Consumer protection and open government laws also move forward
OLYMPIA— Attorney General Rob McKenna announced today that most of his legislative priorities have survived the first deadline of the 2009 Legislative Session. Feb. 25 was the last day for bills to move out of policy committees.
Senate Bill 5208, Domestic Violence: McKenna assembled a domestic violence advisory committee in February 2007. Nearly two years of study resulted in the most important proposed updates to our domestic violence protections in 25 years. SB 5208 has passed the Senate Ways and Means Committee.
“Our legislation, supported by lawmakers from both parties, finally gives chronic domestic abusers the sentences they truly deserve,” McKenna wrote Jan. 12 in the Seattle P.I. “Our proposal ramps up the consequences of being a repeat abuser.”
Senate Bill SB 5639, Vulnerable Adults: Increases penalties imposed on those who commit crimes against vulnerable adults, requires that employees of financial institutions get training to recognize and report financial exploitation, and allows the public to have better access to information about potential caretakers. SB 5639 passed the Senate Human Services and Corrections Committee.
“The ranks of the vulnerable increasingly include our parents, our siblings and even our adult children,” McKenna wrote Feb. 9 in the Seattle Times. “Leaders from the law-enforcement, banking and credit-union communities understand that more must be done to protect those who can't protect themselves.”
Senate Bill 5184, Digital Forensics Lab: Based on the recommendations of his Youth Internet Safety Task Force, the Attorney General’s Office requested legislation to study the feasibility of developing a digital forensics lab to be housed at the State Patrol. SB 5184 has passed the Senate Judiciary and Rules Committees.
Sexually Violent Predators (SVP): The Attorney General’s Office requested two bills to improve the state’s ability to commit sexually violent predators.
- Senate Bill 5718 modifies the law to streamline the state’s ability to civilly commit dangerous offenders by, among other provisions, clarifying where civil commitment proceedings may be filed, especially in cases where the sexually violent offense occurred outside of Washington. SB 5718 passed the Senate Human Services and Corrections Committee.
- House Bill 1221 authorizes mental health counseling using crime victims' compensation funds for witnesses in civil commitment proceedings. HB 1221 was voted out of the House and has been referred to the Senate Human Services and Corrections Committee. A companion bill in the Senate, SB 5209, passed the Senate Rules Committee and is ready for a full Senate vote.
SB 5340/HB 1249: Tobacco Internet Sales: Responding to recent increases in tobacco sales to minors, the Attorney General’s Office requested legislation banning the sale of cigarettes through the Internet, correcting a loophole in Washington’s laws regarding age verification, taxation, public health goals and certification. SB 5340 passed the Senate Labor, Commerce, and Consumer Protection Committee. HB 1249 passed the House Health Care & Wellness Committee.
SB 5221/HB 1132, Mortgage Law Fix: A bill that updates last year’s foreclosure rescue law to make sure that any homeowner who wants to sell their home rather than face foreclosure is able to find a real estate agent, was unanimously passed out of the respective chambers. Both bills have been referred to committees in the opposite chamber.
A bipartisan coalition of legislators, the state Department of Financial Institutions, and representatives of the real estate community worked closely with the Attorney General’s Office to see that real estate agents — who work with homeowners selling properties at risk of foreclosure — will be exempted from the law targeting equity skimming and foreclosure rescue scams.
HB 1215/SB 5235, Lemon Law: The Attorney General’s Office requested legislation to meet changing consumer expectations, longer and more extensive warranties and other changes in the automotive industry. SB 5235 passed the Senate Labor, Commerce and Consumer Protection Committee. HB 1215 passed the House Rules Committee.
SB 5210, Prizes, Promos and Privacy: The Attorney General’s Office has requested legislation to better protect consumers from Internet promotions and “free trials” used to collect consumers’ information for sale to third parties. SB 5210 passed out of the Senate Labor, Commerce and Consumer Protection Committee.
SB 5130, Improving Public Access to Records by Reducing Abusive Prisoner Requests: The Attorney General’s Office requested legislation to allow respondents to request an injunction if a records request by an inmate is proven to be intended to harass or cause harm to a person or vital government function. SB 5130 passed the Senate Human Services and Corrections Committee.
“This is an important problem because our analysis shows that fewer than a dozen inmates in the state correctional system are costing the state hundreds of thousands of dollars with hundreds and hundreds of requests,” said McKenna at a press conference in January. “One requester alone has accounted for 46,000 hours of correctional staff time.”
Find out more about the Attorney General’s Legislative agenda at: http://www.atg.wa.gov/2009Legislation.aspx.
Janelle Guthrie, AGO Communications Director, (360) 586-0725