Here are some helpful links to the Washington State Legislature:
To find your district, go to District Finder. You can find your legislator here also.
I will include, shortly, a form letter that might be sent to ask your legislator to repair the guardianship program or to support a bill that has been suggested.
She explained the process to me. The citizen writes the bill, the senator signs it - a preliminary signing - and sends it to the code reviser. The code reviser rewrites the bill in legal language. From there it goes to the appropriate committees. That's when the "fun" begins. It is the citizen's responsibility to lobby for the bill, familiarize the legislators with the bill, and urge them to accept it. If it passes a senate vote, then it goes to the house and the process begins again. If it passes the house, then it goes to the governor. She may sign it or veto it. At that point, the bill may be the same as when it was submitted, or it could have changed form entirely.
My primary interest, at this point, is in legislation that will require that the guardianship program to be monitored - really monitored, and that that monitoring lead to the identification and removal of predatory guardianships. As it stands today, the judiciary is responsible for monitoring the program. The judicial community, however, has abdicated that responsibility, thus, creating a subculture of predatory guardians who exploit rather than protect the vulnerable. Our citizens deserve better.
The aide suggested that I send the write-up of my mother's experience and the LA article along with a cover letter to each and every member of the legislature. That needs to be followed by in-person visits to the head of each committee. As someone on the list suggested, if you get the committee leader on the side of your bill, he or she can probably bring along the other members. Larger groups need to be addressed and informed again of the need for the bill and the problems it addresses. If it passes the senate, then the bill has to be lobbied, in the same manner, in the house.
I can do the e-mailing and the letter writing. I can arrange to meet with and speak to the larger groups. What I probably can't do is be in the capitol often enough to meet with all the committees. To really persuade, I think it's almost necessary to be a daily presence. My circumstances won't permit me to be in Olympia to do the kind of lobbying that I think is required, so I've decided to just test the waters this year. I'll do the e-mailing, letter writing, and calling. I'll present to the larger groups, etc. That will give me a sense of what I need to do and will have planted the seed in the legislators minds, when and if my circumstances change and I can spend a lot of time with the members.
My goal is to get the monitoring out of the hands of the judiciary who are only pretending (if that) to do it anyway. If you have any ideas how this might be accomplished, please let me know. I have already received a number of excellent suggestions. I have also requested information from AARP regarding how other states have dealt with the monitoring problem. Lack of monitoring, as I understand it, has been the nemesis of the program from the beginning.
My bill will concern itself with monitoring only. Other areas that are in critical need of reform is the manner in which citizens are declared "incapacitated" resulting in a loss of most, if not all, of the rights of citizenship. Who is making that determination is of concern also - usually a judge relying on the advice of a GAL. The relationship of the GAL to the guardianship is a concern also. Often the guardianship is selected by the GAL. If the GAL has participated in determining incapacity (and he or she often has done just that), and then sends the private pay to his or her chosen guardianship, then there is room for all kinds of abuse. I would like to see GAL's eliminated entirely, and the responsibility for recommending capacity or incapacity put in the hands of those more suited for making such a determination.
Reform in every aspect of this program would be expedited with media coverage. I have sent materials, e-mails, and calls to print and video media.
March 29, 2006
We met this morning with Senator Jacobsen and Aldo Melchiori who is a PhD and JD counsel for the Senate Judiciary. A number of WA State citizens shared their concerns about the unmonitored guardianship program . Our two guests took copious notes. Senator Jacobsen remarked that he had a lot to learn. We are sending them resources. We will be checking in with them and their aides to see what progress is being made in the ten month interim. We are hoping for a bill that will take the monitoring out of the hands of the judiciary (where it is not being done anyway) and that will make the declaration of incapacity adhere to the constitutional protections afforded the lowest criminal.
It was amazing. There was a dazzling variety of details in the experiences that revealed this loathsome program to each of us. But there was a uniformity of disappointment, disgust, and despair in the judicial system. It was agreed that the pride formerly shared in our country and in our form of justice had been trashed and was a thing of the past. The aftertaste of a corrupt judiciary is a bitter one.