Washington State House Democrats


Rep. Orwall’s Feb 17, 2017 Legislative Update: Suicide Prevention / Cutoff / DNA / Foster kids

TH time change

Suicide Prevention

This Thursday was Suicide Prevention Education Day in Olympia. We had a Ceremony of Remembrance and Hope for a Suicide-Safer Homes Memorial, installed by Forefront volunteers on the Capitol lawn, to recognize the lives lost to suicide in 2015.

The colors in the visually striking memorial reflect different manners of death: red for firearm, white for suffocation, yellow for poisoning or prescription overdose, green for jumping or cutting and blue for other means of ending one’s life.


It was very moving to hear the stories of survivors and to see so many people there supporting the work we’ve done at the Legislative level with Forefront to make Washington state the leader in the nation in suicide prevention.

This year, to further our vision to make Washington a model suicide prevention state, I’m sponsoring HB 1612 to create a fund for a Suicide-Safer Homes public education platform, and HB 1379 to support comprehensive suicide prevention initiatives on college and university campuses statewide.  And I am also supporting HB 1047, a drug take-back program to protect public health through safe storage and disposal of medications, and HB 1122 to encourage the safe storage of firearms.

Orwall speaks at memorial1


Today is policy committee cutoff  

Any bills that did not pass out of the policy committees by the cutoff date are “dead” and won’t be considered any more this session. The exception is for bills that are in fiscal committees, as they have a later cutoff date, or bills that are necessary to implement the budget.

This picture will give you a sense of the volume of bills we voted on yesterday in the Judiciary Committee!

We’ll soon start spending a lot of time on the Floor passing bills and sending them to the Senate for their consideration. Likewise, we’ll be receiving bills passed by the Senate so we can consider them in House committees.

DNA biological samples

My bill related to DNA collection from sexual assault offenders, HB 1111, was passed out of the House Public Safety Committee and was heard in the House Appropriations Committee a couple of days ago.

This legislation is a powerful tool for law enforcement in helping to solve crimes, including cold cases and homicides, and to exonerate those who were wrongly accused.  The bill will be known as “Jennifer and Michella’s Law,” named for Jennifer Bastian and Michella Welch, two young girls who were abducted, sexually assaulted and killed in Tacoma in 1986 – crimes that remain unsolved.

Bastian Wade

Pattie Bastian (center) and Detective Lindsey Wade (right) stopped by my office on Wednesday. You can watch their testimony in support of the bill in the Appropriations Committee here.

My legislation requires DNA collection from convicted indecent exposure offenders and persons charged with or having a prior violent offense conviction. It allows law enforcement to submit DNA samples obtained from certain deceased offenders; and expands the crime of Refusal to Provide a DNA sample to apply to any person lawfully required to provide a sample, rather than only persons required to register as sex or kidnapping offenders.

A fair deal for foster kids 

All kids deserve the opportunity to reach for their dreams. Children and young people in foster care need our support to help them succeed.

Foster kids already have it tough. Nationally:

  • only 58 percent graduate from high school by age 19
  • by the age of 24, only half are employed
  • fewer than two percent will earn a college degree by age 25

The state is morally and legally responsible for taking care of foster kids, and it is not keeping up with its end of the bargain. That is why lawmakers are considering a number of reforms to help foster kids, including:

Foster Kids

HB 1867 — Gives kids in foster care a better chance at successfully launching into adulthood by offering extended foster care to more young people between the ages of 18 and 21. This will help them get housing and other services. Making sure foster kids have a safe place to live is crucial not only for their success in high school and college, but also in life. I am a co-sponsor of this bill.

HB 1808 — You and I take for granted getting to school or work. It’s not so easy for young people in foster care who often face obstacles to getting driver’s licenses such as taking driver’s ed and paying for insurance themselves. This legislation gives these young people some help in those two areas so they can get to school or work.

HB 1661 — Too many young people fall through the cracks of our system. This bill will create the Department of Children, Youth and Families to emphasize prevention and improve outcomes for young people and families. A single agency will be better able to provide effective services at the right time, not always waiting until a crisis occurs.  I co-sponsored this bill.

HB 1251 — All children deserve to be represented by counsel when life-altering decisions regarding dependency are being made. This bill will make sure that all children have the right to be represented by an attorney at all stages of a dependency proceeding.

HB 1628 — Helps more young people in foster care graduate from high school, which can be challenging for most young people, but students in foster care face additional barriers to getting a high school diploma. Getting a diploma opens up many opportunities for success.

Thank you for taking the time to read my e-newsletter. I hope you found its content informative. If you have questions, would like more information on any of the issues discussed above, or have feedback, please call or email me.