Walko reappointed chairman of courts panel; plans renewed push for problem-solving courts

State Rep. Don Walko, D-Allegheny, was reappointed by Speaker Keith McCall, D-Carbon, to a second term as chairman of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Courts.

“I am very pleased to be reappointed to this key position. I plan to continue pursuing an ambitious agenda as chairman. My overall goal for the court system is to invest more in problem-solving courts because they change lives and save taxpayers money down the road,” Walko said.

Walko plans to hold a hearing Feb. 27 in Pittsburgh on problem-solving courts. The hearing will focus on veterans’ courts, such as the one that Allegheny County officials plan to have up and running this year. Walko is seeking a community development grant of $25,000 to help fund a case manager for the Allegheny County veterans’ court.

Other major types of problem-solving courts include drug treatment courts and mental health courts. All involve giving people charged with non-violent crimes the opportunity to avoid jail and undergo rehabilitation. Defendants also receive access to services that help them to turn their lives around.

In the 2009-10 session, Walko intends to introduce legislation that would provide funding to counties for use in establishing problem-solving courts like drug treatment and mental health courts. To be eligible for funding under the legislation, the courts would have to do the following:
• increase public safety;
• reduce spending on criminal justice; and
• improve the effectiveness of treatment services for defendants with mental illness or substance abuse disorders.

In addition to serving on the Judiciary Committee, Walko was also appointed to three other committees for the 2009-10 session: Insurance, Professional Licensure, and Tourism and Recreational Development.