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'I miss Sam every day': Sam Martinez's mother reacts as Inslee signs Sam's Law into effect

The law requires colleges and universities to publicly report hazing and to educate incoming students about hazing.

OLYMPIA, Wash. — Jolayne Houtz has been working to honor her son, Sam Martinez, since his death on Nov. 12, 2019.

Martinez died of alcohol poisoning after an event at the Alpha Tau Omega fraternity, during which Martinez's family says he was hazed. Wednesday was a big day for Houtz.

"Oh, I have a lot of emotions today. I have been waiting for this moment, and I guess the first thing to say is this wouldn't have happened without a whole army of people behind us supporting us," Houtz said.

The moment she was waiting for was the signing of Sam's Law, named after her late son. Inslee signed the bill just after 2 p.m.

"I want to thank Sam's parents for advocating for this bill as well," Inslee said during the signing.

The bill prohibits hazing in Washington state and sets new requirements for colleges and universities. The first part will require colleges and universities to publicly report incidents of hazing so that families and students can be better informed.

Houtz said this was something she wishes was in place when Sam chose WSU.

"I don't have any doubt about it, but Sam would still be alive today. I looked online for information about the Greek system at WSU and I found nothing troubling," Houtz said.

The bill also requires colleges and universities to hold orientations with new students that educates them on hazing and how to report it. The signing is the latest step in Houtz and Sam's father Hector Martinez's efforts to honor their son.

"It provides some solace, but closure, I'm not sure we'll ever get to closure. I miss Sam every single day, and so does his sister and his dad and our lives will never be the same again," Houtz said.

Sam's parents aren't done yet. Next year, they plan on pushing the legislature to make hazing a felony, as it's now only a gross misdemeanor.

"We will be asking once again for lawmakers to approve this final piece of the puzzle to make sure we can protect students and send a very clear message that hazing is absolutely not acceptable in our state," Houtz said.

In addition to harsher penalties, it would also increase the statute of limitations for hazing charges. The Pullman Police Department's investigation lasted too long to bring forward hazing charges.

Houtz also said she was thankful for the work that Representative Mari Leavitt put into the bill. Leavitt - who represents part of the Tacoma area - sponsored the bill.

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