Serving Franklin County, WA

Torres' Senate Bill 5780 signed into law

Four of her bills become effective June 6

OLYMPIA - A bill sponsored by Sen. Nikki Torres to help improve public defenders and prosecuting attorneys has been signed into law.

Senate Bill 5780 was signed into law by Gov. Jay Inslee on March 26.

"Our state has a public-safety crisis, and reducing the lawlessness in our communities must be one of the Legislature's top priorities," Torres, R-Pasco, said after the signing. "My measure to increase training for public defenders and prosecutors will go a long way toward creating a more capable and fully-staffed court system."

Senate Bill 5780 helps address attorney shortages hindering the administration of justice, she said. The new law requires the state Office of Public Defense to create and administer a law-student rural public defense program. It will place law students as legal interns or recent law-school graduates with experienced public defense attorneys in rural areas of the state. The measure also requires expanding of Criminal Defense Training Academy program to train new public defenders.

The legislation creates a similar prosecution program tol be administered by the Criminal Justice Training Commission or contracted by them to the Washington Association of Prosecuting Attorneys.

"When we think of workforce shortages, we don't often think of our public defenders and prosecutors, but the public court system is on the verge of collapse," Torres said. "If we don't start the process of addressing this crisis, we are at risk of seeing a complete failure of our ability to prosecute criminals and get justice for victims of crime.

The bill is the third sponsored by Torres to reach the governor's desk this year.

Other bills

Her other bills signed into law are:

Senate Bill 5780 to provide emergency training for substitute teachers and temporary public-school employees. "The amount of information received by substitute teachers and other temporary staff about school-safety procedures varies among school districts, but that information is critical in an emergency," Torres said. "This legislation will help increase knowledge of critical safety information, assist in emergency preparedness and bring consistency across our state's 295 school districts."

Senate Bill 5925 increases the number of allowable per diem days for fire commissioners in larger fire protection districts from 90 days to up to 144 days.

"Our fire commissioners are often forced to attend board meetings, critical planning sessions and organizational meetings during fire season, and this is especially difficult in larger, rural communities," Torres said. "Unfortunately, under the current system, this often results in commissioners having to essentially work for free... "This new law will increase that number of reimbursable days to 144, creating a more equitable system. It will only apply to the state's 18 largest fire districts and it will have no impact on the state budget.

Senate Bill 5885 targets the administrative process for whenever a territory is annexed to a city, town or code city. "It's not the 1990s," Torres said. "There's no reason for the state to require numerous paper copies of filings, when a single copy can be filed online, and easily accessed..."

All four of the Torres-sponsored measures are set to go into effect on June 6.


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