Wednesday, October 9, 2013
You would think elected officials should have thick skins. After all, no matter what they do there will be folks who aren’t happy — and few are shy about sharing their displeasure.
Yet, sometimes criticism gets under some lawmakers’ skin, such as last month’s revelation that Washington state lawmakers are exempt from traffic tickets before and while the Legislature is in session.
The public — as well as newspaper editorials (including this paper) — has been poking fun at legislators since mid-September when the Tacoma News Tribune reported the Washington State Patrol lets lawmakers off the hook for speeding.
State Rep. Dave Hayes is aiming to do something to end the practice and, perhaps, reduce the sniping at lawmakers. The Camano Island Republican — who is also a Snohomish County Sheriff’s deputy —wrote a proposal to end the practice of not issuing tickets.
The State Patrol, as well as some local police departments, don’t let legislators slide to be nice or to get in good with them. The state constitution requires it.
The state constitution says “Members of the legislature shall be privileged from arrest in all cases except treason, felony and breach of the peace; they shall not be subject to any civil process during the session of the legislature, nor for fifteen days next before the commencement of each session.”
Hayes wants to have his colleagues pass legislation to “clarify” a traffic ticket isn’t the kind of civil process described in the Constitution.
“Elected officials who make the laws should not be excluded from the laws they make,” Hayes said.
We agree. Lawmakers agree. Everybody agrees.
Unfortunately, at least for lawmakers, the process of trying to be ticketed might be complicated, time-consuming and the target of more sarcastic barbs.
Hayes knows the best he can do in the short term is delay court appearances until after the end of the legislative session because changing the constitution requires approval of a constitutional amendment. That requires a two-thirds vote of the Legislature followed by approval of the voters.
The run-up to the vote will be another opportunity for humor or worse at legislators’ expense. The verbal jabs, unfair or not, cannot be stopped. Politicians get about as much slack as those who work at newspapers — as in close to zero. It goes with the territory.
Nevertheless, best of luck to Hayes in his effort to make sure lawmakers get the traffic tickets they deserve. Seriously.