OLYMPIA - Resource-starved rural counties are one step closer to receiving state reinforcement in their battle against methamphetamine. As the Legislature adjourns, Attorney General Rob McKenna has secured approval for his “Operation: Allied Against Meth” legislation and the bulk of the funding necessary to implement the bill. The legislation and the funding now await approval by the Governor.
“Washington’s rural law enforcement officers are on the frontlines of a growing battle against methamphetamine and they need our help,” McKenna said. “This bill is vitally important to rescuing drug-endangered children, reducing property crimes, getting addicts into treatment and cleaning up contaminated properties. With bipartisan support from across the state, I’m confident the Governor will sign this bill into law.”
Senate Bill 6239 directs $1.575 million in funding each year through 2010 to be split across three multi-jurisdictional pilot enforcement areas in:
- Pacific, Wahkiakum, Lewis, Grays Harbor and Cowlitz counties;
- Walla Walla, Columbia, Garfield, and Asotin counties; and
- Stevens, Ferry, Pend Oreille, and Lincoln counties.
It provides a minimum of $4 million in state and federal funding for multi-jurisdictional drug task forces and local government drug prosecution assistance.
The bill also outlines strategies in public education, clean-up, governance and sentencing to reduce the number of people addicted to meth, increase treatment and make sentencing and incarceration more effective for meth addicts.
“Over the last several years, the Legislature has been successful in reducing the number of home meth labs, but as that threat has been reduced, the drug traffickers have come in and treatment needs continue to grow,” McKenna said. “This bill is a balanced approach that treats addiction while stepping up the fight against trafficking. That’s the next front in the battle against meth and it will require more law enforcement and treatment resources across our state.”
McKenna thanked the members of his Operation: Allied Against Meth Task Force for their work in developing the recommendations for the legislation, specifically mentioning Sen. Jim Hargrove, D-Hoquiam, prime sponsor of the bill, and chair of one of the Operation: Allied Against Meth Task Force subcommittees.
Child Protection Legislation
McKenna also won passage of a comprehensive package of bills to protect children from sex predators. The bills were recommended and drafted by the Attorney General’s Sexually Violent Predator Unit, in consultation with law enforcement, prosecutors and victims’ advocates.
Senate Bill 6775 was requested by McKenna after he learned the Bellevue parks director was not legally authorized to keep known sex predators away from children. The bill, the first of its kind in the nation, gives employees at public and private facilities authority to ask known sex predators to stay away from areas where children are and creates a new crime called Criminal Trespass against Children.
“Sex predators are called predators for a reason,” McKenna said. “They find new prey by hanging out in areas where children congregate, like swimming pools, parks and community centers. This bill is unique because it gives employees authority to ask sex predators to stay away and if those predators come back, they can be charged with a felony crime punishable by a maximum five years in prison and a $10,000 fine.”
Senate Bill 6410, requested by McKenna to make permanent statewide residency restrictions approved by the Legislature in 2005, which prohibit sex offenders from living within 880 feet of a public or private school, was incorporated into Senate Bill 6325.
Senate Bill 6460, requested by McKenna, creates mandatory prison terms for crimes committed with sexual motivation, including a minimum one year for class C felonies, double enhancements for second-time offenders and a clarification that enhancements can be added to misdemeanors as well.
Senate Bill 6406 makes second degree assault of child with sexual motivation a “strike” under the state’s “Two Strikes, You’re Out” law for sex offenses.
Senate Bill 6408, requested by McKenna to extend the statute of limitations in cases where a suspect is identified through DNA testing, was amended onto Senate Bill 5042.
Senate Bill 6407, requested by McKenna to increase the penalty for possession of child pornography from an unranked felony to a Level VI with a minimum one year of prison time, was incorporated into Senate Bill 6172.
Senate Bill 6405, requested by McKenna to strengthen the sex offender registration statute by requiring more frequent registration for the most dangerous offenders, was incorporated into Senate Bill 6519, which requires level III sex offenders to register every 90 days.
Identity Theft and Government Liability Standards
The Attorney General’s Office was also successful in advancing the debate on key identity theft legislation and government liability standards. McKenna plans to introduce a comprehensive package of identity theft legislation based on the Attorney General’s November 2005 Identity Theft Summit.
McKenna’s biggest disappointment of the session was the death of his reporter shield legislation.
“Despite bipartisan sponsorship, despite overwhelming support in the House of Representatives and despite the Governor’s promise to sign the bill, our shield legislation died on the floor of the Senate without a vote,” McKenna said. “While I’m very disappointed, I’m grateful to those who supported the bill and plan to reintroduce it in 2007.”
Janelle Guthrie, AG Media Relations Director, (360) 586-0725