Lowry signs bills for victims rights, drug-free workplaces

EVERETT -- At the Snohomish County Courthouse in Everett this morning, Gov. Mike Lowry signed into law several important bills dealing with the rights and restitution of crime victims.

"We have long dealt with the issues surrounding punishment of criminals, but it is also necessary for us as a state to help resolve the many difficulties that victims of crime face after the fact," the governor said. "Today I'm proud to say that victim assistance programs are no longer taking a back seat."

Four bills sponsored by Rep. Jeralita Costa (Marysville) were signed, including:

Gov. Lowry today also signed into law HB 2652, which puts victims' restitution above state collection of the costs of hospitalizing criminally insane patients. This means that defendants found not guilty of a crime by reason of insanity and housed at a state mental hospital must first settle judgements with victims before the Department of Social and Health Services can begin collecting the costs of hospitalization. This bill was sponsored by Rep. Ida Ballasiotes (Mercer Island).

The governor also signed Senate Bill 5516, sponsored by Sen. Brad Owen (Shelton), which allows businesses to receive a 5% discount on their workers' compensation insurance premiums if they meet state drug-free workplace conditions. Qualifying businesses must have documented substance abuse policies that are provided to workers and applicants, and must make reasonable efforts to help employees with limited English proficiency understand the drug-free workplace policy. Also under this law, workers in participating businesses who have sustained on-the-job injuries must submit to drug testing unless the injury was due to circumstances beyond the employee's control.

Lowry also signed into law SB 6272, which requires the State Patrol to conduct fingerprinting and criminal background checks on all school employees with regular unsupervised access to children. Under this law, only employees hired before June 11, 1992 are subject to the checks. School workers hired after that date have already undergone criminal background checks.

"This is a law that will provide for a safer school atmosphere for our children," Lowry said. "Anything we can do to keep kids in school safe or to help them from being distracted from the learning process is a major accomplishment."

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For more information, contact the Governor's Communications Office at 360-753-6790.