2024 legislative session •

Last week, I discussed the catalog of crises facing our state — including public safety. Did you know Washington has ranked first among all states for retail theft impacts, second in property crime rate, and third in automobile thefts? And in 2023, Seattle had a record number of homicides. My staff put together some charts that illustrate the crime crisis in our state:

These statistics should alarm everyone. They also call into question the governor’s recent claim that “the state of our state is stronger than ever.” He’s wrong.

Initiative 2113

It’s not enough to just point out problems though. State lawmakers are expected to address them. And House Republicans have solutions to fix the public safety crisis.

First, the Legislature needs to pass Initiative 2113 — a measure sent to state lawmakers directly from the people of Washington. The initiative, which is very similar to bills sponsored by Republican Rep. Eric Robertson in previous sessions, would restore vehicular pursuit options for law enforcement that Democrats took away through controversial legislation passed in 2021. That experiment failed and it has had disastrous consequences for public safety. You can read my statement on this initiative here.

On Monday, I offered a motion on the House floor to instruct the House Community Safety, Justice, and Reentry Committee to promptly hold a public hearing on I-2113 — emphasizing that state lawmakers have a moral and constitutional responsibility to do so. House Democrats unanimously voted the motion down, doubling down on their failed policy.

House Republicans have been in the middle of this debate for three years. We opposed the legislation in 2021 and have spent the last two years pushing to restore this important tool — making some progress last year. But it’s not enough. I-2113 is now the best solution before the Legislature. House Republicans fully support it.

Increasing the number of police officers in our communities

Second, we need to increase the number of police officers in our communities. This is based on another problematic statistic: Washington ranks 51st, behind all 50 states and the District of Columbia, for the number of police officers per capita.

I sponsored House Bill 1380 last year, to provide recruitment and retention bonuses for police officers to improve staffing in our communities and morale. That’s one solution.

Another is House Bill 2202, sponsored by Rep. Travis Couture. That measure would increase funding to counties but require them to meet minimum police officer staffing ratios. You can learn more in this news release.

These measures would take Washington from dead last in the nation for the number of police officers and at least begin moving us to the middle of the pack. More importantly, they would help fix the public safety crisis.

Other House Republican solutions for public safety

There are other things we can do to reduce crime. House Bill 1456, sponsored by Rep. Dan Griffey, would modify the definition of theft to allow security officers to stop shoplifters when they conceal merchandise rather than when they are leaving the building.

House Bill 2358, sponsored by Rep. Andrew Barkis, would increase penalties for those who obstruct highways — endangering lives and stopping the flow of motorists. As he said in his news release: “Washington will not tolerate anarchy on our highways.” Rep. Barkis also introduced legislation to combat graffiti vandalism. Both bills were covered by KOMO TV:

Public safety is just one crisis facing our state. I’ll discuss other crises, and House Republican solutions to address them, in upcoming editions of this email update.

Initiative 2117

I also wanted to let you know that Initiative 2117, which would repeal the state carbon tax, was certified by the Secretary of State and referred to the House Environment and Energy Committee. On Wednesday, I offered a similar motion on the House floor for this initiative, but House Democrats voted it down. I also sent out a joint statement with Senate Republican Leader John Braun.

In closing, you can find our Week Ahead publication here.

Have a nice weekend.

Warmly,

Rep. Drew Stokesbary 
House Republican Leader
drew.stokesbary@leg.wa.gov