Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Washington State Attorney General Rob McKenna's June "Must Read"


Hopefully, you had the opportunity to spend time with family and friends over the Memorial Day weekend. In case you hadn’t heard, the extreme heat wave that hit the West Coast just before the holiday wasn’t the only big recorder-breaker for our state. Here at the AGO, we reached a record-breaking settlement with a drug maker that brings $1.6 million to our state as part of the largest multistate consumer protection settlement involving the drug industry in U.S. history!

Other consumer protection highlights at the AGO over the past month were free shredding in Bellingham, outreach to Eastern Washington manufactured homeowners and landlords, a multi-state $9.5 million settlement with one of the nation’s largest pharmacy benefits management companies, and another spyware victory.

And, while it is typical that much of our work here is focused on protecting children, this past month we’ve been exceptionally busy on that front.

Supporting national safe child product standards

I recently urged members of Congress to adopt legislation that would strengthen the ability of state attorneys general to protect consumers from lead-tainted products. Moreover, the Vermont Attorney General and I teamed up to recruit attorneys general representing the other 48 states, the District of Columbia and Guam in submitting this letter to Congress requesting changes to the Consumer Product Safety Act that would enhance our ability to protect consumers from hazardous materials.

Partnering to prevent child abductions

Two weeks ago, I joined Washington’s Communities Against Predators in sharing tips for parents to improve child safety and prevent child abductions. The Attorney General’s Office partnered with Communities Against Predators as part national Safe Child Week, providing a “Tip of the Day” for each day leading up to Missing Children’s Day on May 25. Our goal was to raise awareness about missing children and provide parents with practical information on some basic precautions we can all take to help keep our children safe.

Washington State PTA’s “Friend of Children” Award

During the Washington State PTA’s 95th Annual Convention in SeaTac in May, I was honored with the PTA’s “Friend of Children” Award. It is the highest award bestowed by the PTA, and it is presented to a group or individual performing outstanding work on behalf of children throughout the year. To be recognized by an organization as outstanding and dedicated as the Washington State PTA, for my work and the AGO’s work on behalf of our state’s children, is a great honor. The award will always be among the most meaningful recognitions I have received as Attorney General.

Raising awareness about the importance of video game ratings

After receiving complaints from consumers concerned about violent and sexually explicit content in popular video games, we reminded parents about the importance of reading video game ratings. Washington state law requires retailers to inform consumers about video game ratings, which are designed to provide parents with the information needed to decide which games are suitable for their children. Our goal is to raise awareness among parents that some of the most popular video games on the market today are rated “Mature” and may contain extreme violence, graphic sexual scenes and other content not appropriate for children.

Teaming with attorneys general nationwide to improve protection of children online

Also in May, we announced that Facebook has agreed to take significant steps to better protect children on its Web site. I joined attorneys general nationwide in signing an agreement with Facebook, in which they emphasize their shared goal of protecting children from inappropriate content and unwanted contact by adults. The agreement is similar to one that MySpace reached in January with 49 states and the District of Columbia, and demonstrates that Facebook shares our concerns about the safety of children and teens online. My Consumer Protection team has been heavily involved in negotiating and drafting these agreements, and they have done an outstanding job.

Educating LaConner students about the dangers of meth

LaConner Middle and High Schools were the latest stop on our “Operation: Allied Against Meth” education tour. Teaming again with Lead On America’s Travis Talbott and Jamie, a young recovering meth addict, we presented 300 more students with information and warnings about the dangers of meth, and the damage it can do, not only to their bodies, but to their lives, families and communities. To date, we’ve reached nearly 30,000 students across Washington at over 50 high schools.

Looking ahead

We’re continuing to vigorously defend Washington’s top-two primary system against yet another round of legal challenges. Although the U.S. Supreme Court, in its 7-2 decision, restored the top-two primary system in March, the political parties are now asking the federal courts to invalidate the new system. Meanwhile the Secretary of State is moving forward with plans to implement the top-two primary, which was approved in 2004 by nearly 60% of the voters. We remain confident that we will successfully defend the will of the voters against these latest legal challenges, just as we did when I personally argued the case before the Supreme Court on October 1st.


Rob McKenna

Attorney General