- Associated Press - Wednesday, March 13, 2019

OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) - The Washington Senate has approved a proposed update to the state’s three-strike law, one of a trio of sentencing bills to clear the chamber in recent days.

The three-strikes proposal would remove second-degree robbery from the list of crimes that could qualify third-time offenders for life imprisonment.

Lawmakers approved the measure on a 29-20 vote Wednesday, along with an amendment by Republicans removing a retroactivity clause that would have reduced the sentences of some inmates now serving life in prison after a third-strike robbery. The bill now only affects future cases.

The three-strike proposal followed two other sentencing bills passed the day before in the Senate, aimed at reducing incarceration for youth convicted of so-called status crimes, including truancy, and expanding eligibility for incarceration alternatives for parents convicted of non-violent crimes.

The change to the state’s three-strike laws was among the most contentious of the bills, but Sen. Jeannie Darneille, D-Tacoma, said during debate before Wednesday’s vote that de-listing the crime makes sense because the it is intuitively different from other crimes on the list, which includes assault, manslaughter and rape.

But critics said the bill neglected victims and was part of a broader movement by legislators to relax sentences.

“In this session we’ve seen nothing but a drift to less accountability,” said Sen. Keith Wagoner, R-Sedro Woolley. “This is just one more example of where we’re holding convicted citizens less and less accountable.”

Republican legislators were also able to make a last-minute amendment on the youth sentencing bill.

The version of the bill introduced for a floor vote Tuesday prohibited youth detention in many cases, including for crimes such as truancy and running away. But Republicans attached an amendment that preserved youth detention in certain cases.

The third bill, a measure expanding eligibility for family and parent sentencing alternative programs, passed with only a moderate change.

The bill would recognize additional types of relationships as creating eligibility for the programs, and would cause some juvenile offenses to be excluded when considering eligibility.

All three now head to the state House for consideration.

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