Mixed results for state terrorism measures

A package of bills intended to prevent, prepare and combat terrorist activities on the state level unraveled in the Senate during the final moments of the legislative session, according to local lawmakers.

All but one of a dozen original measures — which deal with wiretapping capabilities, preparing emergency preparedness plans and limiting public disclosure of sensitive information — flopped because some senators feared many of the proposed bills would infringe too closely on civil liberties.

But at least one bill sponsored by Kitsap lawmaker Rep. Kathy Haigh, D-Shelton, survived such scrutingy.

Hers specifically deals with restricting from public access information and government documents unique to preventing or responding to a terrorist act on the state level.

The idea is to not let sensitive information fall into the wrong hands.

“I was a little bit lucky,” Haigh said. “The Senate was concerned overall with the bills, I think, because they feared civil liberties were at stake.”

Haigh said she shared that concern as well, but said those issues were worked out in the House before sending the package to the Senate.

Haigh, who was appointed to the House Select Committee on Community Security, said she worked closely with daily and weekly newspaper organizations, the Attorney General’s office and the governor’s office on her public disclosure bill to achieve acceptable wording.

Haigh’s bill passed the House 92 to 3 and, ultimately, the Senate approved it on a 38 to 11 vote.

The governor is expected to sign the bill.

They key bill to not gain approval in the Senate was the measure actually defining terrorist acts in the first, second and third degrees and prescribing a series of penalties including the death penalty for first-degree terrorism.

“The definition of terrorism laid out in that bill was very specific and very unique,” Haigh said.

Haigh co-sponsored that legislation, along with Rep. Beverly Woods, R-Poulsbo.

Yet some legislators shied away from the bill altogether because of the death penalty sentencing provision.

Haigh said the House was more comfortable overall with that and the rest of the dozen because they were crafted, presented and heard by the members of the committee on community security in the House.

“The members gave up other committee assignments to concentrate on these issues,” Haigh said. “We had more time and more hearings on what these bills would do. The Senate didn’t have a special committee for this.”

Although the bill containing the definition of terrorism didn’t gain Senate approval, Haigh’s successful bill was amended to include the definition of terrorism and terrorist activities before the session concluded.

Rep. Brock Jackley, D-Manchester, said, “We will have to look at these bills again.

Jackley, who also served on the House Select committee, prime-sponsored legislation that would increase to 17 the number of officials appointed to the state Emergency Management Council.

That bill, like the rest of the package, withered on the vine.

“We need to make sure we have the tools we need to prevent acts of terrorism and to have the training we need to respond to an incident,” Jackley said.

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