Washington lawmakers have approved a series of criminal-justice bills sought by each party, including legislation that would make a fourth DUI a felony and a bill sought by gun-safety advocates.

Share story

OLYMPIA — Washington lawmakers have approved a series of criminal-justice bills that includes legislation that makes a fourth driving under the influence offense a felony.

The move came as the regular legislative session comes to an end with no deal on K-12 school funding and with state budget talks at a standstill.

But lawmakers this week saw an opening to move a handful of Democratic and Republican bills through the other party’s chamber, said Sen. Mike Padden, R-Spokane Valley.

Among them was Padden’s bill, SB 5037, to make a fourth DUI in 10 years a felony. Currently, an intoxicated driver doesn’t face a felony charge until a fifth DUI in a 10-year period.

In recent years, that proposal had passed the Republican-controlled Senate several times but stalled in the Democratic-held House.

The House approved the bill Thursday by a vote of 85-11.

“I think it will save some lives,” Padden, chair of the Senate Law and Justice Committee, said Friday.

The bill’s prospects were probably helped, Padden said, by the recent arrest of a Renton man for his 11th alleged DUI.

According to the bill’s fiscal note, nearly 192 cases would change from gross misdemeanors to felony DUI cases per year if the measure is signed into law.

Democrats also got some of their priorities passed.

The Senate Thursday approved HB 1501, legislation that had been sought by gun-safety advocates.

The bill requires that law enforcement and victims be notified when felons, domestic abusers and other respondents subject to certain court orders are denied the purchase of a firearm.

HB 1501 had passed the House in March by a wide margin. On Thursday, it passed out of the Senate unanimously.

“We are thrilled that the state Senate did the right thing by holding a vote on the Law Enforcement and Victim Safety bill, passing this meaningful legislation that will help save the lives of women and children here in Washington,” Renée Hopkins, CEO of the Alliance for Gun Responsibility, said in a statement.

The Senate Thursday also passed another measure sought by Democrats, HB 1614, that also makes changes to the law around impaired driving.

Even as he called lawmakers into a special session to work on the budget and education funding, Gov. Jay Inslee described the DUI and gun-safety bills as “late-breaking successes.”

“There’s been some good things to come out of this session already,” Inslee said, also mentioning recent agreements on birth control prescription refills, as well as distracted driving and REAL ID.

The governor must sign the bills before they can become law.