Legislative Advocacy

VICTORY! Washington State Senate votes to remove death penalty and Eyman’s two-thirds nonsense from our state’s body of laws

A well-craft­ed house­keep­ing bill that would abol­ish a num­ber of uncon­sti­tu­tion­al statutes has passed out of the Wash­ing­ton State Sen­ate with bipar­ti­san sup­port as one of the cham­ber’s ini­tial acts of the 2023 leg­isla­tive session.

Sub­sti­tute Sen­ate Bill 5087, prime spon­sored by Sen­a­tor Jamie Ped­er­sen (D‑43rd Dis­trict: Seat­tle) and request­ed by Attor­ney Gen­er­al Bob Fer­gu­son, would for­mal­ly scrub a list of statutes no longer in effect from the Revised Code of Washington.

These statutes include the death penal­ty, deemed uncon­sti­tu­tion­al by the Supreme Court as applied, along with the uncon­sti­tu­tion­al two-thirds scheme to raise rev­enue that Tim Eyman turned into a series of initiatives.

Thir­ty-four sen­a­tors said yes to strik­ing these uncon­sti­tu­tion­al statutes from our books, while four­teen were opposed. The roll call on SB 5087 was as follows:

SSB 5087
Defects and omissions
Sen­ate vote on 3rd Read­ing & Final Passage

Yeas: 34; Nays: 14; Excused: 1

Vot­ing Yea: Sen­a­tor Bil­lig, Boehnke, Cleve­land, Con­way, Dhin­gra, Frame, Hasegawa, Hawkins, Hunt, Kauff­man, Keis­er, King, Kud­er­er, Liias, Lovelett, Lovick, Mul­let, Muz­za­ll, Nguyen, Nobles, Ped­er­sen, Ran­dall, Robin­son, Rolfes, Sal­daña, Salomon, Stan­ford, Trudeau, Valdez, Wag­oner, War­nick, Well­man, Wil­son (Claire), Wil­son (Jeff)

Vot­ing Nay: Sen­a­tor Braun, Dozi­er, For­tu­na­to, Gildon, Holy, MacEwen, McCune, Pad­den, Rivers, Schoesler, Short, Tor­res, Van De Wege, Wil­son (Lyn­da)

Excused: Sen­a­tor Shewmake

The only Demo­c­rat to vote nay was Kevin Van De Wege (D‑24th Dis­trict: Olympic Penin­su­la). Repub­li­cans were split. Most of the cau­cus vot­ed nay, but Kei­th Wag­oner, Judy War­nick, Jeff Wil­son, Matt Boehnke, and Ron Muz­za­ll vot­ed yea.

Sen­a­tor Shew­make (D‑42nd Dis­trict: What­com Coun­ty) was excused.

Repub­li­cans attempt­ed to amend the bill to remove the death penal­ty from the list of statutes being elim­i­nat­ed in the bill, but the amend­ment failed on a voice vote, with Sen­a­tors Jamie Ped­er­sen and Yas­min Trudeau speak­ing against it.

No oth­er amend­ments were offered to the bill.

Ped­er­sen not­ed in his speech on final pas­sage that the Wash­ing­ton State Supreme Court has been urg­ing the Gov­er­nor and Leg­is­la­ture to clean up the state’s books for a long time now and com­mend­ed the leg­is­la­tion to the body.

Repub­li­can Mike Pad­den exlained dur­ing a speech on the amend­ment that he only object­ed to the elim­i­na­tion of the death penal­ty statute, because it was struck down as applied rather than struck down as writ­ten, and could sup­port the rest of the bill. How­ev­er, the real­i­ty is that there is no just, equi­table, or fair way to apply the death penal­ty. The death penal­ty is immoral and irre­spon­si­ble, and its removal from our books is an absolute­ly nec­es­sary and appro­pri­ate action.

In 2018, NPI found in its spring statewide poll that a whop­ping 69% of like­ly Wash­ing­ton vot­ers sup­port­ed life in prison alter­na­tives to the death penal­ty, with only 24% express­ing sup­port for the death penal­ty. Not long after we released that research, the Wash­ing­ton State Supreme Court struck down the death penal­ty as uncon­sti­tu­tion­al and con­vert­ed all death sen­tences to life sen­tences, mak­ing Gov­er­nor Inslee’s mora­to­ri­um on the death penal­ty permanent.

Though the death penal­ty has been off the table as an option for pros­e­cu­tors for years, the uncon­sti­tu­tion­al statute allow­ing it has remained on the books. The Sen­ate has repeat­ed­ly vot­ed to get rid of the death penal­ty, but the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives has inex­plic­a­bly failed to fol­low suit, even though the votes exist to get the bill to Gov­er­nor Inslee’s desk. Hope­ful­ly, the fourth time will be the charm and we’ll be able to cel­e­brate this bill being signed into law in a few weeks.

We’ll also be able to cel­e­brate the removal from our books of the right wing’s long-run­ning scheme to mess with our Con­sti­tu­tion’s major­i­ty vote require­ment by spec­i­fy­ing a two-thirds vote thresh­old for rev­enue bills in clear vio­la­tion of Arti­cle II, Sec­tion 22, which says: “No bill shall become a law unless on its final pas­sage the vote be tak­en by yeas and nays, the names of the mem­bers vot­ing for and against the same be entered on the jour­nal of each house, and a major­i­ty of the mem­bers elect­ed to each house be record­ed there­on as vot­ing in its favor.”

This scheme, first imposed via I‑601 in the 1990s and reen­act­ed with Tim Eyman’s I‑960, I‑1053, and I‑1185, was intend­ed to give Repub­li­cans the equiv­a­lent of a leg­isla­tive veto over bills to raise rev­enue for Wash­ing­ton’s essen­tial pub­lic ser­vices. Now it’s final­ly on the verge of going away.

NPI thanks all of the mem­bers of the Sen­ate who vot­ed for this leg­is­la­tion today. Abol­ish­ing the death penal­ty and clean­ing up our books is one of our 2023 leg­isla­tive pri­or­i­ties, and we’re pleased to see it receive ear­ly floor action.

Andrew Villeneuve

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