The Goldendale Sentinel - Headlines & History since 1879

By Lou Marzeles

McCabe moves on veterans bill and Erin's Law


Rep. Gina McCabe (R-Goldendale) spoke for the first time on the floor of the Washington Legislature yesterday, in support of her veterans’ employment bill. Young veterans, 18- to 25-year-olds, have an astonishing 21 percent unemployment rate. McCabe’s bill seeks to redress that.

The bill would lead to businesses employing at least one veteran in their workplace.

“A legislator attached an amendment to the bill,” McCabe says. “I thought there was a protocol to the process, but anyone can just add on an amendment.” The amendment would have added to the state’s budget by supplying funds to help defray perceived costs involved, but that notion has since been retired.

McCabe says the bill has good prospects. “I had asked veterans to come in, local veterans to testify, ‘she says. “I would have loved to have Goldendale veterans, but I know that’s a really long drive. So we had some here that were happy to testify, and I got to meet them, and that was an honor. It went great. I think I’m really hoping to use Goldendale as the model city for this. Veterans serve and give for us, and then they come back and they’re unemployed. They really need that extra income, and they need a place to go and to use their great work ethic that we need in businesses. So it’s really a perfect match in my mind. I’m hoping Goldendale does a great job with it and we can get a statistic. I’m not looking for an intense database that records this veteran and that business as much as I’m looking for an overall number that just says, ‘In Goldendale, the businesses all have at least one veteran working for them.’ That type of story.”

Another issue on McCabe’s mind and legislative agenda is the so-called Erin’s Law. The law is named for Illinois writer Erin Merryn, who, after suffering years of sexual abuse from age six to age 13, advocates for schools to be required to teach sexual abuse prevention curricula.

“[Klickitat County Sheriff] Bob Songer and Detective Kalio gave me information Sunday on it,” McCabe recalls. “When I came home I went over to the jail and toured around and looked at the way they’re trying to redo things in there with the new administration. So it was a great opportunity to do both. But he handed me the bill, and I read through it and watched all the video clips over that night. [Erin] has interviews on Oprah, Katie Couric’s interviewed her, she’s been in People Magazine. I wanted to research it before I would agree to start a bill or start the process. So, that’s what I did that night, and the next morning I called the contact that Sheriff Songer gave me and discussed it with her and asked what her connection was with it and why did she want me to work on it.”

Subsequently McCabe emailed Merryn directly. Merryn responded the next morning. “So she immediately emailed me and said, ‘I heard you may run my bill. Please, I hope you’re going to run your bill.’”

Now the Office of Program Research is digging into the detail level of the possible bill. The office is researching whether they can get something drafted quickly enough and how the other 20 states that have passed the law have handled it. “Some used it with a fiscal note and some used it not with a fiscal note,” McCabe states. “I’m an anti-fiscal note person. I’m not here to spend more money. I’m trying to find ways to work within our means.”

A critical issue at hand is how schools would deal with the issue. The law provides for age-appropriate information, so younger students would get only very generic guidance to help them steer clear of potential sexual abuse. “The law would ask that within the school systems, they teach signs of sexual assault or just to kids on what’s an appropriate ‘secret,’ what’s an unsafe ‘secret.’ It’s absolutely age appropriate. So, tell your mom a million secrets, don’t let the guy down the street have a secret with you, basically. So we’re just trying to work and see what we can get done.”

McCabe says she’s grateful to Songer and Kalio for bringing the matter to her attention. “It’s really important. In my past experience coaching in Goldendale, in the ’90s, I had this situation.” McCabe knew of a child who was a friend of one of her dance students who suffered sexual abuse; that person’s step father is still serving time in prison.

“The only real opposition I hear about is that some conservative parents may not want that education to go to their children,” McCabe, adding the concern is certainly understandable. She feels if parents get a clear example of what the education would look like and its diligence in maintaining age-appropriate information, it can work.


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