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March 01, 2010

It’s been a busy month here at the Attorney General’s Office, with the Legislature in special session and my announcement that Washington has joined a multi-state lawsuit challenging specific provisions of the recently passed federal health care bill. I will send you a separate Must Read on that lawsuit but, in the meantime, I want to share some other March highlights with you.

To begin with, it turned out to be a good year for the Attorney General’s Office on the legislative front, notwithstanding the many challenges facing our lawmakers this session,  Thanks to their bipartisan efforts and the hard work of my legislative and policy teams, we were able to pass some important new laws that support law enforcement, help consumers, update the state’s domestic violence statutes, restrict access to child pornography and bolster protections for seniors facing physical abuse or financial exploitation.

Also in March, I announced a $101,700 grant to increase the presence of Boys & Girls Clubs on tribal reservations in Washington.   And in my work to educate communities about the dangers of underage drinking, I had the great privilege and opportunity to team up with a fantastic role model for young people, Federal Way native and Olympic Champion Apolo Anton Ohno!

Campaigning to Stop Underage Drinking

Two weeks ago, when Apolo was wrapping up a national underage drinking campaign established by the Apolo Anton Ohno Foundation, in partnership with The Century Council and its Ask, Listen, Learn program, I joined him for the afternoon at Chinook Middle School in Bellevue.

The Ask, Listen, Learn campaign was launched by The Century Council in 2003, and uses interactive sessions to teach middle school kids and their parents about the dangers of underage drinking.  Although I’ve participated in many successful Century Council events, this one was particularly grand.   Apolo is a strong local role model whose enthusiasm and honesty captivated the young crowd, as he delivered a powerful message to kids about the importance of a healthy lifestyle, and encouraged them to say “No” to alcohol.

Boys & Girls Club Grants

America’s Boys & Girls Clubs have been helping kids for 150 years, since 1860. While more than 4 million boys and girls are served by 3,700 clubs across the country and beyond, in Washington state there is only one club designed to serve Native American kids in Washington state tribes.

Boys & Girls Clubs have a history of proven programs to support young people. Club kids are less likely to take drugs or commit crimes, and they are more likely to graduate from high school.  Because I believe young people in American Indian communities also deserve to have access to the positive, life-changing programs offered by Boys & Girls Clubs, I’ve provided a grant of $101,700 to help open more clubs in tribal communities.

The grant comes from settlements with firms, including large drug companies, sued over violations of the state’s Consumer Protection Act. It is a perfect fit with the Boys & Girls Clubs’ effective programs to prevent the abuse of prescription and other drugs.   The grant will pay for a Tribal Coordinator to navigate the complicated approval process between a non-profit association and a sovereign nation. The Boys & Girls Clubs hope to open at least two new facilities on tribal lands in the next couple of years.

AGO Success at the Legislature

Although the Legislature has yet to reach agreement on a supplemental budget, we’re very pleased with how our policy agenda fared.  We entered this session knowing how difficult it would be to move any bills this year, so we’re proud to claim these important victories for the people of Washington.  Click on these links to learn more about our bills.

Looking Ahead

On April 28, I’ll be presenting oral arguments in the final case before the U.S. Supreme Court this term.  Doe v. Reed concerns the potential release of Referendum 71 petitions containing the names and addresses of those who signed the measure.  The legal issue in the case is whether or not initiative and referendum signatures, gathered through a public for any ballot measure, are subject to public disclosure under our state public records act.  The federal district court ruled that no petitions, for any measure, can ever be released.  The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the district court, ruling in the state’s favor, and appeal was made to the Supreme Court.  I expect that the Ninth Circuit will be upheld (it does happen sometimes!) and that the case will then go back to district court to consider whether the R-71 petitions should receive special consideration.

We look forward to the opportunity to defend open government in the initiative and referendum process, both for the people of our state and for all people in states that offer the right to initiative and referendum. Twenty other states joined together to file an amicus brief supporting our position, from every corner of the country, including Massachusetts and South Carolina, Oregon and Utah. Pretty diverse group, all united in protecting accountability and transparency in the ballot measure process.

For updates on this case, and to find out what else is happening at the Attorney General’s Office, visit our website.   You can also follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Meanwhile, I hope you and yours are enjoying these early days of spring.

Rob McKenna
Attorney General

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