the vulnerable user bill advances

Got word yesterday that the Vulnerable User Bill has passed a floor vote in the Washington State Senate (as SB 5326).  Now it’s on to the House, and the companion bill HB 1339.

Having taken several trips to Olympia over the past two in support of these bills, it’s nice to see positive change.  Being a part of this has been a way for my family and I to apply our own experience with a negligent driver two and a half years ago and hopefully prevent what happened to me from happening to someone else.  Channeling positive energy into this has been a great way for us to continue our healing process.

Watching the coverage of the floor vote in TVW’s Weekly Legislative Review allowed me to see some impact that the testimony we delivered to the Senate Judiciary Committee had (the segment on SB 5326 begins at 12:10).

Senator Adam Kline speaks first.  In addition to being the Judiciary Committee Chair, he was the primary sponsor of the bill.  The second speaker was Senator Cheryl Pflug.  During the hearing, she’d asked several questions about whether civil action wasn’t a viable avenue for victims to secure recourse from the offender.  Several of us spoke to this point directly –in my case, the driver was uninsured and unemployed.  Additionally, pursuing civil action means subjecting one’s family to a legal process fraught with emotional consequences.  Senator Pflug incorporated this into her message today as she spoke in support of the bill prior to the floor vote.  I’ve already written thank-you note to her for this. 

If you are interested, you can see the debate and vote here (discussion of SB 5326 begins at 31:00 and is less than seven minutes long).

Watching how the legislative process works has been an education.  It has taken three years to get this far, and given my experience last year – I’m definitely encouraged to see things come together like this.  The biggest lesson for me has been that legislating is a lot more like sausage-making than making software.  The end result might taste okay, but generally you don’t want to visit the kitchen and watch it being made.  On the positive side, it’s been a great way to show the kids how bills become laws :

The Cascade Bicycle Club folks have posted the below diagram on their advocacy blog to help explain where we are now :

The diagram doesn’t show that the Senate bill was referred to the House Judiciary Committee today, and that it is scheduled for a public hearing next Wednesday, March 2.  There are just a couple of weeks left in the session to get this done.  With all of the focus on fiscal issues, there’s the possibility that even with the apparent support behind this bill, it will get left by the wayside.  This effectively this happened last year in the Senate, when the bill died “on the calendar” (did not come to a vote prior to the imposed deadline).

Washington State voters should contact their legislators and convey support for HB 1339 – it definitely can’t hurt.


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