Sen. Benton’s bills criticized by racial justice group

Several of Sen. Don Benton’s bills drew criticism from a racial and economic justice group, whose members demonstrated outside of his office on Monday.

The Washington Community Action Network gave Benton “WARNING” signs to highlight “the dangerous impact of his proposed legislation on people of color and low-income families,” the group said.

They object to Benton’s bill requiring that certain welfare recipients be drug tested (Senate Bill 5585), his bill requiring parents be notified if their under-age daughters are seeking abortions (Senate Bill 5156), and his bill that prevents illegal immigrants from obtaining driver licenses (Senate Bill 5012).

Benton’s Senate Bill 5087 would prevent illegal immigrants from qualifying for in-state tuition and financial aid for college.

Benton, R-Vancouver, also has introduced legislation (Senate Bill 5015) that would expand the death penalty, a punishment that disproportionately affects black defendants, according to WCAN. The proposal would allow prosecutors to skip some steps in pursuing the death penalty for a defendant convicted of murdering a child who was 14 years or younger.

That bill has passed out of the Senate Committee on Law and Justice.

It doesn’t appear that Benton’s other pieces of legislation WCAN opposes will make it past today’s bill deadline. Today is the last day for many bills to make it out of their policy committees in the chambers they were introduced. Bills considered necessary to hammer out the budget are exempt from the deadline.

Twenty percent of those living in Benton’s 17th Legislative District are people of color, according to a report by WCAN that grades Benton and other Clark County legislators based on last year’s legislative session.

WCAN’s report is endorsed by several unions and civil rights organizations.

Stevie Mathieu: 360-735-4523 or or or

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