'Subversive' Law Still on WA Books

By Tom Bacon

You might think that abolishing old, useless, meaningless laws would be a fairly easy, routine part of legislative housekeeping. Not in Washington State.

Nearly 50 years ago, the U-S Supreme Court nullified a Cold War-era Washington law that banned "subversives" from holding a state office or teaching in a state university. But the law is still on the books. Its first sentence reads in part, "No subversive person …shall be eligible for employment in or appointment to any office..."

State Representative Joe Fitzgibbon, a Burien Democrat, last year figured it should be fairly easy to wipe out the old law. But he was wrong. Fitzgibbon;s bill made it through the House Judiciary Committee, but with four Republicans opposed. He tried again this year in the first and special legislative sessions. The repeal measure failed again when House leaders bottled it up in committee.

Spokane Valley GOP Representative Matt Shea even had a sharp rejoinder when Fitzgibbon brought up his bill in the judiciary committee. Shea contended that removing legal language that communism is subversive would be a slap in the face to Washington's Russian, Ukrainian, North Korean and Chinese populations.

Under the still existing Washington State law - toothless though it is - subversive activities are class B felonies, and membership in a subversive organization such as the Communist Party, is a class C felony. Anti-subversive language is no longer found anywhere in any Washington State oath of office. But the law is still on the books.
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