Representative Mike Hope
The 2010 legislative session had its ups and downs and State Representative Mike Hope, R-Lake Stevens, met with the Journal to discuss what took place over the four-month period.
Much good came out of the legislative session, including House Joint Resolution 4220, the Lakewood Law Enforcement Memorial Act.
Hope, along with Rep. Christopher Hurst, D-Enumclaw, championed the bill after Maurice Clemmons murdered four Lakewood Police Officers while they sat together at a coffee shop.
Six days earlier, Clemmons was released on bail while facing charges of child rape, a crime that could have put him in prison for life under Washington’s Three Strikes Law.
“With Maurice Clemmons you can predict and prevent things like that from happening,” Hope said. “We have to make sure we give the judges the deniability to refuse bail for those who are potentially dangerous.”
In Clemmons’ case, the judge could not deny bail because the Washington State Constitution prohibited the ability of the judge to deny bail. Clemmons’ bail was set at $190,000. He was released after paying just $15,000 through a bail bond company.
“We thought the first thing we needed to do was to protect the public and make sure it doesn’t happen again,” Hope said.
The bill passed the House by a vote of 92 to 4 and passed the Senate by a vote of 48 to 0. It will now go to the people for a vote. If it passes the Constitution will be amended.
“It was a battle and a struggle but it went through,” Hope said.
The Constitutional Amendment is not an outright denial of bail, but rather a tool that gives judges the ability to consider denying bail under appropriate circumstances. It gives judges the right to make the decision whether to set a reasonable bail or deny bail given the specific circumstances of each defendant and their crime.
Currently, there is no structure on bail. A judge can decide how much bail to set in each case. The Legislature is also going to set-up a bail structure system.
Hope explained that by changing the bail structure, criminals who do the same types of crime will be held on the same bail amounts. Therefore, someone who murders three people can’t get off on $200,000 bail, while the person who drove the car gets a bail set at $1,000,000.
“We are establishing a bail structure, it’s going to revamp the whole system,” Hope said. “We need to give the judges a little more guidance on that.”
To find out more about the Remember Lakewood Campaign, visit www.rememberlakewood.com.
Hope also worked with Senator Steve Hobbs, D-Lake Stevens on House Bill 2261 which would revamp the way education is funded and classroom sizes among other things.
HB 2261, also called the David Iseminger Bill, named after Lake Stevens School Board’s own Vice-President David Iseminger, who came up with the formulas.Iseminger’s plan would include the following:*Dedicate 50 percent of annual increases in state revenues for K-12 education, until full implementation of basic education reform is complete in 2018;*Shift the existing 24 percent local-district levy lid from district to state collection using existing state tax authority, and set every district to 24 percent;*Use increased state bonding authority for school construction and remodeling, which would mean more money going into school building projects;*Prioritize basic education finance reform to provide resources to students with the highest needs;*Change local-district levy lids to 10 percent or $1 per $1,000 of assessed value, whichever is more.“I’m proud that this idea came from Lake Stevens,” Hope said. “Iseminger came up with the formula and came to Steve and I.”
There were also some major disappointments in this legislative session, most of which come in the form of budgets and taxes.
Hope explained that at the beginning of the session, legislators from both parties were working in unison to find creative ways to balance the budget and cut costs.
However, once Initiative 960 was overturned, the parties seemed to break into their own groups and finding practical cuts went away and tax increases were quickly brought to the table.
“We told the majority party we can help you find solutions to help you reduce this (the budget),” Hope explained. “We provided a worker’s comp solution that would privatize it. We included a solution that included the privatization of liquor sales.”
Currently, state run liquor stores have employee salaries which are not only high but include state benefits and health coverage. Hope explains that by privatizing liquor stores, the state no longer has to pay the high wages, health insurance and other benefits to those employees.
They also brought forth the idea which would allow people to buy insurance over state lines and tailor plans to fit people’s needs versus “Cadillac” plans that provide benefits some may never use.
“The state is spending $6 billon a year on health insurance,” Hope said.
By allowing people to purchase health insurance in other states, the costs come down and people can purchase coverage that is specific to their own needs.
“We also had a bill that would break-up DSHS into divisons such as children,elderly, etc.,” Hope said.
Another disappointment included the operating budget.
“We took a billion dollars from the capital budget and put it in the operating budget,” Hope said. “If there was an earthquake or something happened, and we needed to get to the capital budget, we can’t because we are maxed out. That is why I look at the operating budget as a failure and why I voted against it.”
Eminent tax increases are now facing the citizens and business owners in Washington.
“There was no serious effort made in restructuring government. Everyone talked about one Washington in the beginning of session,” Hope said. “As soon as 960 was overturned restructuring was not even talked about. They began talking about what could be taxed.” They also hurt businesses by increasing B&O taxes for certain and select industries.
“It’s not even ethically set-up properly,” he said.
One example is that cheaper beers get taxed but microbrews are not. Candy and soda pop are also being taxed, hurting middle class citizens the most.
“It hurts the average working class family, if you’re rich or poor you’re OK,” Hope said.
Legislature also used federal money to help balance the budget for the year.
“It didn’t do anything for our shortfall next year,” he said. “We used $5 billion dollars of one time money to balance the budget - capital transfers and federal money that won’t be there next year.” Since 2004, Legislature has increased spending by 33 percent.
“Looking at the last two years we have had some real pluses in education and public safety but we’ve had some real disappointments, mostly in the budget,” Hope said.