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Hayes hopes to end ticket exemptions
The Washington State Patrol’s policy of forgiving lawmakers for speeding during session is simply not fair, said State rep. Dave Hayes.
The Republican representative from District 10 said he’s pre-filing a bill that would clarify the authority of law enforcement to issue tickets to legislators, regardless of what’s happening in the hallowed halls of Olympia.
“Elected officials shouldn’t get special privileges,” he said. “That’s the kind of thing that makes people cynical of their government.”
Hayes, who’s also a patrol sergeant with the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office, said an article in The News Tribune about the issue spurred him to action. The article states that the State Patrol and some other law enforcement agencies will not issue speeding tickets to state lawmakers 15 days before or during a legislative session.
The State Patrol cites a section of the state constitution, which states that members of the legislature “shall not be subject to any civil process during the session of the Legislature, nor for 15 days next before the commencement of each session.”
Hayes said the provision was written in 1889, when it took some lawmakers days to travel to the Capitol on horseback; it was intended to prevent them from being obstructed on their journey.
The bill, he said, clarifies that a traffic citation is not “a civil process” under the state constitution, clearing away for troopers to hand out tickets to speedy legislators.
Island County Sheriff Mark Brown said his department is “absolutely not” among the agencies that follow the policy.
“Hell no,” he said. “I’m not going to show favoritism to anybody.”
Brown retired as a state trooper before being elected sheriff. He said he heard “a rumor” while with the State Patrol about a policy of forgiving lawmakers of speeding tickets during session, but he never formally informed of the practice. He said he never worked in or around Olympia.
Hayes said the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office also doesn’t subscribe by the practice.
“If I stopped a legislator, would not hesitate to issue that person a ticket,” he said.
Hayes said his bill is nearly identical to one that Rep. Ross Hunter, D-Medina, introduced in 2005, which went nowhere. This year, Hayes said, he’s “going to work it hard” and — hopefully — push it through.
Hays said the bill would ensure that lawmakers aren’t exempt from any kind of noncriminal traffic ticket.
He’d like to delete the entire section exempting legislators from civil processes during session, but that would mean a much longer and more complicated process for a constitutional amendment.