Legislature(1995 - 1996)

02/29/1996 03:26 PM HES

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= 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                 
 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                 
 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.                                                            

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