Remarks: Choose Respect Rally March 26, 2015 Thank you very much for an opportunity to say a few words. I’m honored and humbled to be here. I’m so appreciative of what AWARE does, of what so many groups do across the state. The signs that we have here today say it all. Everyone deserves respect – we choose respect – safe homes. It is what we do, it’s what we need to be doing. You know we live in a beautiful state. We live in a state where we should be out enjoying the state. We should be out enjoying four-wheeling, catching fish, doing all the things we do as Alaskans. And unfortunately because of those that don’t choose respect, we have other issues we need to deal with. I have a lot of admiration for the prior administration, the prior Governor Parnell with what he did on the beginning of choose respect, so I applaud him. If we could have a round of applause for Governor Parnell on the choose respect, I think that is a great start. Our administration also chooses respect but we also choose action. We have taken action. We have taken action in a number of ways, we are going to continue to take action to make sure that this doesn’t continue on. You know Alaska likes to celebrating being first at lots of things. First in size, first in beauty, first in brightest and best people in the nation. But one thing we don’t celebrate, we don’t like being number one in sexual assault and domestic violence. We want to change that. Massachusetts does that, we want to take on Massachusetts. We want to have the lowest and not the highest in the nation. And we can, and we will. We will do that through action. Since we’ve come into office we have hired a special investigator to look into the Alaska National Guard allegations of sexual assault. That’s action. We need to take the action that’s necessary. We need to make sure that the organizations that need to be funded – this is a tough time on funding – but this is not where we cut on funding for domestic violence and sexual assault programs. We need to make sure that those that are the perpetrators are brought to justice. There is no question about that. They need to know that we’re not an administration that’s going to stand by and let these statistics define our state. So that’s absolutely unacceptable. One of the steps that we have taken, recently last week we filed a piece of legislation on Medicaid expansion. Medicaid expansion is a piece of choose respect. It allows people that are in an abusive situation where they can’t get out of, maybe they are staying in an abusive situation because of healthcare coverage. We want to make sure they don’t stay in that abusive situation just for health care coverage. We want to expand Medicaid expansion for that. We want to make sure that those that are incarcerated, when they come out of incarceration, that there are programs available through Medicaid expansion that they can get the mental health counseling so that they don’t repeat. So that the reason they got there in the first place, the list goes on and on. We need to take that. That’s a step we’ve taken and we ask you to encourage your legislators to support Medicaid expansion. It’s a piece of the foundation of building to choose respect. It’s a piece of foundation for Alaska to get rid of those terrible statistics and become the state that we know we are. So for us it’s all about action. Yes we will certainly . . . this is one day out of 365 and it’s a great day from the standpoint that we are very aware of this. But we need to make sure that the other 364 days are also just as much empowering people like yourselves to take action. When you see someone in a situation like that, get involved. You know tell them, make sure they understand it’s not their fault. Make sure they understand what options are available. We need to make sure that our young people are armed with knowledge, armed with understanding. I’m a big fan of Erin’s Law. A big fan of the concept that our young people are, have the protection, certainly I have so much appreciation for law enforcement in this issue, the organizations, our medical association, the prosecutors that are involved, that whole team. . . but we need to make sure that our young people are armed with that a well. So I encourage you, I know that there are some other options that are out there legislatively. Let’s make sure that we’ve done everything, that we’ve pulled every lever that we can to make sure we bring down these terrible statistics. So I can’t thank you enough for what AWARE does and similar organizations. I’m so honored to be part of this today. Thank you for what you do. Keep searching for ways that you can get involved. We will make sure that you have those options, those ways to be involved. To make sure that this stops. Thank you so much for all you’ve done. I just want to . . . just one last thing I just have to say. I am only here today because my good friend, your Lieutenant Governor, Byron Mallott, agreed to trade with me. Something came up, I needed to stay in Juneau, I was supposed to be in Barrow. Last week he went to Boston for me, this week he’s in Barrow. He said Governor, I don’t know, Boston to Barrow . . . I’m getting a little bit worn out on this. But he is such a great individual and I’m so sorry he’s not here as well. But he’s doing what I’m doing, what you’re doing, what we’re all doing, in Barrow today. Just a great, great individual. I’m so blessed. I always say I’m the luckiest Governor in the history of Alaska because I get to work with Byron Mallott every day. Thank you very much.