State-by-State Anti-Terror Update
By John Nagy, Staff Writer
Come January, Secretary of State Shannon Priest will have four new Capitol police officers after she passed the hat among top state officials to come up with about $240,000 to pay for them through June 2003. Several, including Gov. Mike Huckabee, said they couldn't pony up, though Huckabee temporarily reassigned a pair of highway patrolmen to statehouse duty to help patch up a personnel shortage in December. Huckabee, a Republican, blamed the $143 million in budget cuts he announced Nov. 14 on the terrorist attacks, although Democratic lawmakers said they saw the shortfall coming a full year ago.
The state Department of Law Enforcement is seeking $42 million from the federal government to fund a range of additional domestic security measures, including an anti-terrorism training course for state and local police.
Gov. George Ryan outlined another $17.5 million in anti-terror spending he hopes to secure from the General Assembly. The money would address "immediate needs," such as improving capacity to test biological agents at the state's three public health laboratories, providing anti-terror training to firefighters, and the creation of a pharmaceutical stockpile to protect and treat medical, fire and police first responders in the event of an attack.
State police await $3.5 million in federal Department of Justice anti-terrorism grants over the next three years. The money will take a bite out of the $10 million that Louisiana police and public health and safety officers say they've already invested in security improvements and response to anthrax scares.
The Maine Emergency Management Agency estimates the state's security and preparedness measures will cost $31 million this year and another $20 million per year for the foreseeable future. Two of the biggest short-term requests come from the National Guard ($11 million) and the Department of Public Health ($8 million). Hazmat equipment and personnel upgrades at MEMA will run another $4 million.
Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, gearing up for her early lead in the 2002 governor's race, became the face of Maryland's anti-terror endeavors, announcing a $400,000 grant to begin work on a wireless, single-frequency communications link for federal, state and local emergency responders eventually intended for use statewide. Townsend also met with Baltimore-Washington International Airport officials and committed state security officers to help with baggage checks.
The State Department of Environmental Quality asked environmental response chief Al Howard to evaluate security preparations at sensitive, privately-owned sites throughout the state, including water filtration facilities, landfills and chemical and power plants. Howard will report to the DEQ and emergency management officials next November.
Noting that the state's only public health laboratory sits in flood-prone lowlands on the banks of the Missouri River, Republican lawmakers chided Democratic Gov. Bob Holden to restore $25 million once earmarked to build a new lab on drier ground. Holden redirected the money to help plug holes in the state's budget, saying the new lab will be a priority once more funding is available.
State officials expect a new uniform-frequency radio system, designed to streamline communications among federal, state and local emergency and public safety teams in the event of an attack or major catastrophe, to cost as much as $150 million to install and operate.
Gov. Jim Hodges considered becoming the first in the nation to send National Guard units to protect nuclear plants with heat-seeking, surface-to-air missiles. But he discarded the idea, saying current security provisions were adequate and that any missile provision should fall to federal officials.
Comptroller Carole Keeton Rylander wants Texas to create ten regional anti-terror response teams to cover the state, an administrative approach to readiness similar to one implemented in Florida and Maryland. Rylander's plan would cost $9.1 million over the next to years. Among other proposals Rylander is trying to sell to lawmakers are a $12 million biological and chemical attack response program in the Department of Health and a bond issue of an unspecified amount to fund tightened security at nuclear facilities, oil refineries and other vulnerable sites.
The state's homeland security operation, staffed by employees from several state agencies on a modest federal grant, completed its review of sensitive sites. Public Safety Commissioner Robert Flowers, who heads the security team, says preliminary investigations turned up no evidence that Utah is a potential terrorist target. Flowers offers $1.2 million as a ballpark estimate of the team's annual budget needs should the legislature renew its mission after the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City wrap up next year.
Lawmakers approved a raft of statehouse security measures recommended by capitol police, including the installation of metal detectors and protective doors, limited entrance policies and identification requirements, and the addition of as many as 18 new officers to a security force already more than 100 strong.