By Jerry Cornfield
The days of state lawmakers avoiding speeding tickets during session may soon be over.
Freshman Rep. Dave Hayes, R-Camano Island, said today he’ll introduce a bill to revise language in existing law that Washington State Patrol leaders say prevents troopers from ticketing lead-foot lawmakers while the Legislature is in session.
“This is a law that was written back when lawmakers traveled for days across the state to reach the Capitol, sometimes on horseback, and it was intended to prevent them from being obstructed from their participation in the Legislature. But that was more than a century ago,” Hayes said in a statement.
“In recent times, there’s been confusion as to how the law should be applied and whether simply being issued a noncriminal traffic ticket for an infraction should be considered ‘civil process.’ My bill says that the issuance of a traffic citation to a legislator is not civil process under the state constitution. That should help clarify that state lawmakers who violate traffic laws may receive a ticket,” he said.
Hayes, a patrol sergeant with the Snohomish County sheriff’s department, represents the 10th Legislative District which encompasses Island County and parts of Snohomish and Skagit counties.
In the past, Washington State Patrol spokesman Bob Calkins cited Article II of the state’s Constitution in explaining why if a trooper stops a lawmaker for driving too fast they are “honor bound” to get them back on the road as quickly as possible without citing them.
Today the policy applies to stops for noncriminal traffic violations made during legislative sessions, special sessions and the 15 days before a session.
But if a trooper doesn’t know the person they stopped is a lawmaker, they may give them a ticket. Rep. Marko Liias, D-Edmonds, and Sen. Adam Kline, D-Seattle, are among those who’ve said that’s happened to them.