Legislature passes Holy bills to expand youth courts, aid rural tourism

Two bills prime-sponsored by 6th District Sen. Jeff Holy, one to expand the range of youth courts and the other to help tourism efforts in smaller Washington communities, are on their way to Gov. Jay Inslee after the Legislature passed them yesterday.

A youth court is an alternative method for hearing and disposing of traffic or transit infractions for juveniles ages 16-17. Senate Bill 5640 would expand youth courts’ jurisdiction to accept referrals of traffic, transit or civil infractions committed by youth ages 12-15.

“Youth courts play a key role in keeping youth out of the criminal justice system,” said Holy, a retired Spokane police officer. “The youth court program helps build a connection between a troubled teen and society. During this session, we’ve worked with youth court officials and prosecuting attorneys to craft a bill that is welcomed by both groups.”

“Sometime in 2017 the Cheney Youth Court students were studying the youth court statute (RCW 3.72),” said Terri Cooper, president of the Washington State Youth Court Association and administrator for the Cheney Youth Court. “Students were asked if they believed this was a good law and if it still met the needs of Washington Youth Courts. We asked them what would they change about it if they could. The students identified two potential changes:

“First, the statute was limited to first offenses. Most youth traffic courts were hearing cases that were not limited to a first offense. The court and students concurred that it is often the second offense that gets a student’s attention. Second, the statute was limited to only traffic infractions, however along the way transit infractions were added, brought by Seattle Youth Court. Students recognized that the court had referred student tobacco tickets to the youth court because the municipal court believed youth peer review was a better model for dealing with youth civil infractions. Cheney Municipal Court leaders identified itself as the only youth court in Eastern Washington and wanted to expand youth court opportunities into Eastern Washington courts, schools, and civic organizations. These leaders noted the current statute was limited to youth ages 15-17 while the juvenile court youth courts law included ages 12-17. Cheney leaders wanted to expand opportunities for youth courts to include all civil infractions for all youth, so reconciling the ages between the two statutes was added to Senator Holy’s bill,” said Cooper.

“This entire process has been both a roller coaster ride and a great learning experience,” added Cooper. “We couldn’t have done it without the leadership of Senator Holy and his office. We also appreciate the support from Representative Mike Volz and Senator Andy Billig. We did not anticipate opposition but in the end there was consensus and Senator Holy was with us every step of the way.”

Senate Bill 6592 would allow a county with a population of 40,000 or less, or any city or town within that county to form a tourism promotion area (TPA) to generate revenue for promoting tourism.

“This bill will help provide more money for our rural areas that have a lot to offer to tourists but aren’t as widely known as other areas in Washington,” said Holy, R-Cheney.

“ESSB 6592, the tourism promotion area bill sponsored by Senator Holy, is very important in allowing communities across the state to expand their tourism marketing efforts,” said Eric Sawyer, president and CEO of Spokane Sports. “Under Senator Holy’s leadership, he brought together state tourism professionals to craft unique legislation that is tailored specifically to the needs of a specific community’s tourism strategies. Attracting visitors and their associated spending is an important economic development driver and supports thousands of jobs throughout the state. Having a tool that can significantly expand tourism will pay dividends for years to come.”