Bill in WA House Seeks to Criminalize Terroristic Words & Speech
A bill moving through the Washington House is seeking to criminalize thoughts and expressions under a new category of offenses known as "domestic violent extremism".
The state's Attorney General Bob Ferguson requested the introduction of HB 1333 to curb the potential of domestic terrorism by allowing for the prosecution of some people's words and speech, rather than for actual acts of violence they commit.
Seventh District Sen. Shelly Short (R) of Addy says she's exceedingly opposed to the legislation.
"I think this is a horrible bill. At what point should your free speech become something that needs to be targeted under this bill? Its language is very vague and it gives a huge amount of authority to the Attorney General's Office in a way that I believe runs counter to our constitutional freedom."
The bill would give government officials the authority to determine whose words and speech would be subject to criminal prosecution.
In addition, HB 1333 calls for the increased surveillance of Washington's citizens for any perceived violations of their words and speech - written, spoken, or otherwise implied.
Sen. Short says the legislation goes vastly too far in its scope of governance and targeting.
"The big problem with this bill is who it targets. When I think of domestic terrorism, I think of Timothy McVeigh and what happened in Las Vegas with the mass shooting there. But when we're getting to the point where our speech becomes regulated, that's a huge, huge red flag to me."
The bill calls for the identification of phrases, thoughts, and expressions that would be officially outlawed and encourages the creation of a system for citizens to report anyone seen or heard using them.
HB 1333 was introduced by 5th District Rep. Bill Ramos (D) of Issaquah and has a total of 22 sponsors, all of whom are Democrats.
It has received two public hearings since January 16 and is currently scheduled for a second reading in the House Rules Committee.