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March 04, 2004

Message from the Governor

Caring for patients is the paramount duty for doctors. We all rely on the medical community to be there for us.

But skyrocketing medical liability insurance premiums are putting financial pressures on many of our doctors in Washington. This threatens our access to vital services, such as obstetrics and emergency room care.

That's why we introduced proposals this session to accomplish three important goals:

  • Improve the safety of medical patients;
  • Moderate the cost of medical malpractice insurance; and
  • Reform elements of the civil tort system.

The legislative session concludes next week, and we need to adopt a package of bills that will accomplish these three goals.

Many measures have been passed in House and Senate committees. Collectively, these measures will help contain malpractice insurance costs. Specific budget proposal provisions are also supportive of our goals.

Quote of the Week
“Together, we will find the best way to control the cost of medical malpractice insurance and ultimately improve patient care.”
-Governor Locke, March 3, 2004

The legislative measures under consideration include:

  • Reducing frivolous malpractice cases;
  • Shortening the amount of time that an injured person can wait before they file a medical malpractice lawsuit;
  • Reducing the cost of medical malpractice lawsuits; and
  • Increasing patient safety and reducing medical errors.

These are solutions we can adopt now, without amending the state Constitution.

My supplemental budget proposal includes a 29 percent Medicaid reimbursement rate increase for obstetricians and family practitioners who deliver babies. The budget also includes an 85 percent increase in payments for treatment performed by emergency room doctors.

These increases will help doctors pay their malpractice premiums and other increasing costs. Helping these doctors will ensure that these critical services remain available across the state. I am looking forward to working jointly with the House and Senate on these proposals.

We must do our best to protect patients. We also need to ensure that people can receive the medical attention that they need. We must make sure our medical community is there to provide care. The time to act on these issues is now.

Gary Locke
Gary Locke

News Highlights
Choosing the Best Primary System
Governor's Priorities

Governor Locke urged the Legislature to enact a “modified Montana” primary system during his weekly news conference on March 3. The state Senate passed Senate Bill 6453 on March 2, the so-called “modified blanket primary,” modeled after the Louisiana system. “The Louisiana primary will result in endless litigation and decreased voter choice and participation,” the Governor said. “The Senate missed an opportunity to adopt a system that avoids all the problems of the Louisiana primary. A modified Montana system would be a far superior option.”

The “modified Montana” system, developed by both Democrats and Republicans in the Legislature, would not require voters to register with a party to participate in the primary election. Unaffiliated voters may choose any major party ballot during the election. Voters registered with a major party will receive only that party's ballot. “The modified Montana system maintains voter independence and choice,” the Governor said. “It protects the political parties' First Amendment right of association. And we are confident that it can be properly administered.”

Conserving and Cleaning Washington Waters
Governor views gear removed Port Angeles Bay Governor Locke viewed water projects and met with local water-management experts during a visit to the Dungeness watershed near Sequim on February 27. “I applaud the strong commitment of the leaders in the region to find ways to conserve and use water wisely, improve the environment and help fish,” the Governor said. “The many changes that have been put into place demonstrate how successful we can be when we work toward the common goal of helping people, farms and fish.” Earlier in the day, Governor Locke viewed “derelict gear,” including abandoned nets and crab pots removed from Port Angeles Harbor and other Clallam County waters. “I am amazed at the amount of abandoned fishing gear removed from the harbor,” the Governor said. “This project provides an excellent blueprint for cleaning up our waters.”

Preserving Biodiversity
Governor Locke enjoying our state's natural heritage Governor Locke signed an executive order to establish the Washington Biodiversity Council on March 1. The council will develop a first-ever comprehensive state strategy to protect Washington's biological heritage. “We risk losing much of our biological heritage unless we design a strategy now for its protection, not just for ourselves, but for the generations to come,” the Governor said. “If we don't step up, we will also face more and more endangered species listings and more economic and social disruption. Doing nothing is not an option.” The council will consist of 23 members who represent a broad cross section of the state, including agriculture, ranching, forestry, business, conservation organizations, and local and tribal governments. The executive order also directs the council to perform several additional tasks, including the development of a strong public education program.

Leadership in Digital Government

The WSA (formerly known as the Washington Software Alliance) recognized Governor Locke as a “Friend of Technology” at its awards ceremony February 26. The award lauded the Governor for his “stellar and longstanding support of the technology industry” and his leadership in digital government. WSA also recognized the state Department of Information Services Small Agency Initiative and the Department of Agriculture with finalist positions in the prestigious Industry Achievement Awards. The award recognizes outstanding achievements in digital government. The WSA is the state's oldest and largest technology trade association. The state of Washington is recognized nationally for its leadership in digital government.

Success Story: Missing Medals Skate Their Way Home
Pat Tate of DOR and Rosalynn Sumners The return of Rosalynn Sumners' long-lost world championship figure skating medals was the highlight of the unclaimed property auction conducted recently by the state Department of Revenue. By law, the department had to auction off thousands of items that people had left in safe deposit boxes. The Department of Revenue recognized that the gold and silver medals belonged to Sumners and contacted her to arrange for their return. Years ago, she let a local Edmonds bank display them, but the bank changed hands and the medals were put in a safe deposit box and forgotten. In many cases the true owners of watches, coins, diamonds and even teeth with gold fillings cannot be determined, so the items go on the auction block. Last week's auction brought in $473,942 for the state's general fund, more than twice the appraised value of the items. Examples include $13,500 for a two-carat diamond ring set in platinum, $100 for a Ken Griffey, Jr. rookie baseball card, and $650 for a Revolutionary War letter dated May 29, 1778.

Upcoming Events
3/10: Weekly News Conference, Olympia
3/11: Sine Die News Conference, Olympia

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