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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 24, 2009
AG-requested bills approved by Legislature

OLYMPIA – As state legislators prepare to head home, Attorney General Rob McKenna was gratified that many of his consumer protection, community safety, and open government priorities had been approved by the Legislature. Some have already been signed into law and others await the Governor’s signature.

Highlights

Consumer Protection:

  • SB 5340, Tobacco Internet Sales - Responding to recent increases in tobacco sales to minors, the Attorney General’s Office requested legislation banning the sale of cigarettes through the Internet, correcting a loophole in Washington’s laws regarding age verification, taxation, public health goals and certification. SB 5340 awaits the Governor’s signature.
  • HB 1215, Lemon Law - The AGO requested legislation to meet changing consumer expectations, longer and more extensive warranties and other changes in the automotive industry. HB 1215 awaits the Governor’s signature.
  • SB 5221, Mortgage Law Fix – Both chambers unanimously passed a bill based on language proposed by the AGO, updating last year’s foreclosure rescue law to make sure that homeowners—who want to sell their homes rather than face foreclosure—are able to find a real estate agent.  A bipartisan coalition, including the Depts. of Financial Institutions and Licensing, worked closely with the Attorney General’s Office to see that real estate agents, who work with homeowners selling properties at risk of foreclosure, will be exempted from the law targeting equity skimming and foreclosure rescue scams. Gregoire’s March 25 signature made the law effective immediately.

Community Safety:

  • SB 5184, Digital Forensics Lab - Because computers and other digital devices are increasingly vital links in criminal investigations, the Attorney General’s Office requested legislation to study digital forensics labs in other states, with the ultimate goal of creating one in Washington state. In six months the AGO will report its findings to the Legislature. The bill passed unanimously in both chambers and was signed by the Governor on April 8.
  • SB 5718, Clarifying the Sexually Violent Predator Statute - Modifies the law to streamline the state’s ability to civilly commit dangerous offenders by, among other provisions, clarifying where civil commitment proceedings may be filed, especially in cases where the sexually violent offense occurred outside of Washington. SB 5718 awaits the Governor’s signature.
  • HB 1221 Civil Commitment Victims' Counseling – Helps the AGO prosecute sexually violent predators by authorizing mental health counseling using crime victims' compensation funds for witnesses in civil commitment proceedings. HB 1221 was passed unanimously in both chambers and was signed by the Governor on April 9.

Open Government:

Disappointments

Consumer Protection:

  • The Legislature failed to pass the AGO’s Internet prizes and promotions bill to make sure Internet promotions are held to the same standard as direct mail. The bill would have ensured that sellers obtain a customer’s express agreement to receive and pay for goods prior to seeking payment.

Community Safety:

  • The Legislature chose not to pass AG McKenna’s bill to give chronic domestic abusers longer sentences by requiring judges to factor in the lower-level prior domestic violence histories of the worst batterers and counting those prior offenses more heavily during sentencing.
  • Legislators elected not to act on the AGO’s bill to improve protections for vulnerable adults. The proposed legislation included a number of measures designed to increase penalties imposed on individuals who commit crimes against seniors and those with disabilities, including strengthening the ability of DSHS and law enforcement to investigate and share information about investigations with each other and the public.
  •  For the second year in a row, the Legislature did not pass the Attorney General’s bill to stop users of child pornography from avoiding prosecution by viewing illegal images without saving them on a hard drive or printing them out.

Open Government:

  • The Legislature rebuffed Attorney General McKenna and State Auditor Brian Sonntag’s work to increase government transparency and chose not to pass bills to:
    • Study the creation of a board that would enforce the public records and the open public meetings acts.
    • Require that government officials receive training and certification in the Open Public Meetings Act.


LINKS: AGO 2009 Legislation

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Contacts:

Janelle Guthrie, AGO Communications Director, (360) 586-0725

 

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