Our Newsmaker Interview is with third-term Republican Representative Jenny Graham from the 6th Legislative District (Western Spokane County. The former small business owner and U.S. Army Reserves veteran has become a leading advocate for crime victims and their families. Her sister was among the estimated 75 – 90 women killed by the Green River Killer.
Representative Graham discusses in the interview why she felt it was important to hold a rally at the state Capitol Building last month, as the legislature is debating fixing many of the Democrats’ failed 2021 anti-police legislation (including police pursuit). She discusses how the Democrats passed these measures despite being warned that it would cause more crime and sadly more crime victims. The representative expresses her frustration over the Democrats’ failure to make a rather simple fix to Washington’s drug laws which would encourage addicts get the help they desperately need. She explains why she introduced the “Parental Bill of Rights” in this legislative session. As a member of the special Public Records Exemption Accountability Committee, the representative explains why she would never invoke “legislative privilege” except to protect the identity of a victim. Finally, as the legislature is voting on the state’s two-year budget, Representative Graham details what measures would be needed to obtain her support.
In March you held a “crime victims call to action rally” on the steps of the Capitol Building. Why did you do this and what has been the response?
My family was irreversibly affected when the Green River Killer murdered my sister and became an omnipresent nightmare in our lives. The promises the state made to the victims’ families have not been honored. Since that first sentencing in King County, I have experienced the majority of resources going to criminals and their families while crime victims and their loved ones get near zero support or help to pick up the pieces of their lives.
For the last five legislative sessions, I have watched blatant disrespect for innocent families, businesses, and communities suffering under insane policies that are harming and killing people, then leaving them holding the bag with no way of being made whole. I have held family members as they wept while explaining how the justice system revictimized and traumatized them all over again. Neither resources or support will take back the pain they live with for the rest of their lives, but it helps. They get little to nothing now except broken promises in favor of the criminal. This must stop.
The crime victims’ call to action began with a resolution to let victims and their families know they are not invisible to some lawmakers. I provided an opportunity for them to be heard at the People’s House. During the event I let them know that I introduced HB 1845 to create a Crime Victim’s Ombudsman at the state level. I also introduced HB 1844 that creates a private right of action for victims to sue state officials that act irresponsibly with respect to the legislation they pass that protects criminals and ignores the crime victims.
The Democrats’ 2021 restrictions on police pursuit has been strongly criticized by law enforcement, local officials, and Republican lawmakers. Even many Democrat legislators have come to realize that their actions have caused skyrocketing crime rates. What are your thoughts on current legislation seeking to fix the problems created by the Democrats two years ago?
I was on the 2021 Public Safety Committee when the original police pursuit bill was debated. The smartest thing we did was to go through the bill with law enforcement to ask how the policy would affect their ability to do their job. If they pointed out specific problems, we asked if they had ideas for solutions to find balance in the policy.
It was a very contentious time because the bill sponsor was not willing to take these warnings seriously. Specific examples of what could have gone wrong sadly have gone wrong. These tragedies could have been avoided. Those committee hearings and floor debates were recorded and confirm the warnings of the unintended consequences we are suffering from at present. The Democrats were warned. It was a sad and infuriating time.
Since 2021, Republicans have put policies forward to correct the concerns we warned about. We were ignored. Multiple times, we signed onto letters and asked for a special session to do our jobs and fix the problems that were, and still are, increasing the numbers of average people getting hurt or killed on our roadways. We were ignored. Our requests went unanswered until the 2023 session.
The new session afforded another opportunity to put the safety of law-abiding individuals over the criminals, many of whom have called 911 and referenced the original bill while complaining that it’s illegal for the police to pursue! This is unbelievable but true. This legislation should have been top of the list to fix. Our constituents certainly have been sending emails and making phone calls begging for the legislature to focus on safe and clean communities.
Many law enforcement organizations have also blamed the Democrats’ 2021 actions which essentially decriminalize many addictive and lethal drugs (such as methamphetamine, heroin, and fentanyl) as another reason for the dramatic increase in crime since many addicts fund their addiction with criminal activities. What would you like to see contained in the new drug possession law that must be passed by the legislature this session?
I was a member of the Public Safety Committee when this bill was debated. This policy was supposed to encourage individuals suffering with substance abuse to get help. This is what we were told. It’s an emotional issue because the Democrats aren’t the only ones with friends and family suffering or dying from drug addiction. It’s an equal opportunity destroyer of lives and futures.
Republicans were not going to vote for the bill and there were Democrats that didn’t want to vote for that bill either. As a result, it did not pass. However, the Washington State Supreme Court basically imposed the measure shortly thereafter with their Blake decision. What we are seeing now is that very few addicts are seeking treatment and the substance abuse numbers and deaths are skyrocketing.
The simple fix would be to reinstate the word “knowingly” which many House Democrats were resisting. Why are some in Olympia so unwilling to protect our families, businesses, and communities from real harm and death? It makes no sense. It’s tone deaf to the families crying out for help.
Earlier this session you proposed a “Parental Bill of Rights.” What does this entail?
This policy entails listening to parents and respecting their God-given, natural rights as parents. The most important part of the bill is the legislature recognizing that parents are the primary stakeholder in their children’s upbringing. This bill highlights that creating transparency and giving parents more information will allow them to make better decisions on behalf of their children.
Healthcare and education are two topics parents often reach out to me about when it comes to parental rights. They are also two of the main issues impacted by policies implemented by the majority party in recent years. Republicans tend to support the rights of parents to raise their children as they see fit unless actual abuse is proven with due process. This is in stark contrast to the Democrat-sponsored bills that pit parents, teachers, and children against each other with measurable anxiety, depression, and dire results for all.
The status quo is a race to the bottom for Washington families and futures as children continue to fall in math, reading, and other topics, along with the life skills necessary to thrive when students are expected to transition into taking care of themselves and others. Suicide rates are climbing and families are suffering. It is a parent’s right to care for and to protect their children until the child is old enough to care for themselves.
You sit on the special Public Records Exemption Accountability Committee. What are your thoughts on “Legislative Privilege.”
I am not a lawyer but based on legal advice and in consultation with attorneys, the institution itself believes very firmly that a legislative privilege exists under the state constitution. I have not knowingly been part of a public records exemption request. I have not asked for one in the past, nor do I intend to ask for one in the future. I would encourage all legislators to adopt this stance as the light of public scrutiny serves us all.
However, I do have concerns when it comes to violent and sexual crime victims who may contact my office having their personal information disclosed by public records requests by the media. As a survivor of abuse and an ardent crime victims’ advocate, I believe we must maintain a sense of decency and compassion when it comes to crime victims’ information being unnecessarily disclosed.
Currently the state budget is the hot topic in the legislature. What will the budget need to contain to receive your support?
I voted NO on the House Operating Budget because it was extremely partisan with little input from Republicans. Many great amendments were not adopted:
- 546 (Rude) regarding K-12 education learning loss and to help struggling kids catch up in school;
- 534 (Walsh) cleaning up homelessness encampments to protect children getting to school;
- 528 (Stokesbary) would have helped struggling families regarding tax relief;
- 531 (Steele) increasing Medicare funding;
- 538 (Corry) would stabilize our Rainy-Day Fund;
- 530 (Stokesbary) prohibiting Tik Tok from state devices, and;
- 545 (Abbarno) would repeal the Democrats’ new payroll tax to fund the Long-Term Services and Supports Program;
There were several other good amendments offered by House Republicans, including one to fully fund special education. However, Democrats put the money instead to diversity, equity, and inclusion training ahead of medical care needs. In addition, state spending has more than doubled over the past 10 years. I don’t think many of my constituents can say the same of their take-home pay. State spending is growing much faster than the incomes of those who pay for it!
To learn more about Representative Jenny Graham and to contact her office, please visit her official webpage.