As I wrote last week, the Vulnerable Roadway User Bill, aka Washington State Senate Bill 5838 died “on the calendar” last week. Definitely disappointing, given that we’d heard that there was broad support for this bill. Last Tuesday was the deadline for the State Senate to bring it to a floor vote, allowing the House time to discuss/debate their counterpart bill. It did not make it.
I learned several things through this process. First – our state legislature convenes for just 60 days in even-numbered years, and 90 days in odd-numbered years. Those are not very long sessions, so it’s very important to be efficient with that time. Second, there is a fair amount of stuff on the docket pertaining to fiscal matters. Important stuff like funding of education and health care. And ‘postponing’ enactment of Initiative 960 that would require a 2/3 majority before a tax increase is enacted has taken a bunch of time away from other business as well.
I attended a town hall meeting with my state senator Rodney Tom, and my two state representatives, Ross Hunter and Deb Eddy this past weekend. Several hundred people attended, most of whom had concerns about the fiscal matters. Not surprising that there would be a lot of interest, as the state is having to make deep cuts in many programs providing support for many people. Others felt that now is just when we need to keep government honest, by forcing them to balance their books just like the rest of us have to.
I sat in the front row of this meeting, with some nice 8×10 photos of me in a hospital bed facing them as they discussed everything else. When I flipped to a nice one that clearly showed the stitches from the craniotomy arching around the left side of my head, Rep. Eddy motioned to me from the stage that she understood why I was there. I was dubious, although it’s possible that she discerned my interest from the fact that I was wearing biking clothes. When Senator Tom made the claim that he’d take the time to answer any mail sent to him, I sat bolt upright, frustrated – as this was not what he’d done with me (two pieces of mail, and one phone call still unanswered). Seeing my reaction, Rep. Hunter walked over and whispered down to me that he was with me. I handed him a copy of the statement I’d prepared for the Judiciary Committee and sat back down.
When the meeting wrapped up, I asked Senator Tom what he thought about SB 5838. He made a point of saying that he felt last year’s version was “too harsh”, because it would impose criminal penalties on someone for “a momentary lapse of judgment”. He might have said that he supported this year’s version, but I was still wondering why he’d lead off a conversation like this by expressing concern for people convicted of negligent driving rather than the people they’d hit. In studying Senator Tom legislative record, I have to say that he’s done some good things. Based on my conversation and the sole email response I’ve received from him, I have lost a bit of respect for him.
I also spent a minute speaking with Rep. Eddy after the meeting. She was apparently unaware that SB 5838 did not make it for a vote, but told me that she’d “look into it”.
I’ve followed up with them in email, and await their response. I’m not sure what to expect, but my hope is that giving them the chance to attach a person and his family to what a negligent driver can do will put the issue on their radar.