VIRGINIA GOVERNOR'S RACE
McDonnell Embraces Drug Courts, Lifetime Tracking of Sex Offenders in Crime Plan
Thursday, August 13, 2009
RICHMOND, Aug. 12 -- Republican gubernatorial candidate Robert F. McDonnell released a lengthy proposal Wednesday designed to curb crime in Virginia, including lifetime monitoring for sexual predators through the Global Positioning System and other technology.
The former prosecutor and attorney general also said he has reversed his position on drug courts and now supports opening more of them in the state after recent studies documented their successes.
McDonnell's announcement at the annual Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police conference in Newport News was the second of three about public safety. He released a plan to address gang violence in May, and a third announcement is expected next week.
"I think public safety is the first and foremost duty of government," he said in an interview. "If people don't feel secure in their homes and their neighborhoods and their businesses, they are not going to be free to pursue the American dream."
McDonnell acknowledged that some of his proposals might be opposed by members of his party in the General Assembly, which would need to approve them, but said he would be a governor who could forge compromises among both chambers and both parties.
His Democratic opponent, state Sen. R. Creigh Deeds (Bath), plans to release a public safety plan in the coming weeks. Deeds spokesman Mike Gehrke said McDonnell's plan is not comprehensive because it does not address money for law enforcement.
"After seeing the proposal, I'm pretty surprised that Bob McDonnell would stand in front of a room full of police chiefs and not offer one dime for officers on the street," Gehrke said.
The Democratic Party attacked McDonnell for voting against state budgets that included more money for the police and for opposing federal stimulus money that included more than $5 million in law enforcement grants.
Democrats have used the same attack -- accusing McDonnell of voting against funding -- on a variety of issues every day this week. McDonnell called their accusations "flat wrong."
"They are looking backward, as they have for a good part of this campaign," he said.
McDonnell's 14-page plan does not include a price tag, but he said he would pay for most of the cost through increasing the fees paid by people convicted of crimes, some of which have not been raised in four decades. Under his proposal, fees for misdemeanors would increase from $5 to $15, and fees for felonies would increase from $15 to $40.
Other proposals include: implementing tougher mandatory minimum sentences for repeat drug offenders; increasing the penalty for a convicted sex offender who fails to register with the state; creating an advisory board to tackle domestic violence; and requiring that juveniles charged with repeat violent felonies be tried as adults.