February 26, 2010 |

Senate hearing highlights support for House compromise

The Senate Judiciary Committee today approved a Senate amendment introduced yesterday morning, adjusted to apply the denial of bail for those who attempt heinous crimes but do not succeed.

Families of slain Lakewood police officers, King County council officials, various law enforcement groups and the governor’s office today all signed up to testify in support of the House-passed version of House Joint Resolution 4220 today. While not all were given the opportunity to speak, they sent a message that a strong bill should pass the Legislature to deny bail to the most dangerous suspects in Washington.

“The Legislature needs to show the citizens of this state it is serious about learning something from our tragedy in Lakewood,” said Brian Wurts, president of the Lakewood Police Independent Guild. “This isn’t just about Lakewood, or even Pierce County. The families of our officers want a strong bill that makes a difference in our communities across the state, and that’s why we came down to Olympia to support the House version.”

“The federal government and many other states in our country limit bail even further than what the House proposed to the Senate,” said Rep. Mike Hope, R-Lake Stevens, sponsor of the bill. “What we need is to limit bail for the most dangerous people, whether it’s the first time or third time they have threatened or actually committed the most heinous crimes. The law enforcement community and victims groups have told me they want the strongest version possible.”

Hope has spoken with several law enforcement groups since the Senate amended a proposed striking amendment. He said while they are pleased the Senate is showing some movement to protect the public from those who attempt the most dangerous crimes, it still does not go far enough.

“I’m optimistic the Senate is moving toward the House version, because that version that passed the House is the best at preventing needless deaths,” Hope said. “Judges should have the authority to make the decision on bail, based on history and a preponderance of evidence. They are the ones who we trust to make the decision and who we trust to keep our public safe from potentially dangerous individuals after law enforcement has done its job. We need to give broader authority to them so they have the ability to protect more citizens if they deem necessary.”

Hope said he will continue to seek collaboration with the Senate and across party lines to come up with a bipartisan and bi-chamber agreement that can go to the voters in November. Hope and Rep. Chris Hurst, D-Enumclaw, have worked together since Hope introduced the first version of the bill in December.

“The public expects that dangerous suspects facing a serious sentence are already being held without bail to ensure they do not flee or harm the public,” Hope said. “This is not a knee-jerk reaction to a single tragedy. The House version of this bill brought together various groups and political parties starting in December. We have already compromised from what the governor requested. We do not need more studies or work groups, we need action before we have more victims to name bills after.”

The House passed its version of the bill 80-17, well over the 66-vote requirement to make an amendment to the state constitution in the House. The bill now goes to the Senate Rules Committee to be scheduled for a vote on the Senate floor, where it needs 33 votes to pass.

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