OLYMPIA…As the first legislative committee cut-off passes, all of Attorney General Rob McKenna’s legislative priorities continue to move through the process.
- Identity theft credit freeze: McKenna held a news conference in early February announcing support for any legislation that allows all consumers to freeze access to their credit reports to prevent identity theft and to “thaw” the frozen access within 15 minutes to make retail purchases or for other reasons.
- SB 5826, allowing a credit freeze for all consumers with a 15-minute thaw provision, has passed the Senate Financial Institutions Committee.
“Washington residents must be able to protect themselves from the snowballing threat of identity theft,” McKenna said when announcing his support for credit freeze laws. “This legislation arms consumers with a crucial defense tool – the ability to block access to their credit reports, thereby preventing crooks from opening new accounts in another person’s name. At the same time, this law gives consumers the option to allow temporary, restricted access to their credit files for the purpose of buying a car, obtaining a mortgage, or applying for a new credit card.”
- Open Government: McKenna requested three bills in both the House and the Senate promoting open government and access to public records:
- SB 5435, creating a “Sunshine Committee” to review public records exemptions, has passed the Senate.
- HB 1445, making clean-up changes to the public records act, has passed the House of Representatives and the Senate companion bill, SB 5437, has passed the Senate Government Operations & Elections Committee.
- HB 1446, clarifying the statute of limitations for lawsuits alleging a violation of the PDA, passed the House of Representatives and the Senate companion bill, SB 5436, passed the Senate Committee on Government Operations & Elections.
“The whole purpose of open government is defeated if there are too many exemptions to the Public Records Act,” McKenna said when announcing these bills. “This package of legislation creates a process that will help to make sure that only the most essential exemptions are retained and eliminates confusion about the statute of limitation, to limit litigation and guarantee that the public retains access to the documents of their government.”
- Eminent domain notice: McKenna and Gov. Christine Gregoire requested legislation requiring government agencies to provide actual notice to property owners when the agency is considering condemning private property.
- SB 5444, requiring that a certified letter be sent to property owners and that a legal notice be published in a local newspaper of record, each describing when the agency’s governing body will be holding an open public meeting to consider the condemnation decision, has passed the Senate. Its companion measure, HB 1458, has passed the House Judiciary Committee and is eligible for a vote in the House.
“It’s not asking too much to require that a $4.64 certified letter be sent to property owners who may have their property taken without their consent,” McKenna said when he announced this legislation. “We shouldn’t expect people to click through hundreds of web pages every week to make sure their property isn’t being considered for condemnation.”
- Anti-gang legislation: McKenna requested legislation creating the new crime of tagging/gang graffiti, providing longer sentences for crimes committed by members of criminal gangs and those attempting to join criminal gangs, clearly defining “criminal gangs” and creating a work group within the AG’s office to evaluate gang crimes in Washington.
- SB 5987 was amended by the Senate Judiciary Committee to remove the new crimes, definitions, and extended sentences and retain the work group provision directing the AG’s office to evaluate the problem of gangs in Washington.
“Our police officers and prosecutors need new tools to hold these criminals accountable and deter future crimes,” McKenna said in a news release. “That’s why our office worked with street-level cops to develop this bill, which is a step forward in the fight against criminal gangs.”
- Domestic violence: McKenna requested legislation to address assault by strangulation, one of the most serious domestic violence crimes.
- Both HB 2119 and SB 5953, increasing penalties for acts of domestic violence involving strangulation, have passed their respective committees and are currently in the Rules Committees in each chamber.
- Consumer protection: McKenna has requested two measures to protect consumers this session.
- Both HB 1114 and SB 5229, prohibiting the marketing of estate distribution documents by persons not authorized to practice law in this state, have passed their respective committees by the committee cut-off. These bills were introduced to protect seniors from unscrupulous “trust mills.”
- Both HB 1937 and SB 5228, allowing the Attorney General to sue on behalf of indirect purchasers of goods or services sold in violation of the Unfair Business Practices - Consumer Protection Act, have passed their respective committees.
McKenna is in New York today and tomorrow, training new attorneys general in his official capacity as an executive board member of the National Association of Attorneys General. He will be attending the NAAG Spring Meeting in Washington, DC, March 5-7.
Contact: Janelle Guthrie, AG Media Relations Director, (360) 586-0725