The following newsletter was sent to subscribers to Sen. Walsh’s Report from Olympia Jan. 24, 2017. To subscribe to Sen. Walsh’s newsletter, click here.
Dear friends and neighbors,
On Jan. 9, I took my new seat in the state Senate after 12 years serving in the House of Representatives. I couldn’t be more excited for this new chapter at the Legislature.
During this 105-day session, I am serving on three committees that will allow me to speak for the interests of our region – Health Care; Human Services, Mental Health and Housing; and Transportation. There are many challenges that face us this year, but I am certain we will be able to work through them together.
As I watched the opening ceremonies last week, I reflected on the impact that our Legislature has on every citizen in our state. I am honored to be chosen to represent our district for the next four years in the Senate.
Capital punishment costs and justice
Last week I joined a bipartisan group of legislators to urge passage of a bill eliminating capital punishment in our state. The measure, supported by the governor and the attorney general, was proposed by Sen. Mark Miloscia, R-Federal Way. I have signed on to the Senate version of the bill, SB 5354, while the House version will be introduced by Rep. Tina Orwall, D-Des Moines.
Counties spend millions of dollars prosecuting capital cases, typically costling $1 million more than cases involving life without parole. Even with this price tag, punishment is uncertain. It can take decades for the costly appeals process to be exhausted. The fact that these prosecutions are so expensive prohibits some counties from seeking the death penalty altogether. An offender’s chance of execution should not depend on whether a given county can afford to prosecute.
In addition, the fiscal conservative in me says we are spending money on a broken system. It is time for us to become more efficient. Not only is life without parole more cost-effective, it also offers assurance that justice will be served and a sense of closure for victims’ families rather than decades of legal battles.
First bills of session
Hunger license plate – SB 5345 would create the Feeding Washington license plate, which would feature the word “imagine” and a self-portrait image of John Lennon. Similar to the state’s other special-interest license plates, a fee would be charged — $40 on first issuance, $30 for renewal. Proceeds from sales of the plate would go toward Food Lifeline and Second Harvest, the two organizations responsible for the largest charitable food-bank distribution network in the state. This bill creates no additional cost to the state.
Vocational training expansion for inmates – Studies show that prison inmates, 95 percent of whom eventually return to our communities, are much more likely to be productive members of society if they are able to obtain vocational training before their release. The Washington State Institute for Public Policy concluded the return on investment is $20 for every $1 invested into these programs. SB 5069, my first bill of the session, would allow the state’s community and technical colleges to expand their current 12-month educational offerings to inmates to 24 months, to include up to one associate degree program in certain fields. Priority is given to inmates expected to be released within five years. This bill creates no additional cost to the state, operating within existing resources.
Vocational training through WorkFirst – SB 5347 would expand the definition of WorkFirst activity for welfare recipients. Currently those who receive benefits under Temporary Assistance for Needy Families are eligible for up to 12 months of vocational training. The intent of this program is to transition participants from TANF into permanent employment; however, fewer than 16 percent of participants complete a certificate or degree through the program. By expanding this vocational training opportunity from 12 to 24 months, participants will have a much higher chance of program completion and remain self-sufficient. I introduced this bill in 2015 as HB 1875, which has strong bipartisan support. I look forward to guiding this bill through the legislative process this session.
If you have questions about bills being considered by the Legislature, or general questions about state government, I encourage you to get in touch with me. You can do so using the contact information below.
I look forward to hearing from you.
State Senator Maureen Walsh
16th Legislative District
|Olympia Office (January-April)
205 Irv Newhouse Building – P.O. Box 40416
Olympia, WA 98504-0435
|District Office (May-December)
26 East Main Street, Suite 8
Walla Walla, WA 98362