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The Pivotal Law Blog

Seattle ordinance requires landlords to give out voter registration info

Posted Wednesday, June 21, 2017 by Christopher L. Thayer

landlordsOn Monday, the Seattle City Council voted unanimously to require that Seattle landlords give tenants voter registration information as part of an already required information packet on housing laws.

Studies have shown that people on the move vote at lower rates, the ordinance says. While 41 percent of renters in their homes for more than five years reported voting in 2014, only 21 percent who had lived in their homes for less than one year reported voting, the ordinance says, citing U.S. Census Bureau data.

The ordinance will go into effect 30 days after Mayor Ed Murray signs it.

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REAL ID Compliance: What Washingtonians need to know

Posted Wednesday, June 14, 2017 by Pivotal Law Group

InsleeThe REAL ID Act, passed by Congress in 2005, set standards for the issuance of sources of identification, such as driver’s licenses. Here’s the latest update residents of Washington need to know.

  • Washington’s standard driver’s license/identification card does not meet the standards required under the REAL ID Act. Washington also offers “enhanced” IDs that are compliant with this Federal law. Unlike standard IDs, enhanced IDs require proof of citizenship and contain other security features.

  • Last month, Governor Jay Inslee signs a bill seeking to bring Washington state into compliance with the REAL ID Act. Starting July 2018, the standard IDs will be marked to indicate they are not REAL ID compliant.

  • Washington residents will still be able to choose which ID they want. Those with standard IDs will eventually need to provide REAL ID complaint identification, such as a passport, for domestic air travel and other federal purposes.

  • Washington state officials have asked for an extension from enforcement of federal requirements for state driver’s licenses and ID cards through October 2020, but so far the feds have only granted an extension through July 10.

  • Washington lawmakers expect their request for an extension to October 2020 will be granted. If, however, the extension is not granted, Washington residents could be required to show REAL ID compliant identification for federal purposes as early as January 2018.

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Legislative Update: Tougher distracted driving law goes into effect July of this year

Posted Wednesday, June 7, 2017 by Pivotal Law Group

DrivingOn July 23, 2017, Washington’s new distracted-driving law goes into effect. The Legislature had agreed to postpone its implementation to 2019, but Governor Jay Inslee vetoed that compromise provision. As a result, drivers have just a few weeks to familiarize themselves with these new rules.

Currently, drivers are prohibited from “holding a wireless communications device to his or her ear,” as well as sending, reading, or writing a text message, while driving.

The new law is much broader, and prohibits nearly all uses of handheld electronic devices while driving. Note: driving includes not only when the vehicle is moving but also when temporarily stopped, such as at a stop sign, traffic light, or in traffic. It does not include times when the driver has pulled off the roadway where the vehicle “can safely remain stationary.”

The new distracted-driving law defines “personal electronic device” as “any portable electronic device that is capable of wireless communication or electronic data retrieval,” unless the device is “manufactured primarily for hands-free use in a motor vehicle.” It includes devices such as cell phones, tablets, laptops, two-way messaging devices, and electronic games, but this list is not exclusive.

The prohibited “uses” include: - Holding a personal electronic device in either hand or both hands; - Using your hand or finger to compose, send, read, view, access, browse, transmit, save, or retrieve email, text messages, instant messages, photographs, or other electronic data; and - Watching videos.

The law does allow for “the minimal use of a finger to activate, deactivate, or initiate a function of the device.” It also does not prohibit using such a device if it is to contact emergency services.

Any person who violates this law is guilty of a traffic infraction subject to a $136 fine. This is a primary offense, meaning the police can pull someone over just for committing this infraction. In the event of a second infraction, the fine increases to $235. Distracted-driving citations will also be reported on a motorist’s driving record, which can affect a driver’s insurance rates.

Additionally, the new law makes it a traffic infraction to “drive dangerously distracted,” which is defined as “engag[ing] in any activity not related to the actual operation of a motor vehicle in a manner that interferes with the safe operation of such motor vehicle on any highway.” This could include activities such as grooming or eating while driving. Driving dangerously distracted is a secondary offense, meaning it is not enforced unless the driver is detained for a suspected violation of a separate infraction.

Violation of this secondary infraction is subject to a $30 fine, which will go into a distracted driving prevention account to be used to support programs “dedicated to reducing distracted driving and improving driver education on distracted driving.”

This law makes great strides towards modernizing Washington law to address how changes in technology have affected people’s behavior on the road.

Photo credit: April10 033, used under the Creative Commons license.

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Swedish neurosurgeons double-booked surgeries

Posted Wednesday, May 31, 2017 by Pivotal Law Group

XRayWhen having surgery, patients have many questions for their doctors. One question most patients probably don’t ask is: Will you be in the operating room during the entire procedure? Now, news from Swedish health suggests patients should add this question to their ever-growing list.

In recent years, some of Swedish’s top brain and spine surgeons routinely ran multiple operating rooms at the same time while keeping patients in the dark about the practice, according to internal surgery data obtained by The Seattle Times as well as interviews with patients and medical staffers.

Four surgeons at the Swedish Neuroscience Institute — [Rod] Oskouian, David Newell, Johnny Delashaw and Jens Chapman — ran multiple operating rooms during more than half their cases over the past three years, according to the data. Oskouian did it 70 percent of the time. To manage two rooms, surgeons generally leave less-experienced doctors receiving specialized training to handle parts of the surgery.

Between 2014 and 2016, there were more than 200 instances when surgeons began two cases at the same time or within five minutes of each other. When doctors ran multiple operating rooms, they typically overlapped their cases for more than an hour, according to the data. More than 700 of the surgeries were entirely eclipsed by other cases the attending surgeon was handling.

Most patients interviewed by the Seattle Times said they had never heard or considered this double-booking might occur, and would not have consented to surgery had they known.

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Seattle ordinance confirms it's OK to to record police officers

Posted Tuesday, May 23, 2017 by Christopher L. Thayer

PolicePeople often ask the question whether it’s legal for the public to record police activity. On Monday, the Seattle City Council voted to codify that right into the Seattle Municipal Code.

The First Amendment can offer protections to members of the public when they watch and record police. And a Seattle Police Department policy adopted in 2008 says bystanders may remain nearby and record the incident as long as they don’t interfere.

So, people already were allowed to watch and record police in Seattle. But the council’s vote means the rights of police observers are now recognized in city law.

The only exceptions are when an observer hinders, delays or compromises legitimate police activity, threatens someone’s safety or attempts to incite other people to violence.

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Photo credit: Watching Them Back, used under the Creative Commons license.

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