Saturday, April 11, 2009

It's The Law

At some point yesterday afternoon, Washington Governor Gregoire signed into law Senate Bill 5832, and extended the statute of limitations on child sex abuse crimes from the victim's 21st birthday to the victim's 28th birthday. We had wanted elimination of the statute of limitations altogether (like it is in murder and arson cases, and in federal child sex abuse crimes). That was not to be. The law, however, does provide some breathing room. And could be changed in the future. Right now, some 20-year-old may just have gotten another seven years to report a crime of sex abuse against him or her, and doesn't even realize what has happened....

Don Brockett is the reason that this bill didn't die. Yes, there were legislators that sponsored it (our own Chris Marr did, along with Sens. Jeanne Kohl-Welles and Val Stevens). And there were legislators who voted for it (all of them, in fact, by the time the bill came up for floor votes). And the Sentencing Commission backed it, having recommended this extension after a year-long review and 50-state survey of the issue. But it was Don who kept the issue alive over the years, hitting his head against the wall, staying with the topic even as it failed year after year because of some resistance by some legislators that apparently had the ability to influence the whole lot of them... Which is weird, in and of itself. Don's website is

I posted summaries on this blog and emailed legislators this year (and went to testify). I don't normally get involved, but did this time. What I find interesting is how very little feedback I received from any of the legislators, even though I had plenty of contact with a fair number of them.

Two legislators - both Republicans - stand out for me. The first was Sen. Bob McCaslin, from Spokane Valley (right next to Spokane - was part of Spokane until a few years ago, when it incorporated). Sen. McCaslin is on the Senate judiciary committee, and was there when I testified in favor of the bill. He was happy to see me - I don't think they get a lot of people from Spokane over to the west side of the state to testify - and thanked me a couple of times for making the trip.

The second was Joe Schmick, of Moses Lake. He is on the House rules committee, and was one of about 20 legislators who received an email from me to recommend that the bill get a vote on the House floor (which is the job of that committee). He was unique in that he actually responded to my email, thanked me for the information, and then let me know when the bill had become law.

This doesn't mean that other lawmakers didn't get things done. In fact, they did - as I described above (and special thanks go to Sens. Marr, Stevens and Kohl-Welles for sponsoring the bill in the first place). Nonetheless, I appreciated the willingness of Sen. McCaslin and Rep. Schmick to acknowledge me and keep me in the loop. They were the ones who made those particular efforts. Thanks.

I ended up not going to the bill's signing ceremony. Don didn't go, and I just decided it would be a lot of driving for just a few minutes. It would have been fun but, in a way, it was unnecessary. The most important thing already had happened. The bill had become law.