House Republicans call on Democrats to address retail theft, fix flawed policing bills from 2021

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CONTACT: John Handy, Communications Director for Rep. J.T. Wilcox | 360-786-5758
Kent Livingston, Public Information Officer for Rep. Dan Griffey | 360-786-7031

House Republicans call on Democrats to address retail theft, fix flawed policing bills from 2021

House Republicans are calling on Democrats to address the growing problem of retail theft and fix flawed policing bills from the 2021 legislative session.  

In a surprise move, House Democrats killed popular legislation that would help struggling businesses combat retail theft. House Bill 1656, sponsored by Rep. Dan Griffey, has bipartisan support but was abruptly stopped in the House Public Safety Committee last Thursday.

“It's disappointing House Bill 1656 didn't make it out of committee. This legislation would add concealment to the definition of theft, which is long overdue in our effort to help businesses stop retail theft. This policy has the support of retailers from all walks of life, from the big box stores to the local corner markets and minority-owned shops. It received high praise from the House Public Safety Committee chair just moments before we were to cast our votes. However, he received a phone call from Democratic leadership in that very moment, ordering him to kill the bill,” said Griffey, R-Allyn. “It's unfortunate that partisan politics will again prevent this sensible legislation from passing.”

House Republicans also want Democrats to move more quickly on fixing the problems created by House Bills 1310 and 1054 – two controversial and confusing measures that passed last year. House Republicans opposed these measures and believe they have made communities less safe.

House Bill 1310 has limited law enforcement's ability to assist with mental health crises. This has resulted in tragic outcomes since its implementation.

While the House recently passed House Bill 1735, it took 19 days and the measure has yet to move out of the Senate Law and Justice Committee. At the same time, Democrats chose to fast-track legislation to the governor's desk to delay the troubled long-term care insurance program and payroll tax.   

House Bill 1054 has limited vehicular pursuits for law enforcement. The policy change has allowed suspects to escape and resulted in more cars being stolen.

House Bill 1788, sponsored by Rep. Eric Robertson, would allow police officers to engage in vehicular pursuits when there is reasonable suspicion that someone in the vehicle has committed or is committing a violent offense, is attempting to escape, or is driving under the influence. It would address some, but not all, of the problems created by House Bill 1054. The measure passed out of the House Public Safety Committee on February 3, despite opposition from some House Democrats, but has yet to reach the House floor.   

“We need Democrats to acknowledge that crime is rampant and their policies have had disastrous consequences for public safety,” said House Republican Leader J.T. Wilcox. “The Speaker and House Democrats have promised for several months to fix the problems created by their legislation, but we're not seeing a sense of urgency at a time when every day matters. And with the chips down, some Democrats are afraid of voting 'yes' and relying on Republicans to get bills through the legislative process.”       

Wilcox and Senate Republican Leader John Braun called for a special session last summer to fix House Bills 1310 and 1054. Democrats admitted at the time there were “glitches” that needed fixed, but ultimately they and Gov. Inslee rejected calls for a special session.  

Republicans unveiled their Safe Washington Plan at a news conference on January 5. The comprehensive package includes omnibus, companion legislation – House Bill 1737 and Senate Bill 5569 – that would roll back harmful provisions of last year's policing bills and restore tactics and tools to law enforcement. Neither bill received a public hearing. In addition to the bills previously noted, the plan also includes legislation that would provide funding for the recruitment, retention, and support of law enforcement officers (House Bill 1787) and stop catalytic converter thefts (House Bill 1873).   

Today is day 31 of the 60-day legislative session.

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