Two weeks remain of this 60-day session, which is scheduled to end March 13. On Feb. 18, we came to our first major floor deadline. That was the date all bills must have passed from their house of origin, or they are considered “dead” for the year. There are some exceptions, including bills necessary to implement the state operating budget. As of 5 p.m. on Feb. 18, the House had passed and sent to the Senate 333 House bills. Thanks to your help and support several of those measures which passed the House were Freedom Agenda bills! More information on those bills is provided below.
We also had a very successful telephone town hall meeting last week as I was joined by my seatmates, Rep. Leonard Christian and Sen. Mike Padden. I invite you to read more below.
Finally, there's a really bad bill that is attempting to restore the ability of criminally-insane patients at Eastern State Hospital to go on field trips. I worked in 2010 to pass a law that restricts criminally-insane patients from leaving the premises of state mental hospitals where they are committed. This was after the escape of a schizophrenic killer during a field trip to the Spokane County Interstate Fair.
I encourage your involvement, attention and participation in our Republican form of government. Here's how:
- Watch my Legislative Video Update. Every two weeks, I record a video update of the current activities in the Legislature. It is also shown at various times on Spokane City Cable 5.
- Check out all of my prime- and co-sponsored bills here.
- Listen to our Freedom Agenda podcast on Sound Cloud.
- Go to Facebook and look for Freedom Agenda Washington.
- Visit my website: www.representativemattshea.com
- Have your family, friends and neighbors sign up for my e-mail update here.
Thank you for standing with us to ensure LOWER TAXES, LESS GOVERNMENT and MORE FREEDOM. And thank you for the honor of allowing me to serve and represent you in the state Legislature.
I am very pleased to report these Freedom Agenda bills have passed the House and are now advancing in the Senate.
- House Bill 1090 – Fresh water docks – This is a measure I authored last year that would incentivize the use of environmentally-friendly materials for fresh water dock construction. The bill would help fresh water dock manufacturers in the Spokane area create jobs. It passed the House unanimously on Jan. 22. You can listen to my floor speech and passage of the bill here. The bill passed today from the Senate Natural Resources and Parks Committee. We are now awaiting floor action in the Senate.
- House Bill 1888 – Expanding the state's economy through industrial hemp – This measure, which would legalize growing and sales of industrial hemp, could create an entirely new industry in the state of Washington and have a tremendous positive impact on our state's economy. Please note that industrial hemp is NOT marijuana, but an entirely separate product. This measure passed the House unanimously and was approved yesterday by the Senate Agriculture, Water and Rural Economic Development Committee.
- House Bill 2543 – Ensuring public safety through tighter electronic home monitoring restrictions – This measure would establish a workgroup to study and make recommendations on tighter and more accountable electronic home monitoring (EHM) of offenders. Information has come to light that hundreds of potentially dangerous criminals sentenced to electronic home monitoring may be walking around free due to either administrative oversight or corruption. (Read my press release.) A KING 5 television report documented flaws in the GPS monitoring system that has allowed offenders on EHM to walk free without being monitored. See that report here. The bill passed the House unanimously. A public hearing was held last week in the Senate Law and Justice Committee. We are now awaiting committee action.
- House Bill 2675 – Expanding the freedom to use off-road and all-terrain vehicles – This measure builds upon our success last year with the new ATV/ORV law and would do four things: 1. Change the process for obtaining a title to an off-road vehicle; 2. Add a sponsoring organization (such as a search and rescue unit) to the list of entities in which a volunteer emergency worker would be protected from liability for civil damages; 3. Provide reciprocity of wheeled all-terrain vehicle laws with other states, such as Idaho; and 4. Allow motor vehicle repair shops to do inspections. Passed the House 90-6 and is now in the Senate Transportation Committee.
- House Bill 2789 – Restricting government's use of drones and surveillance – This is a measure I co-sponsored to establish state safeguards for the purchase and use of drones and other unmanned aircraft systems, also known as “extraordinary sensing devices (ESD).” Under the measure, a state agency would have to get permission from the agency's governing body before it obtained an ESD. Usage is restricted for certain emergency circumstances or if a search warrant is issued. No regulatory usage is permitted unless the Legislature authorizes it through legislation. This measure passed the House 83-15. It is scheduled for a public hearing this evening in the Senate Law and Justice Committee.
- Senate Bill 6388 – A new way to get your food directly from the farm and a model for the future of the food industry – I sponsored this legislation in the House through House Bill 1827, but it appears the identical Senate companion bill will be the vehicle for this law. This legislation would create a license for pass-thru wholesale food distributors, such as Zaycon in the Spokane Valley, that deliver pre-packaged food directly to the consumer. Read more about this legislation in a recent e-mail update earlier this month. This measure passed the Senate, 46-1. A public hearing was held yesterday in the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee, and the committee passed the bill today.
Telephone town hall successful
Thank you to all who participated in an hour-long telephone town hall meeting on Feb. 19 with me, Rep. Leonard Christian and Sen. Mike Padden. More than 770 people were on the line at one time. We took many thoughtful, interesting questions and discussed many issues, including the use of drones, industrial hemp, college funds for illegal aliens and more. We also conducted online phone surveys. This telephone town hall meeting is very helpful as we vote on legislation that could impact the 4th District.
Bad Bill – House Bill 1458: Allowing criminally-insane patients to go on field trips in public venues
In September 2009, 11 Eastern State Hospital employees took several of their forensic patients on a field trip to Family Day at the Spokane County Interstate Fair. While they were at the fairgrounds, which was filled with families and children, one of the patients, Phillip Arnold Paul, simply walked away and vanished. Paul was a schizophrenic killer who had been declared “innocent by reason of insanity” and committed to ESH after he brutally strangled an elderly Sunnyside woman, slashed her throat, and soaked her body in gasoline. It took several days of an intensive manhunt to track him down and bring him back into custody. Until then, few people knew that the hospital had been regularly taking its criminally-insane patients on field trips to public venues where families, women and children could be put at risk of harm.
I introduced legislation to restrict patients at state mental hospitals who have been judged criminally insane from leaving their facilities, with certain exceptions of supervised leave and with court oversight. The bill passed and was signed into law.
This year, House Bill 1458 was introduced to repeal my public safety law in its entirety. I feel this is a slap in the face to the families of the victims of these patients – and to the people of Eastern Washington who, for three days in 2009, were stricken with fear, knowing that a criminally-insane patient had escaped during one of these outings, and could have been lurking in their neighborhoods, near school grounds, or skulking in the dark around a remote farm home.
The law is working well and the public is much safer because of it. We do not need to go back to the way it was and put innocent people in harm's way. For that reason, I have chosen House Bill 1458 as the Bad Bill of the Week!