Area legislators work on bills

  • <br>Enterprise staff
  • Monday, March 3, 2008 6:41am

Several bills introduced by area state legislators are close to becoming law. What follows are updates on those bills.

Privacy bill passes

The House of Representatives unanimously passed a bill that safeguards personal information pertaining to public employees, volunteers and their dependents.

The measure sponsored by the chair of the Criminal Justice and Corrections Committee, State Rep. Al O’Brien, D-Mountlake Terrace, addresses the problem of sensitive information getting into the wrong hands.

“There have been prison inmates who’ve used this type of information to harass prison employees,” said O’Brien, “or they use it to intentionally drain the resources of the Department of Corrections, and to obtain the names of informants.”

The Public Disclosure Act requires that all state and local government agencies make all public records available, with certain exemptions such as residential addresses or telephone numbers.

O’Brien’s bill, which was co-sponsored by Rep. Mark Ericks, D-Bothell, adds to the act personal wireless telephone numbers, personal e-mail addresses, Social Security numbers, and emergency contact information of employees or volunteers of a public agency, and their dependents.

The bill, on its way to the Senate, also includes independent provider home care workers to the public records exemption.

ID penalty bill OK’d

The state House of Representatives unanimously passed Ericks’ legislation aimed at harshening penalties for identity thieves.

Ericks said his legislation (HB 1966) seeks to make sure that criminals, who steal personal information to then use someone else’s identity with fraudulent motives, are severely punished.

“I’ve been in law enforcement for many years,” Ericks said. “And I’ve seen the speed at which identity theft has grown.”

In 2003 Washington State had approximately 5,000 reported cases of identity theft, and ranked 10th in the country. Currently, because this crime is not regarded in the legal system as a crime against a person, ID theft is handled by the civil prosecuting units.

House Bill 1966 adds ‘Identity Theft’ to the list of ‘crimes against persons’ in the Sentencing Reform Act, which means that the convicted person gets additional restrictions.

“For starters, ID thieves would have permanent records of their convictions,” the legislator explained. “They could also be behind bars for a very long time or be subject to community custody. This bill makes it clear that ID theft is no petty offense.”

Ericks said he expected Senate approval.

Loose loads bill approved

When a loose 2-by-6 piece of particle board flew out of a trailer on I-405, it smashed through the windshield of Maria Federici’s car and into her face, crushing bones and taking her eyesight.

Loopholes in state law meant the man responsible – James Hefley – couldn’t be charged with a crime. He received two traffic citations for $194 each.

“This law is about personal responsibility,” said O’Brien, a co-sponsor of the bill. “You don’t have a right to cause pileups on I-5 or hurt people like Maria Federici.”

The House passed House Bill 1478 on a 96-0 vote. The author of the law, Rep. Ruth Kagi, D-Lake Forest Park, said the new law stiffens punishment to up to a year in jail and makes victims eligible for help from the state’s Crime Victim’s Compensation Fund.

Last year, the State Patrol issued 46 citations for failing to cover a load, 387 citations for debris escaping a vehicle and 1,227 citations for failing to secure a load.

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