Juvenile sentencing reform moves forward, abortion mandate hearing canceled

  • Written by Steve Heidenreich
  • Published in Local

Bills must be voted out of committee by Feb. 22 cut-off, or be left behind

Legislation which would reform long-term sentencing for juveniles took a step forward when it was voted out of the House Public Safety Committee on Feb. 14.

The bill, HB 1338, would require juveniles convicted of aggravated murder to serve 20–35 years in prison, and would thus ban life sentences without parole for juveniles. The bill would also allow those who were sentenced as juveniles and have served at least 20 years to petition for early release.

The state’s Catholic bishops support HB 1338, citing Catholic teaching on rehabilitation.

“This legislation would recognize that children are different from adults. It allows them the opportunity to grow, mature and to change,” said Dominican Sister Sharon Park, executive director of the Washington State Catholic Conference, in an interview with The Progress.

Abortion coverage mandate
The Senate Law and Justice Committee canceled its scheduled hearing of the abortion mandate bill, SB 5576, on Feb. 8. The bill would require insurance plans that cover maternity care to cover abortions.

At press time the Senate committee had not rescheduled a hearing on the measure. An almost identical bill, HB 1044, appears to be moving forward in the House.

As the legislative session nears its first deadline, proponents are rushing to get their bills voted out of committee. After a bill is introduced in the Senate or House, the legislation is referred to a policy or fiscal committee for consideration.

If a bill receives a hearing this session, it must be voted on by the legislative cut-off on Feb. 22. After that date, bills not yet voted out of committee in their house of origin will likely never be heard.

Many important pieces of legislation remain in committee, said Sister Sharon. “There’s a lot of pressure at this point to keep all of our supported legislation moving,” she said. “These bills could have very positive impact on our state.”

February 21, 2013