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

This issue features the second half of our 2022 Washington legislative summary — featuring more proposed and passed legislation on policing, prison conditions, decarceration, juvenile justice, drug laws and more.

There was a delay in finishing this issue after Simon, the editor of this micro-newsletter, got a job at a labor union. He’s been a little busy getting up to speed on that new position. For that reason, this newsletter is temporarily suspended, but Simon’s work will still periodically appear on the web pages of We Out Here Magazine.

See the previous issue for more Washington State updates.

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Washington Legislative Watch – Pt. 2

Court Debt

Suspended Drivers Licenses – Did Not Pass

This bill (SB 5349) would help people with court debt deal with government paperwork by giving them a few more weeks to respond to some notices, force the government to mail people consolidated details of their debt and the options for paying it off — including through payment plans and community service. It also creates a process to vacate driving with a suspended license convictions if people meet certain requirements and creates a clear process to get drivers licenses reinstated if people show they have entered a payment plan, or have simply paid off the debt.

Source: Washington State Legislature

Courts Power to Relieve Debt – Did Not Pass

SB 5486 would allow courts to cancel court debt if they think the person is unlikely to be able to pay and allows courts to not access restitution for victims if they think the person cannot afford to pay it.

Source: Washington State Legislature


Removing Prison Sentence Enhancements for Youth Offenses – Did Not Pass

HB 1413 would no longer allow peoples’ previous youth offenses to be used for prison sentence enhancement by prosecutors. It would also allow people whose prison sentences have been enhanced due to youthful offenses to receive resentencing hearings to remove the enhancement(s).

Source: Washington State Legislature

Reducing Youth Prison Population – Did Not Pass

SB 5120 allows incarcerated people sentenced in adult court for a crime committed under the age of 18 to have a resentencing hearing. It would apply to sentences given or before March 2, 2017. The bill would then direct courts to consider factors related to the individual’s youthfulness and to depart from mandatory minimums, standard sentence ranges and mandatory sentence enhancements to impose a lesser sentence.

Source: Washington State Legislature

Access to Legal Representation When Legislature or Courts Authorize Resentencing – Did Not Pass

If the legislature allows people convicted of certain offenses to apply for resentencing, for example, this bill would ensure these people have “meaningful and timely” access to legal representation.

Sources: Washington State Legislature; Washington Defender Association

Juvenile Justice

Parents Should Not Have to Pay for Juvenile Rehabilitation Programs – Did Not Pass

Washington State has juvenile rehabilitation facilities. Parents can be forced to pay for some of the costs. HB 1897 would remove this requirement. The bill would also cancel any current debt parents owe to this system.

Source: Washington State Legislature

Reforming Use of Sealed Juvenile Records – Did Not Pass

HB 2034 allows people to sue government agencies that disseminate sealed or destroyed juvenile records. It also places the burden of proof on state agencies that conduct background searches to show they are not using these records.

Source: Washington State Legislature


Limiting Secret Surveillance Scores – Did Not Pass

SB 1508 defines a “secret surveillance score” as “a number, grade, rank, or similar description, associated with an individual and which is: (a) Unknown or inaccessible to the individual; (b) developed by compiling data created by the individual’s internet activity; and (c) intended to be used to predict the individual’s behavior, choices, or preferences.”

The bill regulates use of these scores, requiring organizations that maintain them to annually and affirmatively receive consent from the people they develop scores on.

Source: Washington State Legislature

Limiting Surveillance of Workers – Did Not Pass

HB 1257 would have prohibited unjustified employer searches of employees’ personal vehicles.

Source: Washington State Legislature

Impacts of a Conviction

Removing Requirement to Pay Off Debts In Order to Vote – Did Not Pass

SB 5086 would remove the requirement that people being released from prison pay off incarceration-related debts within 12 months if they want to keep the right to vote. This bill would make voter eligibility not contingent on this previous requirement.

Source: Washington State Legislature


Expanding Police Use of Force – Signed By Governor

The Washington Defender Association and the Washington Association of Criminal Defense

Lawyers strongly opposed HB 2037. The law changes the definition of “necessary” physical force by law enforcement and makes other changes, like specifically allowing physical force during investigative detention, as known as “Terry stops.” The new definition of “necessary” gives police more power to use force.

Sources: Washington State Legislature; Washington Coalition for Police Accountability; Washington Defender Association

‘All Necessary Means’ To Arrest – Did Not Pass

SB 5675 would have allowed police and corrections officers to “use all necessary means to effect the arrest” after they give “notice of the intention to arrest.”

Source: Washington State Legislature

Teaching Police to Use Neck Holds – Did Not Pass

SB 5094 would have set up a process to teach police how to use neck holds, also known as “vascular neck restraints.”

Source: Washington State Legislature

Restoring Police Powers to Engage in Car Chases – Did Not Pass

HB 1588 would have restored police officers’ power “to engage in a vehicular pursuit when there is reasonable suspicion a person has violated the law and the officer follows appropriate safety standards.”

Source: Washington State Legislature

Evidence Gathered When Cops Lie During Interrogations – Did Not Pass

Cops can currently lie to people while interrogating them and use what people say in response to a lie against them in court. HB 1690 would make it harder to admit such “statement[s] made during a custodial interrogation when the interrogating officer intentionally engaged in deception in obtaining the statement” by creating a presumption that these statements are inadmissible in court.

Source: Washington State Legislature

Allowing Attorney General to Prosecute Cops Who Kill – Did Not Pass

HB 1507 would create an “Independent Prosecutions Unit” within the Office of the Washington Attorney General and allow that unit, alongside county prosecuting attorneys, to investigate and prosecute police after they kill someone. It would have only applied to future killing that take place on or after July 1, 2022.

Source: Washington State Legislature

Ending Police Qualified Immunity – Did Not Pass

HB 1202 was a key legislative fight in 2021 to end the “qualified immunity” from lawsuits that police officers enjoy. The bill, to allow people to personally sue police who overstep their constitutional authority, was reintroduced in 2022, but did not pass.

Source: Washington State Legislature

Police Funding

Washington State Patrol Salaries – Signed By Governor

HB 1785 makes permanent an existing requirement that Washington State Patrol officers get paid the average salary of corresponding positions at the police departments and sheriff offices of Seattle, King County, Tacoma, Snohomish County, Spokane, and Vancouver.

Source: Washington State Legislature

Allowing Police to Acquire .50 Caliber Military Ammunition – Signed By Governor

HB 1719 allows police departments to acquire .50 caliber military ammunition. This is a slight rollback of a policy that was passed in 2021 (2021 HB 1054) that prohibited police departments’ use and acquisition of various military weapons, including the acquisition of 50 caliber military ammunition.

Source: Washington State Legislature

Recording Police Interrogations – Did Not Pass

HB 1174 would have required that all police interrogations be electronically recorded.

Source: Washington State Legislature

Life After Prison

New Marijuana Licenses for People Convicted of Marijuana Offenses – Did Not Pass

This bill would require the state to issue new marijuana licenses that would be reserved for “social equity applicants.” One of the definitions of “social equity applicant” is a business that “has at least 51 percent ownership and control by at least one individual who has been convicted of a cannabis offense, a drug offense, or is a family member of such an individual.”

Source: Washington State Legislature

Expanding Housing Rental Voucher Program For Some People Released From Prison on Good Behavior – Signed By Governor

Under certain circumstances, people released from prison on good behavior can receive housing rental vouchers for three months. HB 1818 would expand this program by allowing the Department of Corrections to issue vouchers for six months.

Source: Washington State Legislature

Disallowing Landlord Discrimination

HB 2017 would “prohibit[] a landlord or third party from advertising, requiring disclosure of, taking an adverse action against, or implementing any policy or practice that automatically or categorically excludes individuals with any arrest record or conviction record from rental housing.”

Source: Washington State Legislature

Support For Homeless Youth Existing State Facilities – Signed By Governor

HB 1905 creates “rapid response teams” to provide assistance and support to youth and young adults who are at risk of becoming homeless after exiting a publicly funded system. The bill requires the “rapid response teams” to meet “if there is no housing identified for a youth or young adult upon exit [from a facility].”

Source: Washington State Legislature

Life in Prison

Limiting Solitary Confinement – Did Not Pass

Two bills (HB 1756 and SB 5639) introduced would have prohobitted “prolonged solitary confinement,” defined as solitary confinement for more than 15 consecutive days.

Source: ACLU of Washington

Drug Laws

Criminalizing Kratom Use – Did Not Pass

SB 5743 would have designated kratom as a controlled substance.

Source: Washington State Legislature

Legalizing Psilocybin – Did Not Pass

SB 5660 would have directed the Washington Department of Health “to administer a regulatory system for supported adult use of psilocybin, beginning January 1, 2024.” It would have allowed people over “21 to purchase psilocybin products in a psilocybin service center and undergo a preparation session, administration session, and integration session under the supervision of a trained facilitator.”

Source: Washington State Legislature


Prosecutorial Transparency – Did Not Pass

SB 5691 would have required all county prosecutors that receive over 5,000 referrals annually to track the “number and types of adult and juvenile felony and misdemeanor referrals received from law enforcement agencies and likewise track how the cases were filed and the number of cases where charges [were] either filed or not filed. Prosecutors must also track the number of cases where the prosecutor has petitioned for resentencing. The Prosecutor’s offices must also post an annual report of this data on their jurisdiction’s website. The annual report must include a brief summary describing the local trends in adult referrals and charges as well as the jurisdiction’s strategy for referring, diverting, or charging certain classes of crimes such as violent crime and property crime.”

Source: Washington State Legislature


Defending Private Immigration Prisons – Did Not Pass

SB 5711 would repeal a 2021 law that prohibited the State of Washington from contracting with private prisons, including those to incarcerate non-citizens. If it stands, that 2021 law will force the U.S. Immigration and Customs Eenforcement detention center in Tacoma, Washington to shut down after its contract expires in 2025.

Source: Washington State Legislature

State-Indigenous Affairs

First Statewide Missing Indigenous Person Alert – Signed By Governor

HB 1725 creates an endangered missing person advisory designation for missing Indigenous persons. This was passed in response to the lack of government action taken to address the crisis of missing and murdered Indigenous women.

Sources: Washington State Legislature; Oregon Public Broadcasting

Helping Address Missing Indigenous Persons Crisis – Signed By Governor 

SB 1571 does a few things to improve the  provide assistance to Indigenous survivors  regulate jails and county corronors. This includes: 

  • Funds: Requires the Department of Commerce’s Office of Crime Victims Advocacy to establish two grant programs related to services and resources for Indigenous survivors of human trafficking.
  • Check if Incarcerated or Released People Are “Missing”: Provides that, upon knowledge from certain authorities that a person in custody or being released from custody at a jail is the subject of a missing person’s report, the jail is required to notify the agency of original jurisdiction for the missing person’s report
  • Contact Indigenous Family: Requires county coroners or medical examiners with jurisdiction over the remains of a deceased Indigenous person to make “certain efforts” to contact family members and affected tribes of the deceased and provide an opportunity for family and affected tribes to conduct spiritual practices or ceremonies, subject to “certain limitations.” 
  • Contact Indigenous Family: County coroners or medical examiners with jurisdiction over the remains of a deceased Indigenous person to make certain efforts to contact the deceased person’s family and facilitate return of the remains prior to entrusting the remains to a funeral home.

Source: Washington State Legislature 

Allows Dept. of Corrections To Cooperate With Tribes On Housing – Signed By Governor

SB 5694 allows the state Department of Corrections to enter into agreements with Indigenous tribes “on matters to include the housing of inmates convicted in tribal court.”

Source: Washington State Legislature 


Newsletter editor Simon Davis-Cohen: s.davis.cohen@protonmail.com.

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