Ferguson’s 2021 legislative agenda includes legislation to abolish the death penalty and ban the sale of high capacity magazines
OLYMPIA — Attorney General Bob Ferguson today announced his 2021 legislative agenda, which includes new bills requiring the collection and publication of data on the use of deadly force by law enforcement and prohibiting price gouging during emergencies.
Ferguson’s legislative slate also includes a bill to enshrine into state law the Attorney General’s Office’s first-of-its-kind policy that requires the office to obtain free, prior and informed consent with Washington’s 29 federally recognized tribes before initiating a program or project that affects tribes, tribal rights, tribal lands and sacred sites. Ferguson is also seeking to strengthen the state Consumer Protection Act by increasing penalties.
Ferguson is also re-introducing his legislation abolishing the death penalty and limiting high-capacity magazines.
One of Ferguson’s bills — requiring the collection and publication of data on the use of deadly force by law enforcement — has already passed out of committee with bipartisan support.
“My office enforces and defends state law — and we also work to improve state law to benefit Washingtonians,” Ferguson said. “Every session my office is successful in partnering with the Legislature to pass important, bipartisan legislation that improves the lives of Washingtonians. I look forward to continuing this work.”
Since 2013, Ferguson proposed 27 bills that the Governor signed into law.
Public Safety and Criminal Justice Reform
Ferguson is proposing legislation to create a centralized, publicly accessible database containing all incidents of law enforcement use of deadly force in Washington state. Currently, there is no single location where the public and lawmakers can obtain information about the use of deadly force by law enforcement officers. The bill is sponsored by Sen. T’wina Nobles, D-Fircrest, and Rep. John Lovick, D-Mill Creek.
Ferguson’s bill requires agencies to collect and report key data regarding the incident, including the demographic characteristics of the officers and the members of the public.
Washingtonians deserve clear, comprehensive and contextual information to better understand these interactions between law enforcement and the public. A centralized, online, publicly accessible repository for data around the state will help law enforcement, academics and policymakers better analyze and make decisions about how law enforcement determines when to use deadly force.
Rep. Lovick’s House bill passed out of committee by a bipartisan vote on Jan. 19.
Ferguson is reintroducing legislation to prohibit the sale or possession of high-capacity magazines holding more than 10 rounds. The bill includes exceptions for grandfathered magazines, law enforcement, military personnel and recreational shooting ranges. Nine states already restrict magazine capacity. Multiple federal courts have upheld these public safety bans as constitutional and the U.S. Supreme Court has allowed these decisions to stand. The bill is sponsored by Sen. Marko Liias, D-Lynnwood, and Rep. Javier Valdez, D-Seattle.
The Attorney General is reintroducing legislation in 2021 to ban the sale of military-style assault weapons in Washington state. The bill includes exceptions for grandfathered weapons, law enforcement, military personnel and recreational shooting ranges. Seven states already ban the sale of military-style assault weapons, and the courts have upheld those laws. The bill is sponsored by Sen. Patty Kuderer, D-Bellevue, and Rep. Strom Peterson, D-Edmonds.
Repealing the Death Penalty - SB 5047
For the fifth session, Ferguson is requesting a bill to repeal Washington’s death penalty. On Oct. 11, 2018, the Washington Supreme Court found that Washington’s use of the death penalty is “racially biased,” “arbitrary” and “lacks ‘fundamental fairness.’ ” A study submitted to the court showed black defendants were four times as likely as white defendants to be sentenced to death. The court therefore unanimously found that Washington’s use of the death penalty is unconstitutional, but that ruling does not repeal the death penalty.
Ferguson’s bill proposes that, rather than attempt to “fix” Washington’s broken death penalty system, the Legislature should abolish it altogether. Ferguson’s bill again passed the state Senate last session, but failed to pass the House. The bill is sponsored by Sen. Reuven Carlyle, D-Seattle.
Respecting Tribal Treaty Rights
Free, Prior & Informed Consent- SB 5298
In May 2019, Ferguson announced his historic policy that requires the Attorney General’s Office to obtain free, prior and informed consent from Washington’s 29 federally recognized tribal governments before initiating a program or project that affects tribes, tribal rights, tribal lands and sacred sites. This legislative session, Ferguson is requesting legislation that would codify this policy, ensuring it cannot be unilaterally eliminated by future Attorneys General.
As part of the legislation, the Attorney General’s Office must refrain from filing any litigation against a tribal government or tribal-owned business without first engaging in meaningful consultation to resolve the dispute, provided that doing so does not violate the rules of professional conduct. Additionally, the policy requires meaningful notice to all federally recognized tribal governments if the Office introduces legislation, files an amicus brief, files a ballot title, or accepts a formal Attorney General Opinion Request that would affect tribes, tribal rights or tribal lands.
The bill is sponsored by Sen. Derek Stanford, D-Bothell.
In 1984, Initiative 456 established a state law that declared that only the state could manage natural resources within its borders, and that tribal treaty rights were void, declaring them unconstitutional. This anti-tribal statute runs contrary to Washington’s co-management relationships with the state’s sovereign tribal nations. It is also inconsistent with binding federal court decisions that render the statute unenforceable.
Ferguson and the state Department of Fish & Wildlife are jointly proposing legislation to repeal the unenforceable, anti-tribal statute — codified in state law as RCW 77.110. The law not only serves no legal purpose, it casts a shadow over treaty fishing rights and the state’s well-established cooperative fisheries management agreements with tribes.
The bill is sponsored by Rep. Debra Lekanoff, D-Bow, and Sen. Kevin Van De Wege, D-Sequim.
Price Gouging - SB 5191
As the COVID-19 pandemic took hold across Washington state this year, the Attorney General’s Office received more than 1,300 complaints from residents about excessive price increases on items like face masks or hand sanitizer that people needed to stay safe. Yet Washington does not have a specific law to prohibit price gouging during a state of emergency.
Ferguson is proposing a bill that provides a clear and unambiguous definition of price gouging and establishes civil penalties for violations. It also allows businesses to recover any costs that are imposed outside of their control.
The bill is sponsored by Sen. Jeannie Darneille, D-Tacoma.
Strengthening the Consumer Protection Act - SB 5025
The Consumer Protection Act, Washington’s law protecting consumers against unfair and deceptive business practices, currently allows up to $2,000 in penalties per violation. These penalties have not increased since they were adopted in 1970. They have not kept up with inflation. Most states’ consumer protection penalties are $10,000 or higher — only five states have penalties lower than Washington’s, which is why the National Consumer Law Center characterizes Washington’s consumer protection penalties as “weak.”
Ferguson’s legislation adjusts the penalties to $13,350 per each unfair or deceptive practice that violates the Consumer Protection Act to account for inflation since the penalties were adopted. Moreover, Ferguson is seeking a new, enhanced penalty for violations that target vulnerable communities. Additionally, Ferguson is seeking to strengthen the penalties in the Consumer Protection Act for antitrust violations, which have not increased since they were adopted in 1983.
Washingtonians are more vulnerable than ever to scams and deceptive business practices both in person and online, yet the Consumer Protection Act penalties have not increased in decades. Strong penalties provide accountability, deter future violations and ensure a level playing field for business.
The bill is sponsored by Sen. Christine Rolfes, D-Bainbridge Island.
More information about Ferguson’s 2021 agency request legislation is available on the AGO’s legislative information page.
The Office of the Attorney General is the chief legal office for the state of Washington with attorneys and staff in 27 divisions across the state providing legal services to roughly 200 state agencies, boards and commissions. Visit www.atg.wa.gov to learn more.
Brionna Aho, Communications Director, (360) 753-2727; Brionna.email@example.com
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