Progress in Olympia? Police reform, ‘cap and invest,’ voting rights, and a Juneteenth holiday

What has changed after a year of protest, and pandemic isn’t always clear. Seattle’s steps toward increased spending on social and community programs and efforts to reduce its policing budget are moving are moving forward — but more slowly than many who marched have called for. But there is change. This year was possibly one of the most consequential in Olympia in recent history. Progressive politics dominated the Legislature, and a host of wish list policies, some which had been stalled for years, have been placed on the governor’s desk. “We experienced first-hand the real cries of frustration of a lot of people about the police and how they have interacted with our communities,” Democratic Sen. Jamie Pedersen, the chair of his chamber’s Law and Justice Committee,said during a town hall on the 2021 session with his fellow electeds representing Capitol Hill and the state’s 43rd District.

Here is a look at what legislators pushed forward for Washington in 2021. Gov. Jay Inslee is expected to take action on many of the bills Monday afternoon (PDF).

“The Communist Party Newspaper, New World, published articles attacking racial restrictive covenants in 1948” — Racial Restrictive Covenants: Enforcing Neighborhood Segregation in Seattle

EQUITY
In something that might matter to hill homeowners, the state has planned a review of property titles with an eye toward removing unlawful racial property restrictions. (HB 1335) The practice of adding title restrictions that forbade selling properties to people of color (commonly known as redlining) was rampant in Seattle, and on Capitol Hill in particular, forcing most of Seattle’s black population into the Central District, while Asians were routed to what is now called the International District. Though such covenants are no longer legal and cannot be enforced, some may still exist on title documents. The bill directs the University of Washington and Eastern Washington University to comb through property records looking for such restrictions, and then inform the property owners of such restrictions. It also provides methods for removing the language from property titles. The bill won’t do anything to stop rampant gentrification, but removing racist language from the public record isn’t a bad thing.

Juneteenth will officially be recognized as a state holiday. (HB 1016) The holiday, to be observed on June 19, marks the end of slavery in the United States. Continue reading

Plea deal: Capitol Hill man gets 6-month sentence for assaults on media during Washington governor’s mansion protest

The Capitol Hill, Seattle man accused of assaulting and threatening media in Olympia the same day as the January 6th storming of the Capitol in Washington D.C. will spend six months in jail after pleading guilty Monday in a Thurston County courtroom.

Damon Huseman, 27, agreed to plead guilty to three counts of third-degree assault, two counts of harassment, and a count of criminal trespass, according to court records. Continue reading

43rd District legislators talk holding police accountable, taxing capital gains, and helping renters at town hall

Capitol Hill-area lawmakers talked reforming police accountability, taxing capital gains, and helping renters in a virtual town hall with constituents Saturday afternoon.

The full recording of Saturday’s online session is below.

Democratic Sen. Jamie Pedersen, the chair of his chamber’s Law and Justice Committee, said law enforcement reform and gun control were his top priorities this session in Olympia.

“We experienced first-hand the real cries of frustration of a lot of people about the police and how they have interacted with our communities,” he said, noting he lives closest to Cal Anderson Park of any 43rd District lawmaker.

He highlighted several bills moving through the Legislature that would change policing in Washington, from more stringent audits and prohibitions on chokeholds and guidelines on the use of crowd control weapons to the creation of an independent office to investigate police use of force and setting standards for when law enforcement can use force. All four of these measures have passed through the state House and are set for Thursday votes in Pedersen’s committee. Continue reading

Capital gains tax and police reform — State legislators to hold 43rd District Virtual Town Hall

A pre-spring tradition has been an annual gathering of our state representatives and senators for a community meeting about the goings on in Olympia. Saturday, you can tune in for a virtual town hall version of this political rite of spring as Reps. Nicole Macri and Frank Chopp, and Sen. Jamie Pedersen take part in an online update on the legislative session:

43rd District Virtual Town Hall
Saturday March 13, 20201 at 1 PM PST – 2 PM PST
Join your 43rd District representatives for a live virtual town hall on Saturday, March 13 at 1 p.m. Reps. Nicole Macri and Frank Chopp and Sen. Jamie Pedersen will share their thoughts on their legislative priorities and answer your questions on the issues you care about. Submit questions ahead of time: surveymonkey.com/r/MRKT88X

Or submit questions live during the event by leaving a question in the comment section.

Our Seattle-area state lawmakers have said they are working on a suite of legislation that would look to improve police accountability across Washington through a more stringent officer decertification process, a public use of force database, and create a statewide civilian-led body for misconduct investigations. You also might want to ask about the plans for a new state capital gains tax and concerns efforts to forge a statewide payroll tax won’t undermine Seattle’s tax on large companies.


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One of eight with no state income tax, Washington moves forward on plan for new tax on big capital gains

Endlessly challenged by the mix of its relatively progressive politics and a relatively paltry tax base, any shift in the mood around a statewide change in taxation is notable in Washington. Over the weekend, state senators narrowly approved a proposal that would tap into profits from massive stock and bond sales, sending the proposal onto Olympia’s Democrat-controlled House of Representatives.

The 25-24 vote moved the bill forward to create a 7% tax on the sale of stocks and bonds, personal property and businesses when annual profits exceed $250,000. Retirement accounts would be exempt. Continue reading

State lowers bar for COVID-19 reopenings — Seattle can advance to Phase 2

(Image: Marmite)

The state’s key metrics — Regions must only meet three of the four thresholds after state officials decided to loosen requirements

The state has lowered the bar on its phased plan for regional reopening of businesses and loosened restrictions on gatherings. The result? Seattle and King County are eligible to move forward into Phase 2 starting Monday allowing restaurants to resume indoor service at reduced capacity and friends and loved ones to visit in their homes.

Gov. Jay Inslee announced the change Thursday that lowers the requirements set earlier this month for advancing from a reopening phase. Previously, a region needed to meet all four thresholds measured by the state health department. Now, a region advances if only three of four of the key metrics are met, qualifying King County and its Puget Sound region including Pierce and Snohomish Counties for the next phase of reopening.

The state’s West Region including Grays Harbor, Thurston, Lewis, and Pacific Counties also qualifies.

“The changes come after further conversations with public health partners and the state’s increasing vaccination rates,” the governor’s office said Thursday.

Under Phase 2, restaurants can offer indoor dining at 25% capacity. Gyms can also reopen at 25% capacity. Museums, aquariums, bowling alleys, and theaters, can also reopen at 25% capacity with no more than 200 people. Competitive sports can also resume games beyond the practices allowed in Phase 1. Continue reading

Insurrection in the Capitol: Huseman pleads not guilty in assaults on journalists, three more SPD cops investigated

Huseman

The Capitol Hill, Seattle man accused of assaulting and threatening media in Olympia the same day as the January 6th storming of the Capitol in Washington D.C. has pleaded not guilty to the charges brought against him.

Meanwhile, three more Seattle Police officers are being investigated for their part in the day’s chaos at the U.S. Capitol.

Damon Huseman pleaded not guilty Wednesday in Thurston County Superior Court.

CHS reported here on the pre-Inauguration Day arrest of the Summit Ave resident who had been charged with two counts of assault and a count of felony harassment in the days following the attempted storming of the Governor’s mansion in Olympia and was the subject of a search warrant and an “Extreme Risk Protection Order” barring Huseman from having access to firearms. Continue reading

WANTED ARRESTED: Capitol Hill man charged for assaults on media as crowd tried to storm Washington governor’s mansion

A Capitol Hill, Seattle man captured on video wearing paramilitary style clothing, carrying an “assault type rifle,” and threatening media — and other pro-Trump rioters — during an attempt to enter the Washington governor’s residence the same day as the deadly storming of the U.S. Capitol in D.C. earlier this month has been arrested on the eve of Inauguration Day and faces charges for threats and assaults against reporters during the day’s unrest.

The Washington State Patrol says Damon Huseman, 26, hit at least two members of media with bear spray and threatened to kill a third “within the next year” during his day of rage January 6th on the state’s Capitol campus grounds.

Huseman has been the subject of social media efforts attempting to identify people captured on video during the deadly D.C. actions and the attempted assault on Gov. Jay Inslee’s Olympia residence.

The Summit Ave resident faces charges of two counts of second degree assault for the alleged bear spray attacks and one count of felony harassment.

Charges were filed January 11th and a warrant was issued for his arrest but Huseman wasn’t taken into custody until Tuesday afternoon and was to be booked into jail in Thurston County.

It’s not clear what Huseman’s whereabouts were in the week and a half since the charges were filed and the warrant was issued.

According to the State Patrol report on the January 6th incident, Huseman threatened one media member as she struggled to keep him from taking her phone, telling the state government reporter and the crowd of media he was going to “shoot them dead” within the coming year. Continue reading

Insurrection in the Capitol: Seattle Police officers investigated, National Guard troops in Olympia

As reports emerge of police, firefighters, and active military personnel from across the country participating in the deadly storming of the U.S. Capitol in an unsuccessful bid to stop the certification of President-Elect Joe Biden, the Seattle Police Department announced it is placing at least two officers on leave as an investigation is launched into their participation in the deadly day of protest, riot, and sedition in Washington D.C.

Meanwhile, further SPD fallout from Wednesday’s deadly clashes includes a call for the head of the city’s police union to apologize or resign for his comments about the event. And, in Olympia, Washington National Guard troops have joined the State Patrol in barricading the state’s Capitol grounds over security concerns as legislators meet Monday to adopt rules that will allow them to meet virtually during the rest of the session.

In Seattle, SPD interim Chief Adrian Diaz said the city’s Office of Police Accountability is conducting a “full review of any SPD employee activities at the U.S. Capitol.” Continue reading

Washington Build Back Black Alliance forms to ‘speak with one voice’ in Olympia at Seattle City Hall

When Paula Sardinas moved to Washington, she noticed that despite lawmakers’ rhetoric, “Black Lives Matter” was not reflected in policy.

Sardinas, president of a government relations firm, said she’s been advocating for equity in Olympia, but has always come up against better-funded special interests, noting specific fights in the cannabis industry that activists have argued has kept out Black business owners. So she asked herself: “How can we create a concentric circle which centers around social and equitable racial justice in policy and bring all the members to the table?”

Sardinas and colleagues hope they have answered this question by forming the Washington Build Back Black Alliance this fall, which includes members from Tacoma to the Tri-Cities, to both develop policies and give feedback on existing legislation that could affect the wellbeing of Black people.

“Every piece of policy we draft we need to ask ourselves one simple question: Does this hurt or advance the cause of Black lives and if it does, how is it helping us to create generational wealth and equity,” Sardinas told CHS this week. “If a bill or piece of legislation doesn’t answer those two questions, then why are we hearing the bill?”

Some elements of the group’s 2021 agenda are already taking shape. Monday, Gov. Jay Inslee unveiled his equity plan for the state’s next budget including “$365M for equity-related decision packages and budget items.”

Continue reading