel chain and Craigslist for enabling child sex trafficking. The lawsuit claims that many people within the hospitality industry and Craigslist knew that children were being sold for sex and did nothing to stop it. In fact, M.L. alleges that the motel manager tried to buy her, along with other girls, for sex. Once Motel 6 found out about the prostitution, the lawsuit claims, all it did was transfer him to a different location.

Cases like M.L.’s are far too common across the nation. We don’t know the full scope of child sex trafficking within the United States, but studies indicate that 100,000 to 3 million children are purchased for sex each year. What we do know, tragically, is that it’s the most vulnerable children — youth who have been abused or those involved with the child welfare system — who are being sexually victimized and eventually incarcerated.

Twenty years ago, President Bill Clinton signed the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA), which established the first ever legal definition of human trafficking. Following passage, commercial sex acts “by force, fraud, or coercion,” or performed on people under the age of 18, constituted a “severe form of trafficking.” Thus, the TVPA laid out that children are victims, not perpetrators, of their own sexual exploitation.

While the TVPA defined the problem of human trafficking and established minors involved in a commercial sex act as victims, the law didn’t go far enough. Today in 2020, children under 18 can still be survivors of sex trafficking, yet be prosecuted for the sex crime of prostitution. As a result, it has fallen upon individual states to fix this contradiction by passing safe harbor legislation — policies which exempt minors from charges of prostitution and provide therapeutic services instead of incarceration.

Two years after the passage of the TVPA, Michigan’s Legislature charted the course for what statewide safe harbor policy could look like. As of 2019, 31 states, including Washington, D.C., have passed some form of safe harbor. That leaves 20 states that continue to criminalize child survivors of sex trafficking, including Washington state.

Sexual abuse during childhood is frequently one of the key indicators that girls — disproportionately girls of color — will enter the juvenile and criminal justice systems. Often, they are condemned for crimes related to their own sexual abuse and reactions to traumatic events. This includes substance abuse, truancy, running away and retaliating against their abusers. These crimes are loud cries for help and therapeutic intervention, and should not be met with traditional detention and punishment.

This is why we have proposed a holistic completion of safe harbor legislation (House Bill 1775) in Washington state. The policy would exempt trafficking survivors from crimes related to their own sexual exploitation. It would create a pilot program for therapeutic receiving centers to take children who have been trafficked and establish designated trafficking liaisons within Washington’s child welfare system. These interventions can disrupt the sexual-abuse-to-prison pipeline by offering survivors a chance to heal and build a pathway to a life free of exploitation and violence.

This an ambitious but necessary step toward ending sex trafficking. Had safe harbor policies been in place for M.L., she may have been able to get the help she needed sooner.

In 2020, we hope to add Washington state to the growing list of safe harbor states, and we encourage all 19 remaining states to join us. Even in a highly divided nation, this is one area where we should all be able to agree.

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    Washington State Senate Passes Resolution Honoring Sikh Americans

Washington State Senate Passes Resolution Honoring Sikh Americans

February 28th, 2020|

From India-West

The office of state Sen. Manka Dhingra of Washington state announced that Dhingra and fellow state Sen. Mona Das were among legislators in the Pacific Northwest state that passed a resolution honoring Sikh Americans.

Dhingra, D-Redmond, Das, D-Kent, and others sponsored Senate Resolution 8696A resolution, which passed Feb. 28.

The resolution honors the contributions of Sikh Americans to Washington state’s culture, economy and government, a news release said.

Legislators in the state brought to the capitol many representatives of Washington’s Sikh American community, which has deep roots in Washington state reaching back to 1899, the release said.

“I hope that they felt recognized and appreciated today. Our wonderful state of Washington wouldn’t be the same without Sikh Americans’ dedication to our communities and their commitment to reconciliation and kindness,” Das said. “They demonstrate what close-knit family and friendship should be, and I am so glad we could celebrate one another with such a joyful reception and resolution.”

The invocation was given by Giyani Sadhu Singh of Gurudwara Singh Sabha in Renton, and translated by Amarjit Singh, the release noted.

Members of several other Sikh temples were in attendance, including Guru Tegh Bahadur Gurudwara of Kent, Sacha Marg Gurudwara of Auburn, Sikh Center of Seattle and Bothell, and Khalsa Gurmat Center, it said.

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    Required sex education: One step from passing Washington State Legislature

Required sex education: One step from passing Washington State Legislature

February 27th, 2020|

From the Seattle P.I.

bill to require comprehensive sex education in Washington’s public schools has passed the House Education Committee on a 9-8 vote, a key step for legislation repeatedly approved by the Washington State Senate but never brought to a vote in the House of Representatives.

“We were unable to clear this hurdle last year, so this is the farthest this bill has come and is a significant step in the process for Washington state schools to offer this important curriculum,” Courtney Normand of Planned Parenthood Votes said in a statement.

Sex ed legislation has already passed by a largely party line 28-21 vote in the State Senate. The upper chamber passed similar legislation last year. Sexual education was not brought to the floor for a vote under former House Speaker Frank Chopp. House Speaker Laurie Jinkins has replaced Chopp, who retired as Speaker at the end of last year’s session.

Few issues have caused as much controversy in Olympia.

The sex ed bill is described as “the most dangerous and radical bill so far in the 2020 legislative session” by the Family Research Institute of Washington. The Institute led opposition to marriage equality and lately has mounted a petition drive to support forced resignations of two LGBTQ faculty at Kennedy Catholic High School in Burien.

“Comprehensive sexual education is about safety, first and foremost,” the bill’s chief sponsor State Sen. Claire Wilson, D-Federal Way, said in floor debate. “It does not direct teachers to instruct students on how to have sex or how to promote sexual activity. The curriculum is age appropriate and it is addressed by local school boards.”

The legislation would require every public school to provide comprehensive sex education. Options for local schools would be drawn up by the state’s Office of Public Instruction.

The requirement for grades six through 12 would kick in this September, for kindergarten through fifth grade in 2021. The program’s chief goal, for young students, is to detect and deter sexual violence. It is designed to promote affirmative consent. An opt out clause for parents is included.

A vociferous opponent of the legislation has been State Sen. Doug Ericksen, R-Ferndale, co-chair of President Trump’s 2016 campaign in Washington state. It is being pressed by the Legislature’s “urban majority” he argued in a recent article.

“Not just about the birds and the bees, but state-approved theories of gender identity, sexual orientation and relationships, as interpreted by social activist groups,” said Ericksen.

At a contentious House hearing last month, however, a young woman named Jessica Cole testified: “Had I known more about consent, sexual assault, healthy relationships and STI (sexually transmitted infections), I would have been able to protect myself and get appropriate assistance. Comprehensive sex education decreases stigma and increases understanding.”

Sex ed is “about consent and how to understand our bodies,” State Sen. Manka Dhingra, D-Redmond, a deputy King County Prosecutor, has argued.

The bill passed in the Education Committee has gone to the House Rules Committee. Should there be a floor vote, and sex ed pass the Legislature, it will signal a new era in the House of Representatives.

By Joel Connelly

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    Legislators Discuss Major Policies in 45th District Town Hall

Legislators Discuss Major Policies in 45th District Town Hall

February 26th, 2020|

From the Woodinville Weekly

Very few bills are directly benefiting Eastside cities during this short legislative session. Aside from various capital budget projects around the county, Woodinville has not been impacted.

With 20 days left in the 60-day session, legislators will be working to pass measures that advance state priorities. Sen. Manka Dhingra, Rep. Roger Goodman and Rep. Larry Springer represent neighborhoods in Woodinville, Duvall, Kirkland, Redmond and Sammamish.

Citizens in the 45th District had two separate opportunities to discuss pending bills and important issues with their local legislators Feb. 20 and 22. The Town Hall covered topics related to car tabs, education and the environment. Springer shared his new bill to combat homelessness and housing affordability in King County.

“The bill essentially sets up a system by which employers would pay a payroll tax based on certain criteria and level of income,” Springer said. “Interestingly, the idea was brought up by the business community.”

He said about 10 major employers in the state, including those at Starbucks, Amazon, Expedia and Microsoft, want to help with the housing crisis and are willing to pay. The payroll tax would generate about $120-150 million each year in King County, he added.

In the next 20 years, Springer said this revenue stream could raise up to $1 billion, which would then be distributed to the county, the city of Seattle and other suburban cities for shelters and affordable housing projects.

“I’m just really excited about the stakeholders that are supporting this bill because it really is about the understanding that this issue impacts each and every one of us who live in this community,” Dhingra said. “It is not about us versus them.”

Dhingra said more tech companies and industries are moving to the Eastside, including a potential new satellite division of Google in Redmond. Businesses flock towards talent and locality, which will eventually provide more job opportunities in the 45th District, she added.

“There’s a lot of partnerships that are already occurring without the need of government being involved at this time,” she said.

She said many companies offer incentives to students interested in computer science and technology, providing them with scholarships and internship opportunities in the summer and during the school year.

In the last session, the legislature focused more on higher education to ensure all students can access college without extreme debt. Dhingra said she is continuing to look at trauma-informed care and adverse childhood experiences to meet the needs of students across the district.

This session has placed more emphasis on early learning and pre-K education to prepare students for success in school. Goodman said he has been working on legislation to expand access to high-quality preschool.

“Public education is, first of all, in the state constitution as our top priority,” Goodman said. “But it just makes sense to make it our top priority in any event. Everything comes back to education.”

Springer said the state has spent an additional $10 billion over the last six years to support the K-12 system. About 52% of the entire state budget goes to K-12 education, he added.

Another financially debated topic on the minds of many is Tim Eyman’s car tab initiative. Springer said the law passed by voters will have a “devastating effect” on the people least able to get around.

“The cold hard reality of that car tab initiative is that we will lose 40,000 hours per year of Metro bus service in our region,” he said. “That will be particularly impactful for developmentally disabled residents of the district, as well as the elderly who depend on paratransit.”

Even though the initiative is being challenged in court, Goodman said there is a high probability that it will remain an effective law. He added that this law creates a $2 billion loss in funding, which would otherwise go towards bike lanes, pedestrian pathways, fish culverts and other transportation-related expenses.

“In the future, we’re going to have to figure out a way to finance transportation projects,” he said. “The next biennium, we’re probably going to be considering a comprehensive transportation finance package.”

By Madeline Coats

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    Washington mother fights to lower threshold of involuntary commitment during mental health crisis

Washington mother fights to lower threshold of involuntary commitment during mental health crisis

February 21st, 2020|

From King 5 News

A bill to make it easier to get someone mental health treatment, against their will, has the support of Jerri Clark.

The Vancouver, Washington mother said current law made it hard to get help for her adult son, Calvin Clark.

“My son met criteria for involuntary treatment the moment that he stepped off the roof of a hotel and plunged to his death,” Jerri Clark told state Representatives Friday.

His mother said he started suffering from severe mental illness when he was 19.

After he acted out and attempted suicide, his mother tried getting him committed.

“I had a crisis responder say to me, ‘He’s clearly not well. I don’t think he’s safe, but he doesn’t meet the criteria under the law,” Clark said.

She spoke in favor of Senate Bill 5720, a bill to allow involuntary commitment if someone is deemed to be unsafe.

Currently someone can only be involuntarily committed if it can be proven that the person’s “routine functioning” is impacted.

The legislative proposal replaces that phrase with “safe behavior,” a threshold that’s easier to reach, enabling earlier intervention, supporters said.

“It’s about making sure we are keeping people safe, it’s about making sure people are not a danger to themselves, or others,” said Sen. Manka Dhingra, D-Redmond.

The bill would also extend the evaluation period from three days to five days.

RELATED: Proposal for longer involuntary commitment holds in Washington

Lawmakers did hear testimony against the proposal.

Kirkland resident Zelda Menard told legislators the current system is easy enough.

Menard testified she was involuntarily committed three times between 2005 and 2009 without having to present as violent. She does not think the treatment made her better.

“They wanted me to take meds I didn’t want to,” said Menard, “I was put in four-point restraints and drugged.”

Menard said making it easier would only, “Ensnare even more people in a system that does nothing helpful for those in mental crisis.”

“People have lost homes. People have lost jobs. College students drop out of school,” said David Montes from the King County Department of Public Defense.

Clark hoped telling her son’s story would have an impact.

“I think they understand that individuals who are very, very ill are falling through the cracks,” said Clark.

By Drew Mikkelsen

Felons’ voting rights won’t change in Washington state

February 21st, 2020|

From the AP

Voting restrictions for people with felony convictions will remain unchanged after the Washington state Senate rejected a bill that would have restored their voting rights.

Currently, felons lose their voting rights after they are convicted and regain them once they have served their prison term and completed community custody or probation.

The bill would have allowed felons to vote after they are released from prison but before they have completed probation or paid restitution.

The Democratic senators who control the state Senate did not collect enough votes on the legislation ahead of the Wednesday deadline to pass non-fiscal policy bills, the Olympian reported Thursday.

“It’s exceptionally disappointing, given the overwhelming evidence that this helps re-entry and doesn’t affect public safety negatively at all. It seems punitive, short-sighted and counter-productive,” said Democratic Sen. Patty Kuderer, the bill’s sponsor.

Supporters of the bill, which included the state Department of Corrections, have argued the legislation is consistent with efforts to reintegrate people convicted of felonies into society and to reduce their chances of re-offending, Kuderer said.

Some Republicans countered that felons should not be allowed to vote until prison time, community custody and restitution is completed.

Multiple amendments to the bill were proposed including exempting those convicted of sex offenses from getting their voting rights restored earlier than under current law and prohibiting people on community custody from voting if they were convicted of unlawful possession of a firearm and were criminal street gang members or associates.

There’s no correlation between the right to vote, criminal activity and public safety, Democratic Sen. Manka Dhingra.

Kuderer vowed to try to get the bill passed next year.