Washington State's Legislative Building, on the Capitol Campus
The Legislative Building, seen here from above the Temple of Justice, is the heart of Washington State's Capitol Campus in Olympia (Photo: Andrew Villeneuve/NPI)

A well-craft­ed house­keep­ing bill that would abol­ish a num­ber of uncon­sti­tu­tion­al statutes has passed out of the Wash­ing­ton State House, mark­ing the first time that both cham­bers of the Leg­is­la­ture have vot­ed to repeal the death penalty.

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Dis­trict: Seat­tle) and request­ed by Attor­ney Gen­er­al Bob Fer­gu­son, would for­mal­ly scrub a list of statutes no longer in effect from the Revised Code of Washington.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.

Fifty-eight rep­re­sen­ta­tives said yes to strik­ing these uncon­sti­tu­tion­al statutes from our books, while thir­ty-nine were opposed. The roll call was as follows:

Roll Call
SB 5087
Defects and omissions
Final Pas­sage on Reconsideration

Yeas: 58; Nays: 39; Excused: 1

Vot­ing Yea: Rep­re­sen­ta­tives Alvara­do, Bate­man, Berg, Bergquist, Berry, Bronoske, Callan, Chap­man, Chopp, Cortes, Davis, Doglio, Don­aghy, Duerr, Enten­man, Fari­var, Fey, Fitzgib­bon, Fos­se, Good­man, Gregerson, Hack­ney, Hansen, Klo­ba, Leav­itt, Lekanoff, Macri, Mena, Mor­gan, Orms­by, Orwall, Paul, Peter­son, Pol­let, Ramel, Ramos, Reed, Reeves, Ric­cel­li, Rude, Rule, Ryu, San­tos, Senn, Shavers, Sim­mons, Slat­ter, Springer, Stearns, Stonier, Street, Tay­lor, Thai, Tharinger, Tim­mons, Walen, Wylie, Jinkins

Vot­ing Nay: Rep­re­sen­ta­tives Abbarno, Barkis, Barnard, Caldier, Cham­bers, Chan­dler, Cheney, Chris­t­ian, Con­nors, Cor­ry, Cou­ture, Dent, Dye, Eslick, Goehn­er, Gra­ham, Grif­fey, Har­ris, Hutchins, Jacob­sen, Klick­er, Kretz, Low, May­cum­ber, McClin­tock, McEn­tire, Mos­bruck­er, Orcutt, Robert­son, San­dlin, Schmick, Schmidt, Steele, Stokes­bary, Volz, Walsh, Waters, Wilcox, Ybarra

Excused: Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Ortiz-Self

One Repub­li­can joined the Demo­c­ra­t­ic cau­cus in vot­ing to sup­port the bill: Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Skyler Rude (R‑16th Dis­trict: Wal­la Wal­la). The oth­er House Repub­li­cans vot­ed no. Demo­c­ra­t­ic Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Lil­lian Ortiz-Self was excused (we have no doubt she would have vot­ed yea had she been present).

Repub­li­cans offered two amend­ments to the bill.

One, from Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Jen­ny Gra­ham (R‑6th Dis­trict: Spokane Coun­ty), would have referred the bill to the peo­ple as a ref­er­en­dum. The oth­er, from Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Jim Walsh (R‑19th Dis­trict: South­west Wash­ing­ton), would have mod­i­fied the bill to keep the death penal­ty statute on the books.

The House reject­ed both amend­ments, keep­ing the bill the same as it was when the Sen­ate vot­ed on it. For tech­ni­cal rea­sons, the vote on third read­ing was recon­sid­ered, but the out­come was the same: 58 yea votes, 39 nay votes, 1 excused. The bill now goes to Gov­er­nor Jay Inslee to be signed into law.

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.

While the Sen­ate has vot­ed to repeal the death penal­ty almost every year since Sen­a­tor Man­ka Dhin­gra’s ini­tial vic­to­ry, the House has repeat­ed­ly failed to do so, even though the votes were there. So tonight’s vote is a real breakthrough.

We are delight­ed to see more bipar­ti­san sup­port for ensur­ing that the prac­tice of exe­cu­tions nev­er resumes in Wash­ing­ton State. This is a great human rights win.

When Gov­er­nor Inslee signs SB 5087 lat­er this month, the Revised Code of Wash­ing­ton will also be free 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 Ini­tia­tive 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 this uncon­sti­tu­tion­al lan­guage is going away.

NPI thanks all of the mem­bers of the House 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 go to Gov­er­nor Inslee.

About the author

Andrew Villeneuve is the founder and executive director of the Northwest Progressive Institute, as well as the founder of NPI's sibling, the Northwest Progressive Foundation. He has worked to advance progressive causes for over two decades as a strategist, speaker, author, and organizer. Andrew is also a cybersecurity expert, a veteran facilitator, a delegate to the Washington State Democratic Central Committee, and a member of the Climate Reality Leadership Corps.

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