Welcome to the Ear to the Ground newsletter, hosted by We Out Here Magazine!

This issue features the first half of a 2022 Washington legislative summary. Washington’s legislative session ended on March 10! The second half of the lowdown — featuring more proposed and passed legislation on police use of violence, juvenile justice, and more — is forthcoming!

See our previous issue here.

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Washington Legislative Watch

Life After Incarceration

Reducing Professional Licensure Barriers For People With Previous Convictions – Signed By Governor
“Currently, people who have served prison time are prevented from receiving several occupational licenses, even if their convictions are unrelated to the industry or occurred many years ago,” according to Columbia Legal Services. HB 1874 requires “agencies to consider the nature of the offense, if the offense is related to the license, the age of the offender, time since the conviction, and other relevant factors” before denying someone a professional license due to a previous conviction.
Sources: Columbia Legal Services; Washington State Legislature

Prison Gerrymandering

Changing Where Incarcerated People Are Counted in Census – Signed By Governor
A system of “prison gerrymandering” currently exists, which counts incarcerated people toward the total population — and therefore political representation — of the districts where they are incarcerated, rather than their home districts. This transfers political power out of communities of color and into districts that house prisons. SB 5583 adjusts census data for local redistricting to reflect the last known place of residence for incarcerated persons, rather than where they are incarcerated.
Source: Washington State Legislature

Juvenile Justice

Expunging Juvenile Records – Did Not Pass
SB 5339 would “create an incentive system that allows for juvenile records to be expunged so that the stigma of these records does not impact young people for the rest of their lives.” 
Source: Columbia Legal Services

Eliminating Juvenile Fingerprinting – Did Not Pass
HB 5609 would end the practice of collecting fingerprints from juveniles when they are convicted of a crime. It passed the House but was not passed by the Senate.
Source: Washington Defender Association

Reviewing Youthful Long Sentences – Did Not Pass
“HB 1344 allows anyone given a 15+ year [prison] sentence before the age of 25 to go before the parole board” to seek review for possible release from incarceration.
Sources: Columbia Legal Services; Washington State Legislature

Jurisdiction of Juvenile Court – Did Not Pass
Currently, people ages 12-17 fall under the jurisdiction of juvenile court in Washington. SB 5122 would move 12-year-olds in the age-range of people “incapable of committing a crime” (currently ages 8-11). The bill would also create a task force to consider expanding juvenile court to 18- and 19-year-olds.
Source: Washington State Legislature


Considering Mental Health During Sentencing – Did Not Pass
Judges have the power to lower people’s prison sentences in felony cases. HB 1637 would explicitly allow judges to lower sentences if someone commits an offense while experiencing mental health issues at the time of the offense. 
Source: Washington State Legislature

Reducing Sentencing Enhancements – Did Not Pass
HB 1169 “would help to remove some mandatory sentencing enhancements that have lengthened already excessively long sentences.”
Source: Columbia Legal Services 

Reducing Drug Sentences – Did Not Pass
HB 1307 would reduce the maximum sentence for certain low-level drug-related offenses from 18 to 12 months, and allow defendants to serve sentences in county jails rather than prison.
Source: South Seattle Emerald

Abolishing the Death Penalty – Did Not Pass
SB 5047 would eliminate the death penalty in Washington.
Source: Washington State Legislature


Regulating Bail Funds – Did Not Pass
SB 5779 would regulate charitable bail funds. It would require bail funds to publish information on their websites for each case they provide bail for. They would have to publish the crime charged, the maximum possible penalty of the crime, the amount of bail posted, and the percentage contributed by the bail fund.
Source: Washington State Legislature

Bail Reform – Did Not Pass
SB 5307 would require courts to consider the financial situation of those accused of crimes when setting bail. This would lower bail for low income people, and help insure that people aren’t in jail just because they can’t afford bail.
Source: Washington State Legislature


More Chances to Get Released From Prison On Good Behavior – Did Not Pass
HB 1282 would expand access to “earned time” for incarcerated people who demonstrate “good behavior.”
Source: Washington State Legislature

Expanding Clemency and Pardons – Did Not Pass
SB 5036 would reform and expand use of clemency and pardons.
Source: Washington State Legislature

Limiting Traffic Stops

Traffic Stops – Did Not Pass
SB 5485 would remove the following offenses from the list offenses police can use to stop drivers:

  • failure to keep to the right;
  • improper turn;
  • failure to stop, under most circumstances;
  • failure to dim lights, and any other equipment violation not defined as a moving
  • violation;
  • parking violations;
  • driving without a license;
  • vehicle registration violation;
  • failure to maintain proof of motor vehicle insurance;
  • driving while license suspended; and
  • safety belt violations, except for failure to properly restrain children

Source: Washington State Legislature

Fines and Fees

Reducing and Canceling Court Fines and Fees for Parents – Waiting For Governor’s Signature
HB 2050 would reduce and cancel fines and fees, including interest, for parents of children who are in the criminal legal system.
Source: Washington State Legislature

Eliminating Restitution and Other Fees When People Afford It – Waiting For Governor’s Signature
HB 1412 eliminates the crime victim penalty assessment fee and the DNA database fee, and reduces courts’ reliance on fines and fees by providing funding directly from the state. It would provide other relief for poor people, including by allowing courts to not impose criminal filing fees, and not impose or waive accrued interest.
Sources: We Out Here Magazine; Washington State Legislature

Eliminated Post-Incarceration Supervision Costs – Did Not Pass
SB 5592 would have eliminated post-incarceration supervision costs for people under the supervision of the Washington Department of Corrections.
Source: Washington State Legislature

Reducing Post-Incarceration Supervision Fees – Did Not Pass
HB 1970 would get rid of some post-incarceration supervision fees. It would eliminate a processing fee, and make other changes.
Source: Washington State Legislature


Mandatory Sentences for Protest-Related Offense, Increasing Penalty for Assaulting Law Enforcement – Did Not Pass
SB 5522 would increase assault of an officer from a class C to a class B felony. It would also mandate 180 days of incarceration for people convicted of assaulting a law enforcement officer “in furtherance of a riot or unlawful assembly.”
Source: Washington State Legislature

Protecting Monuments – Did Not Pass
This bill describes itself as “Concerning protecting state and federal monuments, memorials, and statues from damage intentionally inflicted during the course of unpeaceful demonstrations or riots.” It expands the definition of monument to include property owned by the federal government, state, or other municipalities, and raises the classification of defacing a monument to a gross misdemeanor.
Source: Washington State Legislature

A “Combating Violence, Disorder, and Looting and Law Enforcement Protection Act” – Did Not Pass
This bill draws in the U.S. Supreme Court cases Chicago v. Sturges (1911) that “held that liability may exist when a local government fails to protect property destroyed by unpeaceful protests, riots, or mob violence.” The bill proposes a requirement of a “law enforcement-to-inhabitant ratio” of at least one full-time law enforcement officer per 1,000 inhabitants, and sanctions for local governments that violate that requirement.
It proposes a lot of changes, including the creation of the offense of “leading an organized riot,” and mandatory sentences for “assaulting a law enforcement officer in furtherance of a riot or unlawful assembly.”
Source: Washington State Legislature

The Crime of ‘Swarming’ – Did Not Pass
This explicitly protest-related “Antiswarming Act” creates the crime of “swarming,” which is defined as a group of protesters blocking traffic. “Swarming,” the bill reads, “means one or more persons who, while participating in a protest or demonstration, whether or not having received a permit therefore, knowingly approach, surround, block, attack, threaten, or otherwise unlawfully impede or attempt to impede the lawful progress of a motor vehicle.” People who engage in swarms would also be liable for damages caused by the swarm, and drivers would not be held liable for civil damages “while reasonably attempting to avoid or flee a person” participating in a “swarm.”
Source: Washington State Legislature

Lasers – Did Not Pass
HB 1394 would make it a class A felony to “knowingly” and “maliciously discharge a laser at a person and cause any form of full or partial visual or ophthalmic degradation to one or both eyes. It also creates a five-year sentencing enhancement for committing the offense against a “law enforcement officer acting in the course of his or her duties.”
Source: Washington State Legislature

Removing ‘Riot’ Control Decisions From Mayors, County Commissioners, Governor
Currently, the decision “to dispel a riot” must be made exclusively by a mayor, county commissioner, or the governor. The Washington Association of Sheriffs & Police Chiefs lobbied to remove that requirement. They wrote, “The delegation of authority to those without training and experience in police tactics is not in the interest of public safety.”
Source: Washington Association of Sheriffs & Police Chiefs

Law Enforcement

Washington State Patrol Use of Confiscated Firearms – Did Not Pass
Currently, Washington State Patrol (WSP) can keep 10 percent of legal firearms they confiscate. The rest can be “auctioned or traded to licensed dealers.” This HB 1134 would allow the WSP to also destroy legal firearms, and would require the WSP to draft a policy for when legal firearms would be destroyed.
Source: Washington State Legislature

Giving Police Protection Under Definition of Disorderly Conduct – Did Not Pass
HB 1575 would add the following language to the definition of disorderly conduct: “Uses abusive language towards a peace officer or insults or taunts a peace officer with offensive or derisive words in a manner that would alarm a reasonable and prudent peace officer or place him or her in reasonable fear of his or her safety or the safety of others.”
Source: Washington State Legislature

Law Enforcement Transparency

Law Enforcement Reporting to Washington State University – Did Not Pass
HB 1092 would require all law enforcement agencies in the state to provide data on their use of force to Washington State University.
Source: Washington State Legislature

Law Enforcement Reporting to Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs – Did Not Pass
SB 5261 would require law enforcement agencies to report all police use of deadly force, personnel complaints that lead to an investigation, pursuit incidents, and patrol car crashes to the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs (WASPC). WASPC would then report that information to the Governor and the Legislature, and make the information available on a public website.
Source: Washington State Legislature

Privacy Rights

People’s Privacy Act – Did Not Pass
HB 1433 creates a people’s personal data rights charter. It covers information like location and biometric data, and applies to companies doing business in Washington. The bill sponsor said it is modeled after Brazil’s General Data Protection Law and “moves toward privacy by design” with “robust protections and appropriate avenues for recourse.”
Sources: Washington State Legislature; International Association of Privacy Professionals

Regulating Government Use of Algorithms – Did Not Pass
SB 5116 would regulate public agencies’ use of algorithms. Agencies would have to develop “algorithmic accountability reports,” an algorithmic accountability review board to review reports and conduct audits would be created, and Washington’s Law Against Discrimination would be expanded to prohibit certain types of discrimination by algorithms.
Source: Washington State Legislature

Banning Government Use of Facial Recognition Technology – Did Not Pass
SB 5104 would ban state or local government agencies and officers from obtaining, retaining, requesting, or accessing facial recognition technology.
Source: Washington State Legislature

Prison System

Recruiting State Hospitals For Prison Outpatient Services – Did Not Pass
SB 5655 would make state hospitals available to prisons for short-term detention and involuntary commitment. In opposition, the ​​Washington Defender Association wrote that, “State hospitals are at capacity…and are not the remedy for this ongoing problem.”
Sources: Washington Defender Association; Washington State Legislature


Funding to Develop Permanent Supportive Housing Assistance for People in Medical Assistance Programs – Awaiting Governor’s Signature
HB 1866 establishes the Apple Health and Homes Program “to provide a permanent supportive housing benefit and a community support services benefit to persons who meet eligibility criteria related to income, medical risk factors and barriers to finding stable housing,” according to the legislature. It helps some local government and nonprofit entities acquire and develop permanent supportive housing units.
Source: Washington State Legislature

Helping Houseless People Get ID Cards – Passed
This “identicard” would be cheap (at cost) for people under 25 who do not have a permanent residence address, people who receive public assistance, and people “being discharged from certain state and local facilities.” It passed the House and Senate, and was delivered to the governor.
Source: Washington State Legislature

Drug Legalization

Residential Marijuana – Did Not Pass
HB 1019 would allow people over 21 to grow up to six marijuana plants, provided the plants are concealed from the public, and can’t be “readily smelled.”
Source: Washington State Legislature


Did we miss legislation? Let us know!
Email newsletter editor Simon Davis-Cohen: s.davis.cohen@protonmail.com.

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