The Legislator Award, part of Forefront’s 2017 Champions of Change Awards, honors the critical role that lawmakers and elected officials play in suicide prevention.
“Breaking ground on this park is the result of a great deal of work by community members who had a vision to improve our region and are making it happen,” said Sen. Fain (R-Auburn), who secured a $650,000 grant for the park in the state’s 2013 capital budget. “Providing opportunities for families to recreate is vitally important to this growing area. I cannot wait to see the incredible community asset this park will be for many years."
With a rise in violent gang activity in South King County over the last year, state lawmakers sought and secured funding in the new state budget to help prevent street gangs, especially among young people.
Sen. Joe Fain, R-Auburn, and Reps. Tina Orwall, D-Des Moines and Eric Pettigrew, D-Seattle, built on previous efforts to improve public safety and prevent at-risk youth from joining gangs.
“Working on gang prevention and intervention policies for a few years, we’ve learned a great deal about how kids get drawn into juvenile gangs, and we need to focus on innovative practices to break the criminal cycle before it breaks our young people,” Orwall said. “These dollars will go toward research on best practices for effective interventions to keep young adults from getting involved in gang activity that harms not only themselves, their families and neighborhoods, but endangers entire communities.”
Gang activity forces people to live with the daily threat of intimidation and harassment. Crimes such as drug dealing, vandalism, theft of personal property and automobiles, assault, rape and murder are prevalent in communities where gang membership is on the rise. Even people who are not directly affected by gang-activity also share in the indirect costs such as lower property values and higher insurance premiums, and first-responders are increasingly vulnerable to personal injury or death when responding to gang-related crimes.
The new 2017-19 state budget approved at the end of June includes $1 million for a grant program for areas with the greatest criminal street gang problems. Grants are eligible to local governments and non-profit organizations who collaborate and can demonstrate effective prevention and intervention efforts in the past. Grant recipients are also required to report on how effective the funding has been for improving community safety and the effect it’s had on at-risk youth.
“Gang violence is not isolated to one area and affects all of us throughout South King County,” Fain said. “Providing young people with alternatives to gangs makes our neighborhoods safer and ensures a better life for at-risk youth now and in the future.”
In May, city officials and police chiefs from Auburn, Des Moines, Federal Way, Kent, Renton and other South King County cities announced a joint task force following a rise in gang activity and violence in 2017. This includes the Valley Enforcement Gangs and Narcotics Task Force, which is supported by the FBI and other national agencies.
“We know that once a young person has gotten involved in a gang or the criminal justice system it is very difficult to shift course,” Pettigrew said. “Several years ago I was able to secure funding to support young adults in avoiding or moving away from gangs, helping young people avoid mistakes that can follow them for the rest of their lives. These programs have already made a difference in our communities and I am glad that we were able to continue funding this ongoing work.”
The lawmakers also secured $75,000 for the Juvenile Rehabilitation Program, part of the state Department of Social and Health Services, to collect and analyze data from juvenile gang and gun offenses. The results will allow state officials to better target solutions and improve prevention efforts. Following review, the department will also make research-based recommendations to the Legislature that could improve public safety.
“At a time when we are seeing a significant increase in gun violence in South King County – often with direct ties back to gang violence – I and other Police Chiefs applaud the Operating Budget funding by the Legislature to continue gang intervention grants, to update and fully populate a gang data-base to give us accurate information, and to help gather more detailed numbers regarding juvenile firearms usage,” said Kent Police Chief Ken Thomas. “I truly appreciate the bipartisan leadership of Senator Joe Fain and Representative Tina Orwall on this issue, as well as the work of other legislators such as Reps. Eric Pettigrew and Pat Sullivan.”
Republican Sen. Joe Fain, sponsor of the legislation, said Senate Bill 5256 aligns sexual assault protection orders with other orders for crimes such as domestic violence, stalking or harassment.
"There's no reason why these victims should be treated any differently," Fain said. "He or she should have the opportunity to protect themselves permanently, not just temporarily."
Fain says this change has taken a long time because of concerns about misreporting and because the protection orders, which are obtained in court, can also allow a judge to limit an attacker’s gun rights. Fain says this year’s proposals strike the right balance between protecting victims and the need for sensible gun regulations.
Fain is correct. This sensible change is long overdue.
“The idea that a person, under their own volition, can make a decision about what is in their own best interest — that seems reasonable,” Fain said earlier this month. Fain said he hadn’t brought it up with other Republicans and couldn’t say what kind of reception they might give, but added that he saw “a lot of common ground” in the proposal.
“These kind of things can be bipartisan,” Fain said. “Gun violence and gun deaths affect everyone.”
Fain, the only Republican to sponsor the bill, calls it “more of a values statement” than a practical piece of legislation. “I actually don’t have much fear that the federal government will embark on the path of a registration based on someone’s personal religious beliefs,” he says, “but since I find doing so completely objectionable, I don’t have any problem putting my name in opposition” by sponsoring the bill.
A first-in-the-nation new law providing for privileged communication between a person undergoing drug or alcohol addiction treatment and their recovery sponsor goes into effect today in Washington state.
The change sponsored by state Sen. Joe Fain, R-Auburn, recognizes the important role sponsors play in substance abuse treatment by providing support, advice and accountability for recovering addicts.
Criminal street gangs are a serious burden in Central and South King County. Gang violence is not a new phenomenon and needs to be addressed. The most fertile ground for the spread of gangs is the hearts and minds of our youth. At a young age, our most vulnerable children are making decisions that could lead them to a lifetime of violence and criminal behavior. In order to address the problem, we must look to prevention and early interventions.
“The levees are incredibly important to homeowners and businesses threatened by flooding throughout the Kent Valley,” Fain said. “A well designed and constructed levee improves the quality of life and saves money for valley residents. It also moves us toward certification, which would lower flood-insurance premiums in the area and keep the valley's economic engine strong.”
“Too often victims of sex trafficking suffer severe personal and legal consequences while those that forced them into the situation get away with much less,” said Sen. Joe Fain in a press release. “Legal records for those forced into prostitution as a minor shouldn’t prohibit their ability to get a job and participate fully in society.”
Washington has a part-time, citizen Legislature. This means lawmakers gather in Olympia anywhere from two to four months per year to debate policy and vote on changes to state law. However, the job is anything but part-time; lawmakers spend the full year working with constituents, researching potential legislation and, for many, also working their day jobs.