State of the State Address

The NCJA advocates for effective criminal justice policy and funding for justice assistance programs.

State of the State Addresses

In our annual State of the States series, we report on the crime, justice and related initiatives proposed by Governors in their annual State of the State addresses. This series is originally published in the NCJA Justice Bulletin and InfoLetter newsletters.

Below are state addresses from 2017.

Alaska

Alaska Governor, Bill Walker (I) began his 2017 State of the State Address by reflecting on the state’s budget woes. Although things are improving, the Governor said there is still a $3 billion fiscal gap. He outlined some of the cuts contained in his budget including the closure of seven trooper posts, one correctional facility, and two youth detention facilities, among other institutions. He noted that the state court system now closes at noon on Fridays to save money and because of additional cuts in government spending, crime rates are too high and the number of state troopers has decreased.

The Governor also highlighted the state’s partnership with tribes including an agreement with the Anvik Village Tribe that allows certain low level offenders the option of being referred to the village tribal court.

On the topic of opioids Governor Walker proposed five steps to tackle this widespread issue. First, he called for limiting the amount of opioids a doctor can prescribe, with some exceptions. Second, he called for strengthening the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program to prevent patients from pill shopping and identify providers who are overprescribing opioids. Third, he called for giving regulatory authority to classify illicit opioids as controlled substances as they emerge. Fourth, he called for the restriction of the transport of illegal opioids and heroin into  the state's rural communities through improved screening and enforcement measures. And finally, he called for requiring licensed health care providers to complete opioid addiction education as part of their continuing education requirements.

The Governor also expressed his commitment to cracking down on violence in Alaskan communities and homes. He said that half of Alaska’s women experience sexual violence, intimate partner violence, or both in their lifetimes. Though, the rate is down from 59 percent in 2010, that’s not good enough the Governor said.  He argued that although prevention is the priority, and highlighted a statewide domestic violence and sexual assault trauma-informed training held earlier this year, he said improving response to sex crimes is critical. His office launched a sexual assault kit initiative in 2015 and uncovered thousands of rape kits that had not been processed. In 2016, they secured federal funding to help aggressively process that evidence

To read the full speech, click here

Arizona

In his 2017 State of the State address, Arizona Governor Doug Ducey (R), addressed mounting concerns about drug addiction. To cut down on the practice of “doctor shopping”, Ducey proposed tougher regulations on drug prescriptions, including new limitations on the prescription of opioid pain medications, and mandated that Arizona doctors complete a continuing education course on drug addiction.

Ducey also announced plans to open employment centers around the state to help Arizona inmates find and apply for jobs upon release and issued an Executive Order that gives inmates who are leaving the prison system access to Vivitrol, a medication that helps to prevent relapses in drug and alcohol abuse. The Governor also described proposals for improving community corrections, including the establishment of Community Corrections Centers.

Ducey praised lawmakers for their bipartisan efforts to reduce the backlog of untested rape kits, which will be fully funded in his budget, and voiced his support for legislation requiring rape kits to be tested. He also announced new investments in cyber security, and lauded the Border Strike Force for cracking down on cartels and confiscating large quantities of heroin and marijuana at the border. 

To read the full speech, click here

Arkansas

In his 2017 State of the State address, Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson (R) discussed the importance of identifying and providing support to those who are struggling with mental illnesses. To that end, Gov. Hutchinson announced that his budget allocates $5 million to fund Mental Health Stabilization Centers and improve crisis intervention training for law enforcement. Hutchinson also called on lawmakers to continue assessing sentencing policies and to be mindful of the dual goals of promoting public safety and providing for reintegration.

To read the full speech, click here

Colorado

In his 2017 State of the State address, Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper (D) discussed the state’s ongoing efforts to develop an effective regulatory framework for the marijuana market. He put forth a number of proposals designed to better regulate the marijuana market and close loopholes in home grow and caregiver laws, including a $7 million investment in programs that educate the public about underage marijuana use, new regulations on the packaging and labeling of edible marijuana products and $6 million in additional funding to police to help enforce these regulations and crack down on black market operations. Hickenlooper also restated his plan to reinvest revenue from marijuana sales into regulating the industry and mitigating the unintended consequences of legalization. Specifically, he detailed plans to direct future revenue towards providing temporary housing and vocational training to homeless Coloradans, many of whom have struggled with substance abuse.

The Governor also highlighted the need for improvements in behavioral health services and treatment outside of the criminal justice system. He called for the creation of a comprehensive statewide behavioral health plan to ease efficiency and navigation and to improve response.

To read the full speech, click here.

Connecticut

Among the first to deliver a 2017 State of the State address, Connecticut Governor Dannel P. Malloy (D) highlighted the state’s success in lowering the recidivism rate and safely shrinking the prison population while ensuring violent offenders serve more of their sentences. According to Malloy, these accomplishments have saved taxpayers a total of $70 million in the current fiscal year.

To read the full speech, click here.

Georgia

Georgia Governor Nathan Deal (R) began his 2017 State of the State address with a piece of advice: accentuate the positive. True to this theme, Governor Deal announced a 20 percent pay raise for state-level law enforcement  and the  expansion of training on deescalating violence, community policing and alternatives to deadly force as well as providing access to local law enforcement for Crisis Intervention Training, which provides instruction on how to safely handle situations involving those with mental impairment. The Governor also highlighted the success of diversion programs such as the Accountability Court Program, which have contributed to declines in recidivism rates.

On a more somber note, Deal declared the opioid epidemic hitting all parts of the state an “area of vital concern.” In response to the crisis, he directed the Georgia Board of Pharmacy to remove the overdose reversal drug Naloxone from the dangerous drugs list, and requested that  the Department of Public Health allow over-the-counter access to the lifesaving medication. He called on state legislators to codify these emergency measures into law and strengthen the state’s prescription drug monitoring program.

Finally, Deal provided a progress report on the construction of the Georgia Cyber Innovation and Training Center, a new state-owned cyber command headquarters at Fort Gordon. The center, for which Gov. Deal has earmarked $50 million in his proposed budget, will provide training and education to local, state and private organizations and serve as a hub for cyber security research and development.

To read the full speech, click here.

Idaho

In his 2017 State of the State address, Idaho Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter (R) congratulated community leaders on the expansion of the Behavioral Health Crisis Center program which provides cost-effective alternatives to jail or emergency room visits for those struggling with mental health and substance abuse issues. His budget proposal includes $1.5 million to cover the remaining costs of opening two new facilities. In addition, his budget includes $10.3 million for the construction of an adolescent mental health facility and the renovation of a state hospital unit that would become a secure mental health facility.

Among the major areas of concern for his administration, Governor Otter highlighted cybercrime, citing an incident in which the state’s online Fish and Game licensing system was hacked the previous year. To prevent future attacks on more critical infrastructure, Otter announced his office’s partnership with the Idaho National Laboratory (INL), The State Board of Education and state universities. The coalition, he explained, will collaborate on the construction of two state-of-the-art cybersecurity research facilities, which will be owned by the state and financed by INL. Otter called on lawmakers to support his efforts to strengthen Idaho’s leadership in the fields of cybersecurity and cybercrime.

To read the full speech, click here

Illinois

In his 2017 State of the State speech, Illinois Governor, Bruce Rauner (R) highlighted his administration’s work to reform criminal justice system, reduce recidivism, and address behavioral and mental health issues to keep communities safe.

Following recommendations from the state’s Commission on Criminal Justice Reform, Illinois has begun to implement new programs to helping nonviolent ex-offenders reenter their communities and find work.

Governor Rauner also touted his work on juvenile justice issues. The juvenile justice population has fallen by 49 percent and the state has shuttered the outdated Roundhouse at Stateville Prison, while repurposing two other facilities in Murphysboro and Kewanee as life skill centers to help nonviolent offenders return to the workforce more effectively.

Despite gains in reducing non-violent crime rates the Governor lamented the skyrocketing rate of violent crime in Chicago. To tackle this growing issue, in partnership with the city, the Illinois State Police has provided the Chicago police department with a wide range of resources and has committed to hiring more state police officers to help patrol Chicago expressways and other high-violence areas. Though these efforts are important, the Governor acknowledged that addressing the root cause of this violence is critical as well. The most important thing the state can do, the Governor said, is to build a long-term future of quality education and good jobs for communities that need it the most.

To read the full speech, click here.

Indiana

In his 2017 State of the State address, newly-elected Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb (R) identified drug addiction as one barrier to achieving long-lasting economic growth and named the drug epidemic one of his office’s five priorities in 2017. Holcomb outlined his plan to battle drug addiction through prevention, treatment and enforcement. Among the provisions were the expansion of a syringe exchange program, the implementation of new limitations on prescriptions and refills of controlled substances, stiffer penalties for those who rob pharmacies and investments in the Indiana State Police that will improve their capacity to respond to the crisis.  The Governor also announced his budget included a pay raise for the state police.

To read the full speech, click here.

Massachusetts

In his 2017 State of the State address, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker (R) touted his wife’s work on human trafficking and the return of the State Police anti-human trafficking unit.

Governor Baker also spoke at length about the opioid and prescription drug epidemic and discussed efforts underway in the state to combat this issue. First, medical, dental and nursing schools now require students to master opioid therapy and pain management and continuing education on these issues is included in the state licensing programs. Also, prescribers have made more than 2 million searches of the new Prescription Monitoring database which makes it harder for people to doctor shop for pain pills, or for pill mills to operate. After years of increases, the number of opioids prescribed is now down by 15 percent, Baker said. In addition, spending on addiction services has increased by 50 percent. Hundreds of additional treatment beds and voluntary programs have become available, the number of family and peer support groups has doubled, and thousands of NARCAN kits have been distributed to first responders and family members.

The Governor also announced plans to target drug trafficking proposing $2 million to expand law enforcement’s efforts to arrest and convict drug traffickers.

Finally, the Governor announced the end of the decades old practice of sending women, who were civilly committed due to an addiction to Framingham State Prison instead they will enter treatment programs. Based on this success the Governor has requested an increase in state funding to expand this program to support treatment for men who are committed due to an addiction as well.

To read the full speech, click here.

Michigan

In his 2017 State of the State address, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder (R) highlighted some of the state’s recent advances in criminal justice.

On the topic of opioid abuse the Governor hailed the passage of Good Samaritan legislation to encourage people to get help without fear of prosecution, and the launch of an angel program through the Michigan State Police where individuals can receive help getting into treatment. Snyder called for expanding the angel program to more state police outposts. The Governor discussed the state’s investment in an automated prescription system which he said, “will make a big difference in preventing drug diversion.”

The Governor also announced the expansion of the Michigan State Police’s Secure Cities Partnership to include additional cities and restated the importance of improving police and community relations. He praised the work of the State Police and the Department of Civil Rights in this area and announced an increased emphasis on Michigan Commission on Law Enforcement standards to enhance community policing and community relations and a focus on the areas of training, recruitment and dialogue.

The Governor also discussed expansion of the Vocational Village program, a first-of-its-kind vocational training program that allows inmates serving time in Ionia State Prison to learn technical and trade skills in industries ranging from trucking, construction and manufacturing to auto repair.

Finally, Snyder discussed the issue of sexual assault on campus and highlighted the work of the first lady and her legislative partners including hosting two summits on this topic and providing $500,000 grants to college and universities to work on this issue.

To read the full speech, click here

Missouri

In his 2017 State of the State speech, Missouri’s new Governor, Eric Greitens (R), began by lamenting the broken justice system in the state and the trial lawyers who he said ‘have broken it.” He called for reforms to witness testimony standards and change of venue rules and to end frivolous lawsuits by reforming the Missouri Merchandising Practices Act.

On the topic of criminal justice, the Governor said that three of the eleven most violent cities in America are located in Missouri (St. Louis, Kansas City, and Springfield).  He spoke about the difficulty the police have had with recruitment post-Ferguson and how it is more difficult to do police work in the state. He pledged to work with law enforcement, the community and the clergy to update peace officer standards and training and to ensure that officers have the training, resources, and support they need to protect themselves and to build strong relationships in the community.

The Governor called for the establishment of a Blue Alert system to bring to justice those who assault a police officer and pledged pass the toughest laws in the country in this area. Greitens also called for legislation to make sure that law enforcement and correction officers have nonlethal tools such as TASERs and are adequately protected with body armor when in on duty. He also encouraged officials to aggressively apply for Homeland Security, AFG and SAFER grants so "they get every federal dollar they deserve.”

Finally, the Governor discussed recidivism and how to reform the state corrections system. He called upon the faith community saying, “I have seen that a turn towards faith can actually save lives in prison. And I will welcome our churches and our synagogues into our corrections facilities.” He called these steps a beginning saying that safer streets are built on a combination of support for law enforcement, economic and educational opportunity, and a justice system that has the confidence of all of its citizens.

To read the full speech, click here.

Virginia

In his 2017 State of the State address Virginia Governor, Terry McAuliffe (D), discussed the state’s progress on cybersecurity and touted the work that state has done on reforming the juvenile justice system saying the state has transformed “Virginia’s juvenile justice system from an adult-style incarceration system to a data-driven enterprise aimed at putting our young people on a better path.” He also lauded the fact that Virginia had the “lowest adult recidivism rate in America” and discussed his efforts to restore voting rights to individuals who were convicted of a crime but served their time and reentered society.

In his budget, McAuliffe announced the inclusion of new funding for community service boards to offer same day service to those in the midst of a behavioral health crisis. In addition, he has proposed legislation to expand mental health screenings in jails and to give the Virginia Board of Corrections authority to investigate jail deaths.

The Governor also discussed mental health reform in relation to the heroin and prescription drug epidemic. His budget included $5.3 million for increased substance abuse disorder services and tools to prevent overdoses. He also introduced a package of legislative reforms that include limiting opioid prescriptions written in emergency departments to three days, requiring e-prescriptions for all prescription narcotics and allowing community organizations to distribute Naloxone during opioid response trainings.

McAuliffe called for building on the state’s progress in reforming the criminal justice system by raising the threshold for felony larceny from $200 to $500 and limiting the number of people who have suspended driver’s licenses due to unpaid court fees and other non-driving related offenses. Finally, he called for allowing individuals to petition for a writ of actual innocence if new evidence indicates they were wrongly convicted, even if they pleaded guilty.

Last year Virginia passed legislation limiting gun rights for individuals convicted of domestic abuse or who could not pass background checks. This year, McAuliffe called for strengthening the domestic violence protection law, by expanding it to include non-family abuse orders as well as permanent protective orders. The Governor also called for universal background checks for all firearm sales.

To read the full speech, click here.