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Legislative Update

By Carrie Roth, Prison/Community Alliance

As most of you already know, until last November we were planning on trying an initiative to the people which would eliminate the Indeterminate Sentence Review Board. If we had gotten 150,001 signatures within a specified period of time, we could have put this issue before the voters in the November 1992 election.

Then, in November, 1991, we were contacted by former Representative Doug Sayan. He wanted to know why we weren't going the legislative route. We told him we weren't sure how to do it. He said he would help. On Dec. 6, 1992 we were among several organizations and individuals who testified before the House Subcommittee on Corrections. We realized then that we had a lot of support in Olympia. A draft bill was written and introduced to the Subcommittee as HB 2834. It passed and then went to Human Services. Kit Bail, Chair of the Indeterminate Sentence Review Board (ISRB), attached a $10 million fiscal note to it. In other words, she was saying that it would cost $10 million to do the conversion from the ISRB to the SRA. Whether or not this was true, this caused a problem. The bill, because of the fiscal note, then had to go to the Appropriations Committee. It appeared that Ms. Bail had successfully killed HB 2834.

In order to get HB 2834 out of Appropriations the section about eliminating the ISRB was taken out of the bill. After which they wrote an amendment to the bill. There has been one other change before the bill passed the Rules Committee. HB 2834 is as of today, Feb. 22, 1992, in the Senate Law and Justice Committee.

HB 2834 has gone through a lot of changes and I haven' t actually seen a copy. I have had, however, parts of HB 2834 read to me and even though there are numerous changes, it is still to our benefit. We are continuing to push this bill and ask others to support us.

I think there is something else here that we all need to realize. It usually takes three years to get a bill passed through the legislature. The fact that this bill has gotten as far as it has the first year it was tried shows us how much support we do have in Olympia. It seems that as we go, the support keeps coming out of the woodwork. I am hoping this bill passes this session so we can start working out the problems with the bill next year. But I have learned that a bill being introduced to the legislature is like tossing a Ping-Pong ball into a box. There is no way of knowing where it will go or for how long.

Engrossed House Bill 2834 is scheduled for its first reading on Friday, Feb. 28, 1992 before the Senate Law and Justice Committee. Rep. Hargrove may be testifying on behalf of the bill. If it passes the first reading it goes for the second reading. This is where any amendment or changes are added. Once that happens it goes for a third reading. If it passes, it then goes back to the House. If the House doesn't accept the changes it goes to a Conference Committee. If it gets through conference it goes to the Governor. If by chance the bill passes the readings in the Senate without changes, the bill would not go to the House, but directly to the Governor. To get a copy of Eng. HB 2834, call 1-800-321-2808 and ask for the Bill Room.

Whatever happens in this session will probably be known by the time you read this article. We have decided not to try the initiative to the people right now. We stand a much better chance of meeting our goals by going the legislative route. We are finding that not only do we have a lot of support in Olympia, but as we stand together, we do make a powerful lobby group. The public, in general, does not understand or care to understand the true nature of the ISRB and we have little resources to educate them in such a short period of time. If we were, in fact, able to get the issue on the November 1992 ballot and the voters voted against it, we would probably lose our support in Olympia.

I would like [to] thank everyone involved with getting this bill through the legislature. I cannot begin to tell you the names of everyone who put their heart and soul into it. The P/CA was more of an observer, trying to learn the system, while minds much greater than ours worked on the elimination of the board. We will be back stronger next year.

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