Dem. Senator: Police pursuit bill a ‘big political win,’ despite own party disagreeing
A police pursuit bill, SB 5352, set to loosen restrictions for officers chasing criminals, narrowly passed in the Washington State Senate on a 26-23 vote. Senator Mark Mullet (D – 5th Legislative District) described the bill’s passing as one of the more unusual circumstances he’s seen in his political career.
“In the six years that the Democrats have been a majority in the Senate, we’ve never had a situation where we actually went into committee, took a bill out of committee that hadn’t been given a bill hearing, and then brought it to the floor for a vote,” Mullet said on The Jason Rantz Show. “And we ended up doing that because I think the pursuit issue rose to such a high level of importance, we were able to get half the Democratic caucus to say, ‘hey, this is an important issue. We want to have a caucus discussion about it. And if we think it deserves a vote, we’re going to take it out of committee and vote on it.’ And that’s what we did last Wednesday.”
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The bill will help restore the ability for police officers to commit a vehicle pursuit — as long as it’s someone accused of a violent or sex crime, vehicular assault, escape, DUI, or domestic violence. While its last-minute passing can be seen as a success for public safety, Mullet questioned if the process required to get SB 5352 to pass hurt its overall effectiveness.
“I don’t think [Manka Dhingra] was supportive of the policy, so it just never got a hearing,” Mullet said. “That was tough. I mean, I tried to get a vote on this bill last year on the Senate floor, and that ended up not happening. So I think it was just kind of a carryover from the fight we had last year in March. It’s been a rough topic down here, but I’m really glad we got it out to the House.”
The bill is now at the House for a Justice Committee vote, as it needs to pass here once more with the new amendments the Senate attached, including an amendment focused on extra training to protect bystanders.
“The original version of the bill I co-sponsored, we had greater flexibility in the original version of the bill,” Mullet said. “But to be honest and candid, it wouldn’t have gotten to the 15 votes I needed to have the bill come out, unless we’re willing to do a different version of the bill. And that’s just the political reality of it.”
Mullet still described the bill’s passing as a “pretty big political win” to get it off the Senate floor, even if half of the Senate Democratic Caucus was still not comfortable with the amended version of the bill.
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“What is the mood in the caucus after this?” Rantz asked. “Are there hard feelings?”
“I think there is. I think the goal down here is, even if you have disagreements and public policy, you try to not let it become personal,” Mullet answered. “I think everyone is trying to do the right thing for their communities, and people represent different communities. But now, you got to move forward and not hold grudges, and hopefully, you have a productive last five weeks of session.”
The bill’s deadline in the House is April 4.
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