State Agencies and Local Emergency Management Departments to be Required to Provide Public Safety Notices and Communications in Foreign Languages – Another Unfunded Mandate

Both the Senate and the House have held hearings on SB 5046/HB 1540 which would require state agencies and local emergency management entities to provide emergency-related materials and assistance in languages other than English in circumstances when a significant segment of the community speaks a language other than English involving an imminent or emergent public health, safety, or welfare risk, as well as proposed locations for criminal facilities or facilities intended to house sex offenders.  Significant segment is defined as 5% or more of residents, or 500 residents, whichever is fewer, residing in the city, town, or county affected.  Furthermore, the agencies are required to implement these provisions within existing funds. 

We testified opposed to the bill, along with the Association of Washington Cities (Cities), not because it is a bad policy, but because of its fiscal implications.  We informed the committee that if this is a policy that they want to adopt, they should provide funding for this mandate because the state is already asking counties to do many things related to public safety that counties are already struggling to fund including public defense, sheriffs, jails, and roads.  The Cities pointed out that many of the requirements within the bill are unachievable and need to be re-worked.  The bill is scheduled for executive action in the House on February 2nd.   


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Juliana Roe comes to WSAC with almost a decade of experience working as non-partisan staff in the Washington State Senate. She has a strong legal background and knowledge of our court system as she served as a law clerk for Chief Justice Alexander for the Washington State Supreme Court, as well as a Deputy Prosecuting Attorney for the Pierce County Prosecutor’s Office. Juliana received her Juris Doctorate from Seattle University School of Law, and her Bachelor of Arts from the University of Washington. She represents WSAC on issues relating to public safety, law and justice, and human services.

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