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2016 Legislative Session Summary

The Washington State legislature convened the 2016 session on January 11, 2016. The following is a summary of domestic violence-related legislation during this session. For a presentation of this information, please see our 2016 Legislative Wrap Up Webinar.

Budget overview

The final budget includes a (relatively) modest amount of additional spending for some human services and housing/homelessness programs, though no funding changes to domestic violence services dollars through the Office of Crime Victims Advocacy (OCVA) or Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS). Increases-of-note incorporated into the final budget include: $6.62M restored to the Consolidated Homeless Grant; $3.5M additional for the Housing Trust Fund; $3.8M additional for homeless youth shelter and programming; and, $3.8M to improve access to Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) examinations and address kit processing. Unfortunately, our priority U-Visa certification bill (HB 2895) officially ‘died’ for this session with the passage of the budget, as it did not end up being incorporated into the final compromise budget bill.

Detailed information on the 2016 Supplemental Budget, as passed, is available here.

If you are interested in additional viewpoints, budget summaries from the Washington Low Income Housing Alliance and Partners for Children include further detail on funding for housing programs, and programs impacting youth, respectively.

Legislation supported by WSCADV that passed

Concerning video and/or sound recordings made by law enforcement or corrections officers: HB 2362

The bill clarifies Public Disclosure Act provisions relating to requests for and disclosure of certain body worn camera recordings made by law enforcement officers while in the course of their official duties. The bill describes a number of circumstances where body worn camera footage will be considered private from public records disclosure, including footage capturing the identity or communications of victims as well as footage revealing the location of domestic violence programs and shelters. The bill requires law enforcement and corrections agencies that deploy body worn cameras to adopt certain policies covering the use of body worn cameras; encourages these jurisdictions to adopt local ordinances with community input governing use of cameras; and, establishes a task force (including representation from a victim advocate, as well as other stakeholders) to make recommendations on the use of body worn cameras by law enforcement and corrections agencies to the Legislature by December 1, 2017.

Modifying residential landlord-tenant act related to tenant screening, evictions, and refunds: SB 6413

Domestic violence is a leading cause of homelessness for women and children, often due to the economic and financial reasons. Reducing the cost of accessing housing would significantly help survivors of domestic violence find safe, stable, affordable housing.

This bill makes significant progress on the tenant screening and how evictions are reported.

Tenant Screening: Currently tenants pay over and over again the same tenant screening report, this bill would allow a potential tenant to purchase one comprehensive online tenant screening report that would provide each landlord the information they need to make the most informed decision. A renter would provide a landlord access to an online secure report prohibiting a landlord from charging the tenant for an additional tenant screening report. Landlords who advertise they are willing to accept this comprehensive report can purchase another tenant screening report, but they won’t be able to charge the tenant.

Eviction reporting: Most landlords do not consider renting to tenants with an eviction associated with their name. Tenant screening companies report all eviction fillings as if the tenant had lost the case in court. This bill will make tenant screening reports accurate by only including evictions on reports when the tenant was evicted and lost the case in court.

Certifications of Restoration of Opportunity: HB 1553

Certificates of restoration of opportunity help reduce barriers to employment by providing an opportunity for individuals to become more employable and to more successfully reintegrate into society after they have served their sentence, demonstrated a period of law-abiding behavior consistent with successful reentry, and have turned their lives around following a conviction.

Certificates of restoration of opportunity offer potential employers or housing provider’s concrete and information about an individual. A person with a criminal history can apply for this certificate in Superior Court by showing that a required amount of time had passed, they had no new arrests or convictions, and had met or were meeting the terms of their sentence. The applicant must notify the prosecutor that they are seeking a certificate

Discretionary arrest for 16 and 17 year olds: SB 5605

This bill raises the age at which mandatory arrest applies to suspects in domestic violence incidents from 16 years to 18 years. Under this bill, police would be required to arrest 16-17 year olds in domestic violence cases, if the parent or guardian of that youth requests it.

Legislation supported by WSCADV that did not pass

Concerning Domestic Violence: HB 1632

This bill would address various provisions in the legal response to domestic violence. First, in sentencing for domestic violence felony offenses, it provides for the counting of two points for each prior conviction of Assault of a Child, Criminal Mistreatment where those offenses involve domestic violence when calculating an offender score. The bill would make a 3rd conviction for domestic violence assault, including both prior misdemeanor and felony assaults a felony.

Extreme Risk Protection Orders: HB 2461 and SB 6352

This bill would create a civil extreme risk protection order allowing a law enforcement officer or a family or household member of a person to petition for a court order to prohibit the person from having custody or control, purchasing, possessing, or receiving a firearm or dangerous weapon. The bill also establishes procedures for the petition process and standards for entry and enforcement of both emergency and final extreme risk protection orders, and provides criminal penalties for a violation of an order. The bill requires law enforcement agencies to develop procedures for accepting, storing, and returning surrendered firearms and dangerous weapons, and authorizes courts to issue a warrant to seize firearms and dangerous weapons from the subject of an extreme risk protection order who has failed to surrender a firearm or dangerous weapon.

U-Visa Certification Bill (Enhancing victim participation in the criminal legal system): HB 2912 & HB 2895

This bill would require law enforcement and prosecution agencies to provide victims who have been helpful in an investigation or prosecution of crimes described in the federal Violence Against Women Act (i.e. domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking, child abuse, trafficking, kidnapping) the certification form they need to help them qualify them for a U-visa, within 90 days of request.

Prohibiting discrimination based on renter’s participant in government assistance programs: SB 5378 /HB 1565

This bill would prohibit landlords from denying housing, refusing to rent, or discriminating based on an individual’s source of income. It would ensure that housing for low-income renters who rely on government assistance programs are not denied housing due to the source of their income.

Bring Washington Home Act: SB 6447

The Bring Washington Home Act would provide much needed funds to build and preserve affordable homes, and is another step toward ending homelessness in our state. The proposal addresses immediate needs by funding shelter, services, and permanent housing for people who need long-term support to get and stay off the streets. It addresses the needs of survivors of domestic violence, people with mental illnesses, homeless youth, and families with children, and more.

Pregnant Workers Fairness Act: SB 6149

Research shows that victims often stay in abusive relationships because of a lack of money/financial resources. Abusers often interfere with their partner’s ability to get or keep a job, sometimes by forcing or manipulating them into getting pregnant. Pregnant domestic violence survivors should be able to depend on their employment—including receiving reasonable work accommodations during pregnancy—to help them escape the abuse and maintain a life free of violence.

The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act would protect pregnant workers by requiring employers to provide reasonable work accommodations during pregnancy, such as temporary reassignment to light duty, additional bathroom breaks, and flexible scheduling for prenatal appointments. It would also prohibit employers from requiring pregnant workers to take paid or unpaid leave instead of providing reasonable job modifications, as well as protect pregnant workers from unequal treatment or retaliation for asking for an accommodation.

Sick and Safe Employment Leave: HB 1356

This bill would provide paid leave to address illness, or to address domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking. Paid leave would be at least 40 hours annually for employers with between 4 and 49 full time employees; 56 or more hours annually for employers with 50 to 249 employees, and at least 72 hours annual leave for employers with more than 250 employees.

Legislation not supported by WSCADV that did not pass

Access for Transgender People: SB 6443, HB 2935, HB 2589, SB 6548, HB 2782, HB 2941

These bills prohibit transgender people from using sex-specific facilities, such as emergency shelter, restrooms and locker rooms that are consistent with the gender they live as and know themselves to be.

These bills threaten the safety of transgender survivors of domestic violence by limiting transgender people’s right to access emergency shelters and other public accommodations.

State preemption of local employment laws: SB 6578

This bill would prohibit cities, towns, and counties from regulating the payment of wages, hours of work, employee retention, and leave from employment. The bill would allow only for the state of Washington to regulate these areas, and would preempt local ordinances that are more supportive of workers, including the City of Seattle’s paid sick and safe leave ordinance.