Controversial bills grab most of the headlines. But every year, the Legislature passes – usually with overwhelming bipartisan support – dozens of bills to modernize and improve state law in a wide range of areas.
Since 2010, I have served as one of our state’s commissioners on the national Uniform Law Commission (ULC). For more than a century, the ULC has provided states with nonpartisan, carefully-drafted legislation that brings clarity, stability, and uniformity to critical areas of state law. This year, several ULC proposals were approved by the Legislature and signed into law.
In 2016, four Washington electors violated state law by casting their votes in the Electoral College for candidates other than the state’s popular vote winner – Hillary Clinton. The fine imposed on these “faithless electors” proved to be an insufficient incentive for them to follow the law.
SB 5074, the “Uniform Faithful Presidential Electors Act”, establishes a process by which electors who attempt to vote for a candidate other than the top vote getter in the November presidential election would be disqualified as electors and replaced with alternates. Washington joins Montana, Nevada, Minnesota, Indiana, and Nebraska in having enacted this law.
Last week, a federal appeals court struck down a Colorado law and upheld the right of “faithless electors” to vote with their conscience. As a result, the issue may reach the U.S. Supreme Court in the coming months. I will keep you posted on the end result.
SB 5604, the “Uniform Guardianship, Conservatorship, and Other Protective Arrangements Act”, modernizes the laws concerning court-appointed guardians of minors and adults who cannot manage their own affairs in our state. Because guardians are given control over decisions ranging from where the person subject to guardianship can live or travel and how he or she can spend money, regulating guardians carefully is critical to protecting the safety and constitutional rights of persons subject to guardianship. Substantial changes include:
- Eliminating terminology such as “incapacitated person” or “ward” and replacing it with modern, respectful language;
- Adding to the statute a strong policy direction for courts to choose the least restrictive alternatives consistent with protecting the person subject to guardianship; and
- Making it easier for parents to regain custody of their children once they have completed prison sentences or drug treatment programs.
The changes will take effect January 1, 2021. In the meantime, the Senate Law & Justice Committee has held a work session and is drafting legislation for the 2020 session to improve the legislation and fill in any gaps we failed to identify last session.
The Legislature also passed bills requested by the Washington Uniform Law Commission concerning domestic violence (HB 1517, which included the Uniform Recognition and Enforcement of Canadian Domestic Violence Protection Orders Act); consumer cooperatives (SB 5002, the Uniform Limited Cooperative Associations Act); legal declarations (SB 5017, the Uniform Unsworn Declarations Act); and electronic notarization (SB 5641, the Revised Uniform Law on Notarial Acts).
If you missed my previous updates on health care, gun safety, civil rights, consumer debt protection, climate change, orca recovery, behavioral health, housing, or education, you can find those on my website.
Senator Jamie Pedersen
43rd Legislative District