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WA Senate passes initiatives on income tax ban, school curriculum, police chases

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(The Center Square) – The Washington State Senate on Monday morning passed three of six initiatives to the Legislature, which would implement a “parents’ bill of rights, bar state and local governments from imposing an income tax, and ease restrictions on when police can engage in vehicle pursuit of suspects.

Initiative 2081 regarding what information parents of children in public schools are entitled to, including instructional materials, passed the Senate on a 49-0 vote.

“I am comfortable moving this forward today because I do believe that it doesn’t change any protections for our young people,” Sen. Claire Wilson, D-Federal Way, said.

She noted LGBTQ youth and those who identify as gender expansive will not lose any of their rights.

“We will be keeping our eyes on implementation so that we can come back immediately should interpretation by districts cause any harm to young people,” she said.

Sen. Jamie Pedersen, D-Seattle, echoed those concerns.

“I was comforted to hear that school districts plan to implement the initiative narrowly,” he noted.

Supporters of the measure who were allowed to testify during last week’s hearing contend I-2081 is about keeping a political agenda out of the classroom.

Jennifer Heine-Withee, with the Family Policy Institute, listed stories of parents who felt their rights were ignored by teachers and schools across the state, including children being taught about race, gender pronouns and sexuality.

Initiative 2111 to ban state and local governments from imposing an income tax passed on a 38-11 vote, with all Republicans voting in favor of the measure.

Initiative 2113 to make it easier for police to chase suspects, after intense debate, passed on a 36-13 vote.

“Not all law enforcement supports this initiative,” Sen. Patty Kuderer, D-Bellevue, pointed out.

“The initiative would permit a chase for any violation of law,” she said. “That includes an expired tab, a broken tail light, loud music, any infraction whatsoever could allow law enforcement to engage in a high speed chase.”

She concluded by saying, “I’ll be voting no.”

Sen, Nikki Torres, R-Pasco, pushed back on the assertion that law enforcement will give chase for minor violations.

“Our police officers don’t really waste their time pulling people over for a brake light or expired tabs,” she said. “I trust my police officers. They are a model agency [Pasco Police Department], and they know when to pursue and not pursue.”

Sen. Lynda Wilson, R-Vancouver, spoke out in support of the initiative.

After last week’s hearing on I-2081, she told The Center Square she was upset with majority Democrats providing little time for testimony.

She hinted at that frustration today.

“Sgt. Jeremy Brown’s wife was in our audience prepared to speak, but she wasn’t allowed to speak,” Wilson said.

Brown was killed in July 2021 while conducting surveillance in an apartment parking lot.

As Brown witnessed the suspects offloading the stolen weapons and officers waited for an arrest warrant, Brown was ambushed by one of the suspects using one of the stolen guns.

Wilson asked permission to read part of the testimony Sgt. Brown’s wife hoped to share.

“On the day of Jeremy’s murder, the suspects were believed to be carrying a large number of stolen guns and ammunition with intent to sell and they were being surveilled by an undercover unit with the Clark County Sheriff’s office and other agencies as the suspects moved up and down the I-5 corridor,” she said.

Wilson continued, “Unfortunately probable cause for arrest had not been established because under the law at that time the threshold to pursue had not been met.”

A tearful Sen. Wilson concluded the widow’s letter: “If these individuals had been pulled over earlier, my husband would still be alive today.”

Three other initiatives to the Legislature – to repeal the state’s capital gains tax, repeal its carbon market, and making participation in the state’s long-term care tax optional – will go to the ballot in November if the Legislature doesn’t act on them.

The state House is debating the initiatives this afternoon.

After more than an hour of impassioned testimony on the floor of the Washington state House of Representatives, lawmakers have approved HI 2113, an initiative that lessens restrictions on law enforcement pursuit rules.

It passed on a vote of 77 to 20 with every Republican voting yes.