2023 legislative session •

As long as I’ve been in the House Republican Caucus, public safety has been a priority. However, this priority has become more important in the last two years as many communities face increasing crime. Like last year, House Republicans have brought real solutions to the table in 2023.

Misguided policies from 2021 made communities less safe

I believe police reform bills passed by Democrats in 2021 made communities less safe. The wrong messages were sent from Olympia two years ago. Since then, criminals have felt emboldened, and law enforcement has felt abandoned.

As early as the summer of 2021, we started to see the results of these misguided policies — and Republicans called for action. First, police officers were limited in how they could respond to people experiencing a mental health crisis due to a change in use of force laws. This headline from the AP told the story: “Washington police reform bill backfired on people in crisis.”

Thankfully, with the help of Republicans, this problem was addressed in the 2022 legislative session. But there were consequences for communities.

Fixing the pursuit problem

A second policy from 2021 limited law enforcement’s options in vehicular pursuits. Since then, many suspected criminals have simply been allowed to drive away. Many believe this has caused a spike in auto thefts and other crimes. An array of stories from the media can be found here.

Unfortunately, this problem has not been fixed, and it was one of the biggest failures of the 2022 legislative session. We thought there was a bipartisan agreement, but Senate Democrats blocked it. House Republicans led on this issue last year and are leading on it again.

Rep. Eric Robertson, a former state trooper, has introduced House Bill 1053. The measure would bring back the reasonable suspicion standard and restore a discretionary tool used by law enforcement.

We don’t care who gets the credit. This is demonstrated by the fact Eric is a co-sponsor of similar legislation, House Bill 1363, which is prime sponsored by a Democrat and has 40 sponsors. The bad news: It appears Senate Democrats may again block this important policy change.

Putting more police officers in our communities

Did you know Washington state ranks last in the nation in police officers per capita? It’s true. And it’s unacceptable. We need more police officers in our communities.

Again, House Republicans have solutions. House Bill 1380 would provide funding for the recruitment, retention, and support of law enforcement officers. Another measure, House Bill 1446, would provide cities and counties with funding to hire and retain more law enforcement officers. Both measures are sponsored by Rep. Drew Stokesbary.

House Bill 1682, sponsored by Rep. Jacquelin Maycumber, would also increase funding for preventing, investigating, and prosecuting auto theft.

Supporting crime victims

There has been no greater advocate for crime victims in my time in the Legislature than Rep. Jenny Graham. As you may know, Jenny’s sister was murdered by Gary Ridgway. This news release highlights three of her public safety bills. Jenny is also not afraid to take the debate to the airwaves.

Our public safety lead, Rep. Gina Mosbrucker, is also focused on supporting crime victims. A review of her bill sponsorship reveals compassion and a commitment to public safety. Gina continues to be a leader in helping sexual assault survivors and seeking justice for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and People.

Holding the majority party accountable

The issue of public safety offers Washingtonians a clear contrast of approaches from Republicans and Democrats. Please join Republicans and the media in holding the majority party and governor accountable for their actions and results on this critical issue and others.

In a future edition of this email update, I will talk about drug addiction and homelessness, which also factor in the public safety debate.


Rep. J.T. Wilcox
House Republican Leader
(360) 786-7912