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(D‑43rd District: Seattle) and requested by Attorney General Bob Ferguson, would formally scrub a list of statutes no longer in effect from the Revised Code of Washington.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:
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.