First up, we have a few bills in the Washington State legislature that could use your support.
The Pathways to Recovery Act, HB 1499, will be receiving a hearing this Friday, February 12 at 10am. This bill addresses the current public health crisis of substance abuse disorders, changing the law so they are treated as a health issue instead of a crime, providing pre-treatment outreach, treatment, and recovery support services for suffering individuals. This bill could make a huge difference in so many people’s lives, and I urge you to consider supporting it. You can find scripts to help you craft your comments here.
- You can sign in to register your support. (This takes less than a minute.)
- You can submit written comments in support of the bill.
- You can sign up to testify live at the hearing on Friday.
SB 5134, which I’ve spoken about before, the bill that removes police accountability for serious misconduct from the collective bargaining process (among other things), could also use your support. This bill was always a heavy lift, and it hasn’t yet been scheduled for executive session, as we fast approach the deadline for bills to be voted out of committee. Efforts are being made to truncate the bill in order to reach a compromise, and more labor organizations are coming on board, but time is running out.
To support this bill, you can email the chair of the Labor, Commerce, and Tribal Relations Committee, Senator Karen Keiser at email@example.com. Your email should be brief (two sentences or less), telling her you support SB 5134 and asking her to schedule it for an executive session.
Next up is yesterday’s Public Safety and Human Services committee meeting.
The discussion about changing the 2021 SPD budget to reflect SPD’s overspend in 2020 was once more postponed, but as previously stated, it did sound like CM Herbold is now waffling over this measure of accountability. The committee did get a chance to discuss the less lethal weapons draft bill, and voted to recommend it as amended (CM Herbold’s amendment to allow the use of tear gas and legally define “violent public disturbance” passed 4-1) to be sent for review by the DoJ and the monitor. All CMs on the committee voted to recommend the draft except for CM Sawant.
However, the votes in favor were all obviously with nose held in the interest of expediency. The City of Seattle currently has no active law on the books that governs the use of less lethal weapons by the police in any way, and the CMs wish to codify the protections provided by the Court’s recent injunction on such weapons. It sounds like the City’s lawyers counseled that this weaker bill was the only one that would have a chance of passing through the consent decree process and actually making it into law. Most of the CMs stated they didn’t think tear gas should be used in Seattle’s streets and that its use was not consistent with Seattle’s values.
This draft bill will now be passed along to the Department of Justice and the new Police Monitor, who will also shortly be receiving the SPD’s changes to use-of-force and crowd control policies. They will be charged with reconciling the two. It is worth noting that in this instance, the consent decree appears to be standing in the way of more comprehensive reform. However, for better or worse, we’re stuck with it for at least another couple of years.
Finally, the Black Brilliance Project, who have been doing research for the past several months on community health and safety and laying the foundation for the participatory budgeting process, announced their separation from King County Equity Now in an open letter. How the project will proceed from here remains unclear: the Black Brilliance Project says they are wrapping up the research project now and will be ready to present the final report to the City Council on February 26, as originally planned. KCEN says they are initiating a second phase of the research and expect any final report to be delayed, by how long they don’t know. Of course, any delay of the research report will also delay the participatory budgeting process itself. Complicating the matter is the involvement of fiscal sponsor Freedom Project, as well as any potential cooperation and coordination between the Mayor’s public safety task force and the participatory budgeting process.
Also unclear is who has the ultimate say in how this conflict will be resolved, although it is likely the City Council will be getting involved. A lot of pressure has been placed on this research project, and there is certainly danger of this latest development distracting from the actual work of the research and participatory budgeting process itself. It is important to remember the participatory budgeting process was never planned to be housed within King County Equity Now or the Black Brilliance Project, but is intended to be its own independent process.
I hope you stay warm and toasty as we might see some snow here in Seattle in the next few days!