I have no doubt that this will be one of the most difficult legislative sessions that most of us have ever experienced. We must approach the budget deficit head on in order to put our state back on the path to long-term financial security.
It is difficult to think about tomorrow as we struggle to get through today. As a business owner, I have always planned for good economic times when business is slow, just as I have always planned for the bad times when business is good.
For the past several years, I have been a strong advocate for creating jobs and helping local businesses prosper through the long-term economic development of Washington state and Pierce County.
In the last two months, tragedy has focused our attention on another issue. I’ve heard it said before, that when a police officer is attacked, our entire community is attacked, and I couldn’t agree more.
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My legislative district includes the southwest part of Pierce County, not far from where four law enforcement officers were slain in November. Nothing we do is going to bring back the heroes who died providing our communities with law and order. We all need to do our part to make sure those terrible events are not repeated.
The broken interstate compact for offender supervision must be fixed. The original agreement never intended for Washington to pay to import and supervise almost three times as many offenders as it exports to other states. Washington will not be a dumping ground for felons.
As the facts come out about the manipulation of warrants and cancellations by Arkansas, it will be even clearer that nothing will get fixed in the immediate future. The interstate compact commission does not even meet until next November. We can, however, do our best to make sure these mistakes do not happen so that we can protect our communities in the years to come.
We should eliminate the practice of “booking bail” for felony offenses. Right now, bail is set via a schedule with no judicial weighing of the particular facts of the offense or prior criminal record. This must end.
We should align and amend the state constitution with federal law to allow judges to hold suspects deemed an immediate and severe danger to our community.
We can follow other states that institute immediate jail time for felons who violate parole. The immediate and certain jail time has been shown to be very effective at curbing repeat offenses.
We can waive tuition and fees at our state universities for children of first responders killed in the line of duty.
While we cannot bring back these heroes, we can make sure that their ultimate sacrifice will not be forgotten, and that their children will not be left behind.
While the budget and creating jobs in Washington will remain top priorities for me and the Legislature, there will be another area that I will concentrate on in this legislative session. These bills may save lives and will save the state money. We must slam shut the gaping holes in our justice system. Now is the time to correct the law and provide public safety to our communities.
Rep. Troy Kelley, D-Tacoma, is a business owner and Army reservist who also serves in the Washington State House of Representatives. He represents the 28th Legislative District, which includes Lakewood and Fort Lewis, and can be reached at email@example.com.