Rethinking juvenile justice
Recent research shows that the brain continues to develop until around age 25. That’s why young people can often be impulsive, engage in risky behaviors, and are more vulnerable to outside influences like peer pressure. Yet, in the criminal justice system, young people who commit serious crimes are often treated as adults, rather than the juveniles that they are.
Youth housed in adult prisons are often subject to violence, but protecting them can be a ‘lose-lose’ situation, as having to isolate them can result in further harm. Young people who serve their sentences in adult jails also face significant barriers to housing, education and employment after release, which contributes to their high re-offense rate.
By keeping young offenders in a rehabilitation setting, we can reduce costs, reduce crime, and increase public safety. That’s why I’m supporting House Bill 1646, sponsored by my seatmate Representative Goodman, which will allow youth convicted in adult court of certain crimes committed while under 18 to stay in a juvenile rehabilitation facility until the age of 25. I’m pleased to report that it passed the House on a bipartisan vote. I encourage you to follow its progress through the Senate.
This bill does not change sentencing, it simply changes the setting of where these young offenders are held. If given a chance to get supportive services, vocational training and a general education in the safer environment of a rehabilitation facility, these youth will have a much better chance of succeeding in life after their release. And because they won’t be continuing to commit crimes, we will all be safer in our communities.
Saving energy, saving money
The best way to conserve energy and reduce our carbon footprint is to use less. That’s why I was happy to vote for House Bill 1444, which updates the state’s Efficiency Standard Code by requiring more private and commercial appliances and products in the state to reduce energy and water use.
The bill raises efficiency standards on 17 products, ranging from air compressors, commercial fryers and dishwashers, to faucets, showerheads and water coolers, among others. A complete list can be found in the bill analysis.
According to state Department of Commerce estimates, over the next 15 years the bill would save:
- $2 billion of net cost savings;
- Nearly 10 million megawatt-hours of electricity;
- 20.5 million therms of natural gas;
- 149 billion gallons of water; and
- 5.98 million metric tons of carbon.
The bill also creates a first-in-the-nation standard requiring electric water heaters to “talk” to the energy grid so that electricity use can be managed to produce more output during peak usage, and conserve energy during down times.
The bill passed the House last Tuesday and is now under consideration in the Senate Environment, Energy & Technology Committee.
Native American Voting Rights Act passes House
Native American tribal leaders from across Washington joined House and Senate Democrats to watch the Native American Voting Rights Act (NAVRA) pass off the House floor last week with bipartisan support.
In attendance was Cowlitz Tribe Chair Bill Iyall, whose late grandfather Frank Iyall worked closely with President Coolidge to pass the Native American Citizenship Act of 1924. Frank Iyall passed away before Native Americans received the right to vote in Washington state.
Sponsored by Sen. John McCoy (sixth from left, above), Senate Bill 5079 would permit specific privileges for Native American voters living on tribal lands. This legislation is vital, as most reservations do not use standard addresses, which creates a barrier to voter registration. Additionally, it is not uncommon for the closest ballot drop box to a reservation to be up to 100 miles away.
Native Americans will soon be able to use designated tribal building addresses and federally recognized tribal ID cards for voter registration. Support for voter registration and ballot drop boxes will also be available.
Eliminating sub-minimum wages for people with disabilities
Here in Washington state, the archaic practice of paying people with developmental disabilities sub-minimum wages is still being utilized today. Some argue that paying sub-minimum wages is necessary to have jobs for people with disabilities. However, we’ve seen that paying a sub-minimum wage has not been an effective way to encourage businesses to hire more people with disabilities.
The law that allows this unfair practice is from 1959, predating civil rights legislation, such as the Americans with Disabilities Act. In fact, when this law passed, schools could refuse to educate people with disabilities.
No class of employees should be marginalized, and minimum wage protections should be for everyone, regardless of their disability status.
It’s time for Washington state to join the national movement that has seen Kentucky, Oregon, and Hawaii introduce legislation to eliminate the practice, while Alaska, New Hampshire, Vermont and Maryland have already banned paying people with disabilities sub-minimum wages. That’s why I support House Bill 1706, which will end this outdated and unfair practice here in Washington.
Instead of paying people with disabilities sub-minimum wages, we should be encouraging supportive employment programs that will help them find jobs that match their strengths and talents.
Stay tuned, there is still much work to be done before session ends. I always welcome your comments so do not hesitate to contact me at email@example.com.