By Polly Keary, Editor
Although this year’s legislative session is only going to be 60 days long, Monroe’s Kirk Pearson is going to be plenty busy.
The newly-minted state senator, who has 13 years of experience in the legislature but only one so far in the role of senator, plans to work on cleaning up Washington’s waters, making domestic violence victims safer, and perhaps increasing penalties for certain other acts of violence as well.
The legislature establishes the state budget every two years, and that happened last year. So the session this year will be shorter, with the legislature only making tweaks to the budget as needed.
There is still opportunity to pass laws that were begun last year, or to initiate new legislation, and Pearson plans to do both.
Pearson might be relatively new to the Senate, but he’s already gotten some influential assignments. He was appointed last year as vice-chair of the Human Services and Corrections Committee and was also named to the Law and Justice Committee, giving him a fair amount of influence on matters of public safety.
And he was appointed as chair of the Natural Resources and Parks Committee.
But the most powerful position he’s gained so far is on the Rules Committee, which has the power to determine which bills get to the floor of the senate for a vote and which don’t.
Last year, Pearson started an effort to hold boat owners responsible for the removal of derelict boats from Washington waters, and was able to secure some funding to keep state parks open.
This year, he is focusing on several law and justice matters.
“One I’ll mention is, I met with the victim of a violent crime that highlighted problems where first-time felony domestic violent offenders, when they are out, they are not under supervision,” said Pearson.
Felony domestic violence convictions, he said, are the most serious forms of battering, and such a felon should be on supervision, repeat offender or not, Pearson believes.
Another issue Pearson is concerned about is what he believes are sometimes too-lenient sentences for people convicted of certain kinds of manslaughter.
And he’s still concerned about Washington jobs.
“I know the economy is getting better, but we are still below the job numbers of pre-recession,” he said. “Since Dec. 31, 2007, we are about 50,000 jobs less than we had at that time and that’s when the economy started to go down. Our economy is still faltering, and I look forward to any legislation that supports out businesses large and small.”
Other issues Pearson has introduced in the legislature as a sponsor or co-sponsor include a bill to require notification to parents when a juvenile sex offender is attending their child’s school; a bill to grant veterinarians some immunity from liability when reporting suspected animal cruelty; a bill to limit some alternatives to incarceration for offenders who don’t comply with conditions of release and increasing some protection to process servers from assault, among other things.
“I expect a kind of exciting year,” said Pearson. There’s never a dull moment.”