Lowry signs 2 strikes law, vetoes threats to personal privacy

OLYMPIA - On his last day to take action on bills passed during the 1996 legislative session, Gov. Mike Lowry today signed a bill giving life imprisonment to violent sex offenders after a second conviction and vetoed several bills that would have endangered the privacy of state residents.

Lowry completed action on 346 bills sent to him by state legislators. Of 324 bills the governor signed, he partially vetoed 27 of them. He vetoed 22 bills in their entirety.

The governor signed House Bill 2320, which mandates life in prison without parole for the second conviction of rape, indecent liberties by forcible compulsion, and murder, kidnapping, assault and burglary crimes involving sexual motivation.

"I think this really showed a public recognition that violent sex offenders are probably the most dangerous people in society," Lowry said as he signed the law to applause.

Lowry also signed bills that:

Lowry exercised his section veto power on a bill aimed at tightening controls on the issuance of driver's licenses and state ID cards in order to prevent fraud. While House Bill 2150 directs a study on how to use technology to reduce fraud, it also would have allowed the Department of Licensing (DOL) to confiscate documents from applicants to check their validity and would have required DOL to turn over its files to law enforcement agencies upon request.

Lowry also partially signed House Bill 2420, which strengthens the state's gun ownership laws. The governor vetoed a section that would have allowed employees of police departments to personally own machine guns and other outlawed automatic weapons.

Among the bills Lowry vetoed in their entirety were several that sought to increase government disclosure of personal information.

"These bills raise a much larger issue than appears on the surface," Lowry said. "Here we are dealing with personal privacy as well as the value and purpose of government records. The government collects an immense amount of information from its citizens and from businesses for specific purposes related to the administration of programs, the development of policies, and the collection of revenues. In order to protect the privacy of our citizens, we need to engage in a broad debate and develop a clear policy about how and why some public records should be released since new technology makes it so easy to misuse such information."

Through his veto message of 2604, the governor announced he will appoint a task force to study the specific issues of privacy and commercial use of government information. The task force will be asked to report to agencies and the legislature by the 1997 session.

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