On Saturday Republican leadership in the statehouse—particularly Senate Minority Leader Mark Schoesler— blocked the extension of an emergency proclamation regarding protections for victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking.
The proclamation, set to expire May 11, allows victims to file no-contact orders online. It also allows law enforcement to serve those orders electronically or telephonically, and to remove any guns "when courts have ordered firearms to be surrendered" in a given domestic violence situation.
The state's prosecutors and sheriffs associations both requested that the legislature extend the order, citing the need to protect victims and officers forced to serve papers in-person during the middle of a global respiratory virus outbreak.
Senior deputy prosecuting attorney David Martin, who chairs the domestic violence unit King County, noted the "very real increase in domestic violence we are now experiencing" and urged legislators to sign off on the extension.
"Felony domestic violence in King County is up 20% in new cases filed," Martin wrote in a letter to the legislature. "Seattle police and other agencies are reporting stark increases in domestic violence calls for service and arrest. Over the last two weeks in King County there have been three domestic violence homicides, a very public domestic violence attempted murder, and two officer involved shootings of domestic violence offenders."
"This is not a partisan issue," said Democratic Sen. Manka Dhingra, who also founded API Chaya, a nonprofit that supports DV victims, "Home is not a safe place for everybody, and we have to make sure we're protecting the most vulnerable."
"Given my work in domestic violence for decades, [electronic filing] is such a crucial tool for victims to be able to reach out and get help," Dhingra added. "And it's good for law enforcement. Being told to serve orders in-person puts them at risk."
In a joint statement, Senate Majority Leader Andy Billig and House Speaker Laurie Jinkins called the Republican blockade "incomprehensible."
"We urge Senate Republican leadership blocking this extension to reconsider their decision," they said.
Republicans will likely argue that the proclamation violates due process and Second Amendment rights, despite the fact that it doesn't, because Extreme Risk Protection Orders within the proclamation allow cops to remove guns in certain situations.
"We know that when a gun is present in a domestic violence situation, it's extremely dangerous for the victim. This is not a rhetorical or academic discussion. We are seeing victims of DV being killed by guns," Sen. Dhingra said. "And the reason we have an extreme risk protection order is for those times of extreme risk."
When the legislature is not in session, all four caucus leaders have to sign off on extensions of emergency powers that the legislature has granted to the governor. So far, Republicans have blocked two other extensions; one giving officers more discretion over sending probation violators to jail, and another temporarily lifting fingerprint background checks for child care workers.