Here are more of the key issues our Chiefs and Sheriffs Associations are working on in Olympia during this session.
BOATING SAFETYIssue: Several recent state-commissioned studies have highlighted the need for increased resources for state and local boating safety programs. A spate of serious boating tragedies this past season underscores the continuing need for an increased law enforcement presence on Washington's waterways. There are currently 52 registered boating safety programs approved by the Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission, but they lack the resources to meet the demand for on-the-water enforcement and training. Additionally, it is not clear that the Parks and Recreation Commission's Boating Safety Program is maximizing existing funding to the greatest extent possible to aid law enforcement in increasing public safety.
Proposal: Enact legislation directing the Parks and Recreation Commission and the Recreation and Conservation Office, in consultation with WASPC and members of the recreational boating community, to review and make recommendations regarding funding for boating programs and various aspects of boating and boating safety. These areas include law enforcement presence and inspections on the water, increased boating enforcement, training, and ensuring that boating funds are maximized for public safety and overall efficiency.
Funding: Based on the fiscal note, a request of up to $500,000 in funding from the Recreational Resource Account.
Status: SSB 5691 in House General Government Appropriations Committee
We're watching this closely. It could result in funds being applicable to our county in this area.
SEX OFFENDER ADDRESS VERIFICATION CONTINUATIONIssue: In the wake of the tragic 2007 murder of Zina Linnik, the Governor convened a task force to review sex offender policy in Washington and to make recommendations. One recommendation was increased funding to law enforcement to conduct in-person address verifications of all registered sex offenders. To support this recommendation for FY 09 WASPC received $5 million to provide counties and cities grants to conduct increased sex offender address verification as well as DNA collection. WASPC allocated those grants in the summer of 2008 and recipients are to report to WASPC quarterly.
Proposal: Maintain funding at $5m/yr to enable law enforcement to continue the increased monitoring of sex offenders.
Status: Currently in the Governor's Budget
Here's another one we're watching. We use current funding to provide a designated officer, Dep. Bob Langendorfer, to check on registered sex offenders for both Wahkiakum and Pacific counties. Continuation of this funding is absolutely essential.
WASHINGTON AUTO THEFT PREVENTION AUTHORITYIssue: The Washington Auto Theft Prevention Authority was established in 2007 to combat Washington's significant auto theft rates. The Authority is funded by the WATPA Account, which receives a $10 surcharge per traffic infraction. WATPA approved $4,435,500 to public agencies for FY 08-09 to reduce motor vehicle theft. Funding was allocated for a variety of activities, including multi-jurisdictional task forces, prosecution, Automated License Plate Readers and other equipment, confinement, and public education.
Proposal: Maintain funding at $10 million to continue grant awards allocated in 2008 and the successful work of the Authority. Support one-time diversion of $4 million/biennium to support gang intervention, if account is otherwise intact.
Here's an area that WASPC is willing to divert some funding from in order to fill other priorities.
MAINTAIN PRISON CAPACITYAt over 6.5 million in population, Washington state is the 13th largest state in the country. According to the recently released PEW study, Washington atate's incarceration rate ranks 44th in the country. Comparatively, Washington state's supervision rate ranks 12th in the country. Preserving our limited prison bed space is a public safety priority.
We feel very strongly about keeping consequences for criminal behavior meaningful.
REDUCE SUPERVISION OF LOW RISK OFFENDERS
Recent studies by the Washington State Institute for Public Policy show limited benefit to minimal supervision of low risk offenders. These studies, coupled with our reliance on supervision over incarceration, mean that budget cuts targeting supervision do the least harm to public safety.
Here's a case of no good choice.
SHORTEN SUPERVISION LENGTHSSupervision is most effective when implemented immediately upon release from prison or jail. A moderate reduction in supervision length does not seriously impact public safety goals, as long as the remaining term of supervision involves frequent contact with offenders and aggressive intervention upon violation of conditions of supervision.
Do the least harm; not a good choice but better than early release.
I know this is probably my longest column. It's all important stuff. As we approach the adoption of the state's budget, which helps fund our local criminal justice efforts, I hope that you will be interested enough to call our local state legislators and get involved. You are listened to, and your opinions help.
Please contact all of your legislators and let them know your priorities.
Rep. Dean Takko: 360-786-7806
Rep. Brian Blake: 360-786-7870
Sen. Brian Hatfield: 360-786-7636