The Vulnerable User Bill made it past yet another big hurdle today by passing the state House of Representatives 59-39. A similar bill passed in the Senate February 24, so only a couple reasonable number (see update below) more steps before it can go on the books.
Unlike the Senate’s 43-5 passage, the bill was more divisive in the House. Rep. Bill Hinkle (R-13) argued against the bill by saying it would be “creating more tragedy, destroying more lives.”
It is not clear how some community service, driving school and fines would destroy the life of a negligent driver. In fact, Washington’s proposed law is far less punitive than some sought in other states. In Maryland, for example, a proposed bill would make negligent driving a criminal offense with sentences up to three years in jail. Washington’s bill, rather, seeks more constructive penalties, like temporary loss of license and driving school, to make sure that drivers are not able to merely mail a ticket and be done with it.
The bill now just needs to be combined with the senate bill in the Conference Committee and signed by the governor.
UPDATE: Turns out, bicameral legislation is far more complicated than I thought (and I had thought it was complicated). So HB 1339, which passed today, cannot just be combined in conference with SB 5326, which passed the Senate a couple weeks ago. Even though they are very similar, they are merely companion bills. One of them needs to be passed in both houses. The Senate bill is currently climbing its way through the House committees. So why does the vote today matter? Well, I guess it is nice to know it can pass. And if the Senate bill for some unexpected reason gets hung up in the House, the Senate now has a chance to pass the House bill. But really, it just makes you wonder who exactly thought bicameral legislation was the best way to do things… (I know, I know, it has some benefits…) Thanks to Chris Rule from Cascade for explaining this to me and being a huge buzz kill.