[Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: William J. Clinton (1994, Book I)]
[January 31, 1994]
[Pages 142-144]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office www.gpo.gov]

Remarks to the National Governors' Association
January 31, 1994

    I want to thank you all again for coming. Since we're running a bit 
late, I want to be brief and get on to hearing from Governor Campbell 
and Governor Dean. The primary thing that I was hoping we could talk 
about in this morning's session is the crime bill.

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    I wanted to emphasize that I am very aware that this is an issue 
that historically has been dealt with primarily at the local and State 
level, one that I spent an enormous amount of time on as a Governor and 
as attorney general.
    There are things that I think should be and indeed almost have to be 
done at the national level. We passed the Brady bill at the end of the 
last session of Congress, which I think was a very important thing. And 
many of you were helpful in that regard, and I appreciate that. We have 
a number of grants to cities and communities to help with law 
enforcement, and we had enormous application, actually a terrific 
surplus of applications for the Attorney General's discretionary funds 
on community policing. This summer--Eli Segal is here--our summer of 
service program, as part of the national service this summer, will be 
called the summer of safety. And we hope thousands of our young people 
will be out there working with law enforcement people all across the 
    I really appreciate a lot of the things that all of you have done in 
this regard. Let me just say that the crime bill itself has a number of 
provisions that I think are quite important and some with which you may 
or may not agree. Two things that I feel very strongly about are the 
community policing provisions and the ``three strikes and you're out'' 
provision. I'd like to say something about each of them.
    One, we know that there's been a dramatic reversal in the ratio of 
police officers to crime in the last 35 years. Thirty-five years ago, 
there were three police officers for every serious crime reported. 
Today, there are three crimes for every police officer, particularly in 
the high crime areas of the country. We have ample evidence that 
community policing actually works to reduce crime by having people on 
the block who are well-trained and know the people who live there. Dr. 
Lee Brown, our Director of Drug Policy, instituted community policing 
programs in major cities all across this country and can speak to that. 
The mayors were here last week. They were exceedingly enthusiastic about 
that provision, and we're looking forward to working with them and with 
you about it.
    The second thing I'd like to say about stiffening the penalties is I 
know many of you have included versions of the ``three strikes and 
you're out'' in your own legislative programs. I believe Washington 
State even had a referendum on the issue. I would just like to urge that 
we be both tough and smart on this issue. We know that a small number of 
people commit a significant number of the truly violent crimes and are 
highly likely to be repeat offenders. If, therefore, this law is drawn 
properly, it will affect a small percentage of the prison population at 
the Federal level and a somewhat larger percentage at the State level. 
But you actually will be keeping people in prison who will be 
overwhelmingly likely to commit a serious violent crime if they get out.
    I think it is important not to make these provisions too overbroad 
to undermine the flexibility that people at the State and at the local 
level need to run their criminal justice systems and, at the same time, 
to keep people off the street who are involved in crimes like the 
terrible tragedy involving Polly Klaas.
    So I want to invite you not only to do whatever you were doing at 
the State level but to be involved with us here as we work through this 
crime bill to make sure that it is well-drawn, well-drafted, and 
achieves the objectives it is designed to achieve.
    The third thing I'd like to say is there are a number of other 
things in the crime bill which I think are worthy of your attention. 
There's the provision which bans possession of handguns by minors except 
in limited circumstances, which many of you have already done at the 
State level. There is the ban on several assault weapons. There are 
funds for alternative incarceration, like boot camps, and for drug 
treatment. And of course, there are significant funds, which I heard you 
all discussing yesterday in the committee chaired by Governor Wilson, 
about jails and Federal funds for jails. I heard the discussion on 
television yesterday. I think you need to have a committee that works 
with us on it to make sure that it makes sense to you. Many times I 
think things come up in the context of crime here in Washington which 
sound good here but which may or may not make sense out there on the 
front lines of the fight against crime. So I want to invite you all to 
be a part of that.
    Just one other thing I'd like to say. In addition to the focus on 
the crime bill this morning, I'm obviously open to any questions or 
comments you want to have about the other areas of our partnership, on 
welfare reform, health care reform, what we're going to do on the 
budget, which will be a very tough budget, difficult for us, difficult 
for you. And Mr. Panetta

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is here. We have tried to be good partners. We've granted 5 
comprehensive health care waivers, 90 smaller waivers in the health care 
area, 7 welfare reform waivers already. We have tried to make good on 
our commitment to push through a new partnership with the States. And I 
think that you will find that we'll continue to do that and we're eager 
to do it.
    But the first major thing that will happen in this legislative 
session is, in closing, the crime bill. After we pass the education 
bills--I think that Secretary Riley is in pretty good shape with Goals 
2000 and the school-to-work transition. But then the next thing that 
will come up is the crime bill. Then we'll go to the other measures I 
mentioned. And I really look forward to working with you on them.
    I ask you for your help. I asked the mayors, and I will ask you to 
put together a bipartisan committee to come up here to work with us, to 
be willing to lobby with us, and to help us pass a bill that is tough 
and smart.
    Thank you.

Note: The President spoke at 10:03 a.m. in the East Room at the White 
House. In his remarks, he referred to Governors Carroll A. Campbell, 
Jr., of South Carolina, Howard Dean of Vermont, and Pete Wilson of