Legislature(1995 - 1996)
02/29/1996 03:26 PM HES
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
HB 523 - STATE'S POLICY ON SOBRIETY Number 546 DANIELLA LOPER, Legislative Administrative Assistant to Representative Brian Porter, said HB 523 concerns expressing the state's policy with respect to sobriety. House Bill 523 changes AS 47.37.010, Declaration of Policy, regarding the treatment of alcoholism and drug abuse. She said Representative Porter believes that sobriety can be an alternative into the treatment of alcohol and drug abuse - sobriety, meaning a positive, healthy and productive way of life, free from the devastating effects of alcohol and drugs. The sobriety language established an additional solution to the policy set forth by the Uniform Alcoholism and Intoxication Treatment Act. In fact, the Division of Alcoholism and Drug Abuse has placed the definition of "sobriety" in their strategic plan "Meeting the Challenge" adopted by the division and the Governor. Also, the Governor has declared the month of March as Sobriety Month. REPRESENTATIVE ROKEBERG asked if this particular section, Declaration of Policy, was actually set forth in statute or was it intent or purpose language? MS. LOPER replied it was actually in statute and it is the Declaration of Policy for the Uniform Alcoholism and Intoxication Treatment Act, which is followed by the division. CO-CHAIR BUNDE asked if it was a fair characterization to say that previously the bill said if someone was intoxicated, it wasn't a criminal offense, but was allowing intoxication. House Bill 523 emphasizes not the intoxication, but the need for sobriety. MS. LOPER responded that was correct and added it simply says it is the policy of the state to recognize, appreciate and reinforce the examples set by citizens who believe in and support a life of sobriety. Number 686 REPRESENTATIVE BRICE said above and beyond that, he thought the last sentence was very important. It's the idea of sobriety being not only a preventive measure, but a rehabilitative measure as well. Also, he mentioned the importance of breaking through the barriers of alcoholism and other addictions by learning new life skills and social skills to help and maintain sobriety. REPRESENTATIVE ROKEBERG asked to clarify that it was the intention of the sponsor, the Judiciary Committee, to bring forward the concept and idea of sobriety as an articulated state policy in the state and to boost the education. MS. LOPER said that was correct in one form. She said there had been some discussion about having to rewrite policy, etc. However, according to the division and the Department of Law, that will not have to be done because in 1994 it was declared a part of their strategic plan. She reiterated this is simply a declaration in acknowledging that sobriety is a solution to the treatment of alcohol and drug abuse. Number 771 GREG NOTHSTINE, Coordinator, Alaska Federation of Natives Sobriety Movement, testified as the coordinator for the Alaska Federation of Natives Sobriety Movement Council and on behalf of the Alaska Federation of Natives, in support of House Bill 523. He said it was a foregone conclusion that alcohol and drug abuse present an immediate danger to the lives, health and well-being of all Alaskans. The Alaska Federation of Natives supports the passage of House Bill 523 because it represents a positive paradigm shift in the state's policy for preventing alcohol and drug abuse in Alaska. MR. NOTHSTINE stated HB 523 speaks to the legitimate recognition by the state of Alaska for a preferred lifestyle now being practiced by thousands of Alaskans and commonly referred to as sobriety. For the Alaska Federation of Natives and 58 other local, regional and statewide organizations, sobriety is understood as a positive, healthy and productive way of life, free from the devastating effects of alcohol and drugs. What is interesting is that the history of sobriety has been a concept and lifestyle, pursued and practiced by millions of Americans, longer than Alaska has been with the Union. Indisputably, our state court system has since dealt with many alcohol and drug abuse related cases. Consequently, many criminals have been remanded to receive education and treatment services, which are regulated by statute. MR. NOTHSTINE reiterated HB 523 represents a positive paradigm shift in the state's policy for preventing alcohol and drug abuse. It favors and follows the conventional wisdom for reinforcing socially appropriate behaviors and choices that are conducive to: a) helping improve the quality of life and health for individuals, families and communities; b) helping reduce the incidence of alcohol and drug related crimes; c) helping reduce the burden on government in exhausting its resources and having to pay for the many social ills and problems caused by alcohol and drug abuse. MR. NOTHSTINE pointed out that committee members had been provided a copy of Governor Tony Knowles' second Executive Proclamation declaring the month of March 1996 as Sobriety Awareness Month. Last year, both Governor Knowles and the Alaska State Legislature, declared March 1995 as Sobriety Awareness Month. This set a precedent in not only state history, but U.S. history, because it made Alaska the first state in the nation to recognize sobriety as a lifestyle; the merits of which are deserving of support from every local, state and federal agency in the field of prevention. MR. NOTHSTINE concluded that on the eve of the second proclaimed Sobriety Awareness Month in our state's history and on behalf of the AFN Board of Directors and the AFN Sobriety Movement Council, he urged and supported the passage of HB 523. Number 934 STEVE HAMILTON, Research Analyst, Advisory Board on Alcoholism & Drug Abuse, Department of Health & Social Services, testified on behalf of the director and also represented the board members. He conveyed to the committee the support of the Advisory Board for the concept of sobriety as expressed in HB 523. They were particularly pleased that it is an inclusive measure - that it includes all Alaskans who have made the choice to live a life of sobriety rather than singling out those people who are living a life of sobriety in recovery from alcohol. He noted there were a number of pieces of legislation dealing with alcoholism and drug abuse, addressing financial aspects with legal repercussions for use. He stated the Advisory Board on Alcoholism & Drug Abuse applauded this because it represents a positive effort to include all Alaskans and celebrate the life of sobriety. Number 984 ELMER LINDSTROM, Special Assistant, Office of the Commissioner, Department of Health & Social Services, testified in support of the sobriety movement. He said the department has no objection to adding this as an addition to the policy under the division's statute. Number 1015 REPRESENTATIVE ROKEBERG moved to pass HB 523 out of the House HESS Committee with individual recommendations. Hearing no objection, it was so ordered.