The drama is heating up between the Senate and House over two bail bills we first wrote about last week that would amend the state constitution to give judges the authority to deny bail to certain types of violent offenders. The bills are a response to last year's murder of four Lakewood police officers that legislators say will help prevent similar tragedies in the future. But civil liberties proponents like the ACLU of Washington say the bills are liable to strip people of their constitutional rights.

Lakewood Sen. Mike Carrell (R-28) and Seattle Sen. Adam Kline (D-37), ranking members of the Senate Judiciary committee, held their bipartisan press conference yesterday to promote their less drastic version of the bail bill which they say strikes an appropriate balance between public safety and civil liberties. Lake Stevens Rep. Mike Hope (R-44) and Auburn-area Rep. Christopher Hurst (D-31) countered with a scathing press conference of their own, denouncing the Senate version and lauding the support they've received from the law enforcement community for their far broader bill. With only three weeks remaining in the session, the pressure is mounting for the two parties to reach a compromise.

The Senate version would give a judge authority to deny bail to individuals accused of violent crimes such as murder, rape, and child molestation—significantly less stringent language than their original version of the bill. The list is not conclusive as they've also included language in the bill about intentionality. It's that language about an accused person's intentions that the Senators say sets them apart from the sweeping House bill.

"We've really focused in on intentional harm, the worst individuals," said. Sen. Carrell. "If there is little danger of someone causing further harm, should they really be denied bail?"

The more encompassing House version grants the authority to deny bail when an individual has been accused of any crime that carries a life sentence.

"The House bill is extremely broad," said Sen. Kline. "We need to focus on people most likely to commit a violent offense, people who pose a danger because of their intent."

Reps. Hurst and Carroll held their informal counter conference immediately following Sens. Kline and Carrell's conference. The two Reps lambasted the Senate's bill saying it was flawed and insufficient. Their version would affect more than double the felony cases in Washington than the Senate's version, they said.

"There are two major problems with the Senate version," said Rep. Hope. "Law enforcement hasn't been involved and their version is virtually watered down."

Rep. Hope said the law enforcement community has provided input for and come out in favor of the House's version.

The two houses have yet to discuss possible compromises to either version of the bill. Rep. Hurst said that Sen. Kline has flat out refused to meet with him so far. Despite this, Rep. Hurst provided several confidant sound bites about the guarantee of success during their press conference.

"We will not leave this session without this bill," Hurst said. "It is correcting a wrong that's been developing over the years ... it's the most important piece of law enforcement legislation on the table."

Hurst says that the balance of support falls in their favor.

"The Senate has Sen. Kline, Sen. Carrell, and the ACLU on their side," he said. "We've got Rep. Hope and myself, the law enforcement community, and 98 percent of the people in the state on our side."

He continued with a little dig at Sen. Carrell saying, "It seems odd to see Mike Carrell on the side of the ACLU and against the law enforcement community." (Carrell has not responded to our calls. Not only are we curious to hear the Republican respond to the card-carrying-member-of-the-ACLU put down, but we want to hear him talk about how he thinks his Lakewood constituents feel about his less aggressive bill.)

The ACLU of Washington was quick to point out that it doesn't support either bill.

"The Senate bill is probably narrower than what the House passed, but they both add large numbers of people, hundreds if not thousands, to whom we don't need to deny bail," said Shankar Narayan, Legislative Director ACLU of Washington. "The bottom line is both of these are too broad."

Narayan says the legislature should "do the task force, take a deep breath, and see where things lie," referencing another bill introduced by Sen. Carrell that would create a task force to investigate existing bail procedures.
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