Issue Position: Protecting Our Health & Safety
Washington families should be safe and secure in their communities. Governor Chris Gregoire believes providing for public health and safety is one of her primary responsibilities. She has initiated changes that keep dangerous criminals off the streets, help communities fight crime, and improve our ability to respond to emergencies.
Preparing for Natural Disasters
Washington's location and climate may be optimal for enjoying the great outdoors, but nature can also cause great devastation. Governor Gregoire is leading the effort to address our state's earthquake, tsunami, volcano and wildfire hazards.
To help protect our coastal areas against a tsunami, Governor Gregoire initiated a six-point preparedness plan in 2005. Washington is installing twenty All-Hazard Alert Broadcasting radios along the coast to warn people in population centers of the threat of a tsunami and new communication equipment so first responders can talk to each other.
Governor Gregoire has also provided funds to meet the costs of fighting wildfires and retrofitting 180 Washington bridges to withstand a strong earthquake.
Securing our Borders
In addition to prioritizing security for our ferry system, the largest passenger ferry system in the country, Governor Gregoire has focused on both border and port security efforts. Governor Gregoire has met several times with the Prime Minister of British Columbia to address the issue of border security issues and public health. She believes well trained and fully staffed border patrols are our best defense.
Washington is the most trade dependent state in the nation, so ensuring efficient and safe ports protects our economy as well as our citizenry. As home to the third largest container shipping center in the United States, Washington has received nearly half of the federal funds available as part of the federal Operation Safe Commerce, championed by Senator Patty Murray. Governor Gregoire continues to work closely with Senator Murray and the rest of our Congressional delegates to pass legislation that provides adequate funding of our port security, Coast Guard, and first responder programs.
Strengthening Laws Against Sex Offenders
Governor Gregoire in 2006 signed into law a comprehensive package to protect the public, especially children, from sexual predators. New laws toughen sentences for sex offenders, protect children and teens from abuse by coaches, counselors, and mentors, and increase penalties for sex offenders who fail to register with the state. It is now easier than ever for law enforcement agencies to access sex offender records, enhancing the ability of police and schools to protect our children.
Governor Gregoire is dedicated to ensuring these tough sex offender laws are enforced. She signed a budget allocating over $50 million to increase prison capacity to make room to accommodate the increase in inmates due to stricter laws and longer sentences for sexual predators.
Preventing and solving crimes
Governor Gregoire is committed to giving our State Patrol the tools it needs to prevent and solve crimes. New crime labs in Vancouver and Spokane enable state and local police to solve crimes faster by allowing DNA samples and toxics tests from crime scenes and accidents to be processed more quickly. In 2006, Governor Gregoire provided additional funding to the State Patrol to add 18 new troopers, replacing troopers taken off highway patrol duty to screen state ferry traffic for terrorism threats.
Governor Gregoire has won funding for programs that bring together neighborhoods, schools, and police to steer children away from crime, prevent crime in neighborhoods, and respond to crime as a community when it happens. Governor Gregoire also preserved the state's crime victim compensation program by increasing funding to meet a rising number of claims for emergency and hospital services. Among this program's most important services is provision of forensic exams for sexual assault victims.
Under Governor Gregoire's leadership, Washington has witnessed a dramatic decline in the number of clandestine meth labs. This success has occurred through the coordinated efforts of community activists, prevention specialists, treatment providers, and law enforcement. Our success has also come from tough laws Governor Gregoire helped pass to regulate the chemicals used to produce meth such as pseudoephederine.
Governor Gregoire in 2006 signed into law a comprehensive anti-meth bill. The new law increased the number of drug treatment beds in prison; expanded the definition of neglect of children or vulnerable adults to include endangerment through the production of controlled substances; funded studies to determine how our state can be more effective in combating meth use; provided local health departments with the tools necessary to protect the public and cleanup contaminated meth production sites, and allocated $1.6 million dollars in state money to replace federal cuts. The new law also recognized the scourge that meth has had on our rural communities and created three new regional task forces in the Southwest, Southeast, and Northwest corners of our state to prevent meth trafficking.
Moving Washington Forward
It is impossible to prevent catastrophes and disasters - natural or man-made - from sometimes disrupting our lives. But by remaining attentive and actively protecting our communities, we can rest assured in the knowledge that we are as safe as possible. Governor Gregoire continues to prioritize our common safety, so we can continue to build a strong future.
Governor Gregoire's pandemic flu task force is working to refine the state's preparedness plan , already among the best in the nation. Governor Gregoire continues to meet with the Prime Minister of British Columbia to plan for joint response to border security issues. Regional meth task forces across the state are fighting the affects of meth addition and associated crime.