Private prisons, police reform and a Black pioneer’s plaque

Here’s what’s happening on Day 45 of the 2021 session of the Washington Legislature.

NO CAPTION NECESSARY: Logo for the Cornfield Report by Jerry Cornfield. 20200112

2021 Washington Legislature, Day 45 of 105

Everett Herald political reporter Jerry Cornfield: | @dospueblos

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OLYMPIA, Feb 24, 2021 — Good morning.

VoteAPalooza is under way in the Legislature.

March 9 is the deadline for each chamber to pass its bills or they’re dead, well, unless they are NTIB (Necessary To Implement the Budget) or NTPB (Necessary To Pass the Budget).

This is the period when I catch up on legislation I sadly lost track of in the preceding days.

Like Senate Bill 5066 which stirred passions before majority Democrats muscled it through on a 28-21 party line vote.

This legislation says if an on-duty cop sees another officer “engaging or attempting to engage” in use of excessive force, they need to “intervene” to try to stop it. And it requires a law enforcement officer who observes wrongdoing by a fellow officer to report it to their supervisor.

In the debate, backers spoke of George Floyd’s slaying and wanting to give “good officers who want to do the right thing” the tools and support to act.

“We have witnessed good officers stand by and do nothing,” said Democratic Sen. Jamie Pedersen. “We need to make a substantial change and make sure everyone in our state can trust that law enforcement is there to protect them.”

Opponents argued a “Good Samaritans policy for police” makes sense. Cops, however, will view this bill as lawmakers doing something to them, not for them, because it doesn’t make clear what it means to intervene. It will harm morale and make it much harder to recruit and hire new officers, some warned.

“This is an absolutely terrible bill. Put it down,” said Republican Sen. Jeff Holy, a retired police officer.

Meanwhile, right out of the chute, a bill outlawing private prisons in Washington moved off the House floor Tuesday on a strong 76-21 vote. It is aimed at the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma which has been the target of numerous allegations of mistreating detainees and maintaining unhealthy conditions.

It won’t close the detention center immediately because it has a contract with U.S. immigration and Customs Enforcement. But the bill expressly bars any extensions or modifications to such contracts that would allow the private detention facility to keep operating.

“It is a moral injustice to profit off of those who are incarcerated and today we have the opportunity to put humanity before profits in our state,” said its sponsor, Democratic Rep. Lillian Ortiz-Self.

Washington stands to be the 23rd state with such a ban, she said. Opponents argued the state will land in court if House Bill 1090 becomes law.

Progress and patience

KIRO-TV reporter Essex Porter asked Democratic lawmakers Tuesday if, by the end of session, protesters who took to the streets to call for police reform and racial justice, will feel their demands were met.

“No. Here’s why,” House Speaker Laurie Jinkins replied. “It’s taken us a long time to get here. No matter how much action we take this year, even if everybody was really happy with us, we will not be done. It’s taken us hundreds of years to get where we’re at. It’s not going to take hundreds of years to get to a better place. But it is going to take us more than one year.”

This is cool

A new marker is coming to the Capitol campus to honor Black pioneer George Bush and his son, William Owen Bush, who served in the state’s very first Legislature. This granite pedestal with a bronze plaque will be placed near the World War II monument and in view of the Bush Butternut Tree, named for the same family, according to a release from the Department of Enterprise Services.

You can read what will be on the plaque here:

The Washington State Historical Society is working on the production. Installation could come this summer but a supply chain issue with granite could throw the timeline off, I learned Tuesday.

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