Issue Position: First Responders & Crime Prevention
Senator Maria Cantwell is a long-time advocate for local law enforcement and firefighters. She understands that our first responders need adequate funds, training and technology to keep the citizens of Washington safe, and she deeply appreciates their efforts on the front lines for our safety and security. Maria has worked to help law enforcement combat meth, stop ID theft, and keep firefighters fully equipped.
Protecting Children from Sex Offenders
To stop heinous crimes against children, Maria has fought continuously for the creation of a comprehensive national sex offender database. Current databases operate on a state-by-state basis, which can hinder coordination and prevents information on all sex offenders from appearing in one place. In addition, many states currently have inadequate measures in place to ensure up-to-date and accurate information, meaning that the current national registry today is poorly coordinated and full of out-of-date listings. The nationwide database called for by Maria and passed by the Senate in July 2006 as part of the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act, would track all sex offenders' addresses, employment, vehicles, and criminal history, as well as photos and identification information. It would also strengthen enforcement.
Getting First Responders the Resources They Need
Maria has worked to make sure our first responders have the resources they need to do their job as effectively as possible, and has fought an administration proposal to eliminate counter-terrorism funding for state and local law enforcement. She has continuously fought proposed cuts to first responder funding, backing legislation to restore $790 million in first responder grant funding this year, and has worked to get them the equipment and support needed to address vulnerabilities. This year, she also voted to support $16 billion in badly needed homeland security funding. Only by providing the adequate support, can we honor and equip the men and women who are working around the clock to keep our families and communities safe.
Helping Law Enforcement Fight Meth
Maria has worked tirelessly to increase funding for anti-meth programs, and to move meth ingredients behind pharmacy counters. Earlier this year, Maria worked with her colleagues to include the Combat Meth Act and other anti-meth measures in legislation to re-authorize the Patriot Act. This new law restricts the sale of products used to produce meth and gives new tools to states, law enforcement, and prosecutors working to combat meth. The legislation bolsters the Meth Hot Spots program, which provides grants to states and communities to clean up meth labs, purchase equipment, and train state and local law enforcement officials to investigate and convict meth offenders. Maria also worked with Congressman Brian Baird to create National Meth Prevention Day, and has introduced legislation to curb meth trafficking over the U.S.-Canada border. She also championed legislation passed unanimously by the Senate in July 2006 to authorize $40 million in new annual funding to help children harmed by meth.
Maria is also working to address the growing connection between meth and identity theftan issue raised often during Maria's meetings with law enforcement officials from across Washington state. For example, according to the Spokane County Sheriff, 100 percent of the county's large-scale identity theft cases in 2004 included meth connections. In response, Maria introduced legislation to begin a national study of this troubling trend as well as ways to give law enforcement additional resource in the fight against both crimes. The Commerece Committee approved this study in early 2007.
Stopping Identity Theft
Maria's legislation to fight identity theft, the Fair and Accurate Transactions Act, was signed into law in 2003, providing law enforcement officials and identity theft victims with the tools they need to battle the nation's fastest-growing crime. Maria's bill helps ensure that identity theft victims are able to protect their credit rating from further damage by requiring credit reporting agencies to block information on fraudulent transactions resulting from identity theft. It also created a standardized process for a person to establish that they are a victim of identity theft, and allows law enforcement to act as the victim's agent in obtaining business records. Finally, the new law requires that once a business verifies that an individual is a victim of identity theft, the business has 30 days to provide all relevant application and transaction records to the victim.
Maria supported the Assistance to Firefighters Act of 2004, which expanded grants for firefighter programs and reduced matching fund requirements for volunteer EMS organizations. She also backed the Rural Fire Department Equipment Priority Act, which required the Pentagon to give surplus military equipment to rural firefighting agencies.
Improving Safety for Wildland Firefighters
In 2001, four forest firefighters lost their lives fighting the Thirtymile Fire north of Winthrop. Following the fire, Maria worked with Representative Doc Hastings to pass a new law that injects independence into investigations of forest firefighter fatalities. Specifically, this law requires that the USDA Inspector General, not just the Forest Service, conduct investigations. This new law is a start, but Maria believes we still need to do more. A U.S. Department of Agriculture report released earlier this year found that the Forest Service did not have a procedure to verify the qualifications of some contract firefighters. The report found that roughly one in three firefighters sampled either did not meet national qualifications or that training records were inadequate. It is critical to ensure that all wildland firefighters get the training they need. To help make sure this happens, Maria introduced legislation to require a system to track the money spent on training, create a federal program to monitor and enforce compliance with training requirements, and mandate that federally contracted firefighters receive the same training as federal firefighters