Newsletter: Is an arrest at Green Hill School a sign things are improving?

Plus, criminals are in for a big surprise come June 1

Watch FOX 13’s latest story on Green Hill School

Arrests at Green Hill School may be sign things are improving

Friends and Neighbors,

I toured Green Hill School this week to see for myself the conditions and protocols at the detention facility. Green Hill once housed only juveniles, but now houses adults up to age 25 if they were convicted as juveniles, a decision I opposed when it was made and is now proving to be the source of many problems.

Reports of drug overdoses, assaults and riots continue, and the governor, who is in charge of the agency that oversees Green Hill, has repeatedly downplayed or denied that problems exist.

The state has the responsibility of not only incarcerating those who live at Green Hill School, but also with rehabilitating them so they have a chance to go on to lead productive lives once released. Green Hill School has not done a good job of this, partly because of failures in security protocols and partly because no one is being held accountable.

The arrest this week of a staff member who is accused of conspiring to plan a riot at the facility is, I hope, an indication that things are beginning to change. In an interview with FOX 13, the governor finally admits there are still problems at Green Hill, and blames it on adjusting to incarcerating people up to age 25 in the same space with kids under 18.

In a recent letter I wrote to him highlighting these problems, I stated unequivocally that the policy he uses as an excuse – which he signed, after Democrat legislators proposed and passed it – is wrong. The older individuals will take advantage of the younger ones, especially if staff is complicit and no one is held accountable.

There is plenty of blame to go around. But the real issue is how to fix it. The first step is admitting there’s a problem. I hope that the governor’s admission and the recent arrest are just the beginning of the solution.


John Braun


Republican wins in a Democratic majority

The 2024 legislative session had clear wins for the Republican minority. You might wonder how that happens when we are outnumbered in both chambers and the governor’s office is occupied by a Democrat.

The people of Washington were active this year in contacting legislators to support or oppose various bills, including the six initiatives to the Legislature.

For example, thousands of people signed in to testify on the three initiatives that received hearings. Likewise, people contacted legislative offices to push back against the bill that would triple the 1% cap on the annual growth rate of local property taxes without voter approval.

The majority couldn’t help but listen.

More moderate Democrats, and even very progressive Democrats who realized their districts had strong feelings on certain issues, withdrew support for many unpopular bills. In fact, two Senate Democrats removed their names from the list of sponsors on the property-tax bill after heavy backlash, something that is extremely rare.

Common sense prevailed.

Most people have little-to-nothing left in their budgets to send to the government after paying their ever-increasing bills. Unfortunately, Democrats were successful in killing many of the bills we sponsored to help make living in Washington more affordable.

That doesn’t mean I will give up fighting for a more affordable Washington. It remains one of my top priorities, along with securing a safer Washington and building a stronger future for our kids.

Lately, our state has become a more expensive and more dangerous place to live. You deserve better.


Save your pennies — a natural gas ban is coming

The worst bill that passed this session and will become law is House Bill 1589. I have mentioned this bill in past newsletters, but it is so important to everyone’s financial bottom line that it’s worth highlighting and clarifying its effects.

Q: Does HB 1589 ban natural gas?

A: The entire purpose of this bill is to allow Puget Sound Energy to cut through red tape and enact, in effect, its own ban on natural gas. It gives PSE the ability to submit plans to stop providing natural gas and places the expense for converting homes from natural gas to all-electric on you. Other power companies would be sure to follow, because of how the Democrats’ cap-and-tax law targets companies with any connection to fossil fuels.

Q: To whom would they submit the plans?

A: PSE would submit the plans to the Utilities and Transportation Commission, which consists of three people appointed by the governor. This commission is the same one that told PSE it could NOT include the impact of the cap-and-tax program on your billing statement (at the advice of the attorney general’s office). The commission, which was appointed by the very official who is responsible for the cap-and-tax program, would have the ability to approve the plans, allowing PSE to eliminate natural-gas service.

Q: What is this going to cost me?

A: Depending on how much work would need to be done to your house, it could cost you between $32,000 to $70,000. The Building Industry Association of Washington (BIAW) estimates the cost to convert the average home at $39,767. Older homes will cost more. The total cost to consumers overall will be $7 billion to $10 billion, many of whom only have natural gas because they were advised to convert to it years ago.

Q: Can the infrastructure for electric power (the “grid”) handle this dramatic increase in demand?

A: No. Our power grid currently struggles to provide power in cold weather and is not ready for hundreds of thousands of people (eventually millions) to rely on it even more. Don’t forget that, at the same time this will be happening, the governor and legislative Democrats are pushing every mode of transportation toward electric power. And they are promoting the removal of some of our hydroelectric dams. At what point does our grid completely collapse?

Q: Will I qualify for any financial assistance to convert my home?

A: Only families at the lowest income levels will qualify for assistance and they won’t be allowed to use the money to replace their gas appliances — a necessary step in the conversion. For many in that income bracket, a $500 stove might as well be $1 million. Don’t forget that they may also need to alter countertops and cabinetry to accommodate the new appliances. Also, since inflation and debt have also hit middle-income Washingtonians hard, most may not be able to access tens of thousands of dollars to convert their homes.

Q: I rent my home/apartment, so this doesn’t affect me, right?

A: Wrong. If you live in a house or apartment that uses natural gas, your property owner will have to increase the rent to pay to convert to electric. For some people, that could break their budget and land them on the street.

The Democrat Speaker of the House has claimed she is proud of this bill because it helps the most vulnerable in our society. How does increasing rent and housing costs during an affordable housing crisis help those who are most likely to become homeless because of it? It doesn’t.

Q: Can the people overturn this policy through referendum?

A: No. Legislative Democrats included an “emergency clause” in the bill, which means the people can’t overturn it through referendum. If you want to fight this legislation, you will need to tell the governor right now to veto it. Once he signs it, you will need to tell the Speaker of the House and the chair of the House Environment & Energy Committee (who is also the bill’s sponsor) if you want this legislation repealed.

Finally, keep in mind that HB 1589 gives special privileges to a foreign-owned utility monopoly, and it virtually guarantees this corporation the ability to cut off everyone in its service area from natural gas. And it can do so with only the approval of a small commission appointed by a governor who has repeatedly stated he intends to ban natural gas.

That is an “end run” around the people.


I-2113: FOX 13’s David Rose says criminals are in for a big surprise


One big win for the people this session was the passage of three initiatives. Seattle television station FOX 13 aired a story this week by reporter David Rose about I-2113. It’s the initiative passed March 4 by every Republican legislator and some Democrats that restores the standard for vehicular pursuit by police to “reasonable suspicion” rather than the more restrictive “probable cause.”

In his report, Rose says criminals feel emboldened because they can steal a car and get away with it — the police can’t chase them. Many are using these stolen vehicles in the commission of more serious crimes. Some have been involved in accidents where the driver killed someone.

Rose warns that those days are coming to an end.

I-2113 will take effect June 6.


Why is Washington still struggling to hire law enforcement officers?

Washington continues to have fewer law-enforcement officers per capita than any state in the country. Our state has been dead-last in this category for years.

One reason for this is financial. Law-enforcement agencies in other states offer higher salaries. Also, some communities either don’t have or won’t prioritize the funding to hire enough officers.

The more significant reason, unfortunately, appears to be the continuing anti-police rhetoric and behavior that has resulted in violent and deadly attacks on officers and a pervasive disrespect shown towards them.

We saw some of this attitude in the reactionary 2021 legislation passed by Democrats that put criminal-friendly restrictions on the ability of police to conduct vehicular pursuits of suspects. Republicans saw it again in 2022 and this past year as we fought to undo that harmful policy.

Thankfully, the people of Washington made it possible for clear-headed legislators to restore the ability of police to conduct reasonable pursuits, by submitting Initiative 2113 to us. Its passage by the Legislature earlier this month should help swing the pendulum back in the right direction.

Just as serving in the military runs in families, it used to be common for one generation to follow the previous one into law enforcement. That legacy practice is becoming rare.

Officers who may have once encouraged younger friends and family members to become police officers now discourage them from doing so.

Officers who once felt the risk to their safety and mental health was worth the sacrifice for the good of society may feel the balance between the two is lost.

Unfortunately, they have good reason to feel this way. Negative public sentiment is fed by legislators who sponsor bills that prioritize criminals over victims — preventing criminals from being arrested, prosecuted or from serving their full sentences. It’s no wonder our state is seeing such high levels of violent and property crime, which only places more demand on underfunded, understaffed law-enforcement agencies.

Some Democrat legislators seem dedicated to this effort, even sponsoring bills to lessen the penalties for drive-by shootings, to allow convicted felons (including Green River Killer Gary Ridgway) to serve on juries while incarcerated, and to allow even those sentenced to life in prison to apply for release after 25 years.

While Republicans have managed to kill these bills and others like them, the message those proposals send is clear — law enforcement is the enemy.

Why would anyone want to enter a profession where you are automatically vilified and actively undermined, sometimes by those who make the very laws you would swear to uphold?

Washington’s critical shortage of law-enforcement officers will continue as long as this anti-police, anti-public safety, anti-victim, pro-criminal effort continues.

Public safety should be everyone’s top priority. Without it, nothing else is possible.


What’s in the headlines this week? Read more…