This was a memorable 4th week of session. The highlight was when the Senate passed the historic marriage equality bill, Senate Bill 6239, and sent it to the House. I voted for this bill and am a cosponsor.
Updates in today’s e-newsletter include:
- Marriage equality passes Senate
- Recent bill hearing to combat human trafficking, includes focus on online child escort ads
- Medical marijuana
- 36th Legislative District Day – Presidents’ Day, Monday, February 20, 2012
- Senate approves redistricting maps
- Legislative committee cutoff and remaining meeting schedules
- Record tax break for Washington businesses
- Washington State Dental Association will help find a local dentist
- IRS Free File program
Read further for more information.
Marriage equality passes Senate
Sen. Ed Murray, sponsor of the marriage-equality bill, gives his floor speech
Landmark legislation to legalize same-sex marriage passed the Senate this week on a closely watched 28-21 vote that was a model of mutually respectful debate over an intensely personal and potentially polarizing issue.
Senate Bill 6239 would make Washington the seventh state in the nation, plus the District of Columbia, to eliminate the barrier to marriage for gay and lesbian couples.
The measure includes protections for religious institutions and organizations that refuse to solemnize a marriage or provide facilities or services to a particular couple. It also clarifies that the bill does nothing to change existing law governing religious and non-profit institutions and organizations that provide adoption, foster care or other child-placement services.
The bill now goes to the House for consideration.
Recent bill hearing to combat human trafficking, includes focus on online child escort ads
Giving testimony on my bill to keep minors from being sexually exploited through online ads for adult escort services
Ten bi-partisan bills to combat human trafficking, including my legislation to keep minors from being sexually exploited through online ads for adult escort services such as on Backpage.com, received public hearings last week in the Senate Judiciary Committee.
In addition to Democratic and Republican bill sponsors, other officials testified in favor of the bills:
- Linda Smith, former Congresswoman
- Velma Veloria, former Washington State Representative
- Mike McGinn, Seattle City Mayor
- Tim Burgess, Seattle City Councilmember
- Gael Tarleton, Port of Seattle Commission President
- Representatives from the Seattle Police Department, King County Sheriff’s Department, and King County Prosecutor’s Office
- Reverend John Vaughn, Auburn Seminary and Groundswell, advocacy group from New York
Human trafficking includes the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision or obtaining of a person for labor, sex, organ transplants or services through the use of force, fraud, or coercion for the purpose of subjection to involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage or slavery. Recently the New York Times published, ‘How pimps use the web to sell girls’ which gives just one example of the horrors of child prostitution that occur every day. The Seattle Times also published, ‘Waging war on human trafficking’ which discusses our work to combat trafficking here in Washington.
The bills heard include:
- SB 6251: Regulating advertising of commercial sexual abuse of a minor (Sens. Jeanne Kohl-Welles, D-Seattle, Jerome Delvin, R-Richland)
- SB 6252: Addressing commercial sexual abuse of a minor and promoting prostitution in the first degree (Sens. Adam Kline, D-Seattle, Joseph Zarelli, R-Ridgefield)
- SB 6253: Concerning seizure and forfeiture of property in commercial sexual abuse of a minor and promoting prostitution in the first degree crimes (Sens. Tracey Eide, D-Federal Way, Adam Kline, D- Seattle)
- SB 6254: Compelling a person with a mental disability to engage in prostitution is promoting prostitution in the 1st degree, even absent the use of force (Sens. Jerome Delvin, R-Richland, Jim Hargrove, D-Hoquiam)
- SB 6255: Vacating sentences for underage victims (Sens. Karen Fraser, D-Olympia, Adam Kline, D- Seattle)
- SB 6256: Adding commercial sexual abuse of a minor to the list of criminal street gang-related offenses (Sens. Steve Conway, D-South Tacoma, Jerome Delvin, R-Richland)
- SB 6257: Addressing sexually explicit performance (Sens. Pam Roach, R-Auburn, Steve Conway, D-South Tacoma)
- SB 6258: Concerning unaccompanied persons (Sens. Val Stevens, R-Arlington, Mike Carrell, R-Lakewood)
- SB 6259: Addressing restitution for human trafficking and prostitution (Sens. Paull Shin, D-Edmonds, Adam Kline, D-Seattle)
- SB 6260: Revising registration requirements and fees charged for various criminal offenses (Sens. Jerome Delvin, R-Richland, Jeanne Kohl-Welles, D-Seattle)
All but SB 6259 have been reported out of committee and are advancing in the legislative process. The language will be examined more closely in a legislative study group or by staff over the interim.
Another human trafficking bill was reported out of the Senate Health & Long-Term Care Committee that incorporated SB 6104:
- SB 6103: Removing the practice of reflexology from the exemptions from licensure for massage or massage therapy. Granting authority to the secretary of health to conduct inspections of massage business establishments (Sens. Karen Keiser, D-Kent, Karen Fraser, D-Olympia)
A few updates on the medical marijuana front. Since the governor vetoed critical sections of my medical marijuana bill last year, I have been working diligently to clarify medical marijuana laws in this year’s version, SB 6265. I am pleased to report it is moving along well and is now before the Senate Rules Committee.
A bipartisan group of 42 lawmakers have sent a letter to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) supporting Governor Gregoire and Governor Chafee’s petition to reclassify marijuana as a Schedule II drug which would allow its use for treatment – prescribed by doctors and filled by pharmacists.
In addition, I introduced Senate Joint Memorial 8017 requesting the DEA to reclassify medical marijuana as a Schedule II drug. It was heard by and reported out of the Senate Health & Long-Term Care Committee meeting this week.
36th Legislative District Day – Presidents’ Day, Monday, February 20, 2012
I hope you will join Representatives Mary Lou Dickerson and Reuven Carlyle and me for our annual 36th Legislative District Day in Olympia.
- WHEN: Presidents’ Day, Feb. 20, 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. Legislators speaking from 1-1:30 p.m.
- WHERE: Olympia, Capitol Campus, John Cherberg Building, #211.
- WHY: Meet with your legislators to discuss the current legislative issues. Refreshments available at 10. Schedules and information on bills and Capitol tours will be available.
- FOR MORE INFORMATION: Contact Adam Cooper, my Legislative Assistant at Adam.Cooper@leg.wa.gov or (360) 786-7670.
Senate approves redistricting maps
The Washington State Senate voted Wednesday to approve new legislative and congressional boundaries for the next 10 years.
This reflects the technical changes the Redistricting Commission approved in the weeks following the plan submitted Jan. 1. The Legislature had until Feb. 7 to either take no action, adopt the plan approved by the commission, or make changes.
The new district boundaries will take effect after the 2012 general election in November. Although the 36th Legislative District remains much the same, it is very unfortunate that some of our residents are being redistricted to other districts, primarily in Fremont and Phinney. We are picking up more of Belltown and Greenwood.
For information, visit www.redistricting.wa.gov
Legislative committee cutoff and remaining meeting schedules
Friday was the Legislative policy committee cut-off in the House and Senate. It was the last day a bill could be voted out of its committee. For a list of the remaining important session cutoff dates, click here. For a list of remaining meeting schedules, click here.
Record tax break for Washington businesses
Washington employers will collect a record $56 million in 2011 federal tax credits because they hired certain hard-to-place job seekers, thanks to the Work Opportunity Tax Credit. What’s more, even bigger tax breaks are available beginning in 2012 to encourage businesses to hire more veterans.
Businesses that hire military veterans, the disabled, ex-inmates, food-stamp recipients and others can receive up to $2,400 in tax savings. If they hire welfare recipients, they can receive up to $9,000 in tax credits.
Employers who want to participate should contact the Employment Security Department.
You can read more about the program here.
Washington State Dental Association will help find a local dentist
If you have a dental problem, first check out this link for information about dentists and dental safety net resources across Washington state.
If you still have problems, please contact my office. We will connect you with the Washington State Dental Association to help find a dentist.
IRS Free File program
Through IRS Free File, all taxpayers who made $57,000 or less in 2011 can visit www.irs.gov/freefile to prepare and e-file their federal tax returns. IRS Free File provides free access to the industry’s top tax preparation software, as well as a comprehensive suite of online tax forms. Participating taxpayers can also have their tax refunds direct deposited in as little as 10 days.
Now in its 10th year, IRS Free File is made possible through a landmark public-private partnership between the IRS and the Free File Alliance, a coalition of leading tax software companies. To learn more about the program, please contact me, or visit www.freefilealliance.org or www.freefile.irs.gov.
And that's it for this e-news update. Thanks for staying engaged in our government and the political process. I'm in Olympia full-time and available to meet with individual constituents, students and community organizations to discuss important issues to our community and state. Please give me a call or send an email to set up a time.
With warm regards,
Senator Jeanne Kohl-Welles
Chair - Senate Labor, Commerce & Consumer Protection Committee
36th Legislative District
Washington State Senate
(360) 786-7670 (206) 281-6854
E-Newsletter subscription: http://apps.leg.wa.gov/subscriptions/member.aspx?member=kohl-wellesj