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Two initiatives receive the attention of the Washington legislature on Wednesday

Brian Heywood, who sponsored the initiatives that were the subject of legislative hearings on Tuesday and Wednesday, speaks in favor of 2113, the police pursuit measure.
TVW screenshot
Brian Heywood, who sponsored the initiatives that were the subject of legislative hearings on Tuesday and Wednesday, speaks in favor of 2113, the police pursuit measure.

Lawmakers in Olympia on Wednesday conducted two sets of hearings into issues that are the subject of citizen initiatives to the legislature: parents’ rights related to their children’s education and police vehicular pursuits.

In the first case, the education committees from the state House and Senate probed Initiative 2081, which lists 15 rights for parents and legal guardians of children younger than 18 as they interact with their local schools. It was submitted by state Republican Party Chair Jim Walsh.

“We want parents to be engaged and be confident that they can know what’s going on with their minor children and I believe that if we do that more effectively, we will see children in this state who themselves are more engaged,” said Walsh, who is also a House member from southwest Washington.

Several speakers questioned the need for an initiative, noting that most of the rights listed are already established in state law and policy.

“In our analysis of Initiative 2081, we see that parents have had the right to review curriculum, classroom material, textbooks and visit their students’ classrooms since 1979. Parents have also had the right to opt their students out of sexual health classes since 2007,” said Nasue Nishida from the Washington Education Association.

Mercer Island Democratic Senator Lisa Wellman acknowledged that.

“However, it’s become clear that it’s confusing to understand the full scope of parental rights that already exist because they’re not easily accessible or published in one space,” she said, a point reinforced by Walsh.

A handful of people urged legislators to ensure the rush to enshrine parents’ rights doesn’t trample the rights of children to speak confidentially with school officials during sensitive situations.

The two committees will each act on the initiative during their regularly-scheduled meetings on Friday. They could choose to adopt the initiative as is or to send it to a statewide ballot in November.

Wednesday’s second joint session of House and Senate committees considered testimony on a measure that would loosen police pursuit rules approved in 2021. Initiative 2113 would allow pursuit if there is reasonable suspicion the person violated the law.

James McMahan of the Washington Association of Police Chiefs says under the current standard, more people are fleeing from police during traffic stops.

“Washington cannot afford to continue fostering an environment which empowers criminals, jeopardizes public safety, and diminishes the rule of law,” he said.

“We should not be the nation's leader in car theft,” said Brian Heywood, a westside hedge fund manager who bankrolled 2113, 2081 and four other measures that qualified to go before lawmakers this year.

“There’s no reason for this, because what car theft has become is a get-away-free car system. As that has happened, finally, then, we have had skyrocketing increases in our car insurance rates. This is a direct result of the inability of police to pursue bad guys when they have done bad things.”

Josh Parker, senior counsel for the Policing Project at the New York University School of Law, testified against the measure. He said more pursuits mean more danger to officers and the public.

“The San Francisco Chronicle published a thorough study showing that more than 3,000 people died in police vehicle pursuits in the past five years, including more than 500 bystanders. And according to federal government estimates, police pursuits injured more than 52,000 people, from 2017 to 2021,” he said.

He says pursuits are also costly for local governments and insurance companies, which have paid more than $80 million in settlements and judgments in suits arising from pursuit-related injuries and deaths.

The legislature can adopt the initiative into state law, they can reject it and send it to voters on the November ballot, or propose an alternative that would appear alongside the initiative on the ballot.

Doug Nadvornick has spent most of his 30+-year radio career at Spokane Public Radio and filled a variety of positions. He is currently the program director and news director. Through the years, he has also been the local Morning Edition and All Things Considered host (not at the same time). He served as the Inland Northwest correspondent for the Northwest News Network, based in Coeur d’Alene. He created the original program grid for KSFC. He has also served for several years as a board member for Public Media Journalists Association. During his years away from SPR, he worked at The Pacific Northwest Inlander, Washington State University in Spokane and KXLY Radio.