Legislature(2005 - 2006)CAPITOL 106
03/15/2005 08:00 AM STATE AFFAIRS
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* first hearing in first committee of referral
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HCR 4-METH WATCH PROGRAM 8:07:42 AM CHAIR SEATON announced that the first order of business was HOUSE CONCURRENT RESOLUTION NO. 4, Encouraging the establishment of a methamphetamine watch program. 8:07:51 AM JANE PIERSON, Staff to Representative Jay Ramras, Alaska State Legislature, introduced HCR 4 on behalf of Representative Ramras, sponsor. She stated that communities across America are suffering from the plague of methamphetamine ("meth") production and usage. She said "Meth watch" is the first national effort in curbing the spread of meth; it will provide a critical step in educating communities about the drug. Ms. Pierson said "Meth watch" is a voluntary program that started in Kansas as a public/private partnership in 2001. Currently, 11 states have implemented the program, and 22 states are looking into doing so. The goals of the program are: to engage retailers, law enforcement, state and local agencies, and other key partners to reduce the precursor products for illicit manufacturing of methamphetamines; to increase community awareness; and to assist local communities in addressing the problem. She emphasized the important link between education of citizens and the capture of meth manufacturers. She said all public awareness initiatives would be tailored to targeted audiences. She added that specific programs can be tailored to child protective workers, utility workers, cable operators, and various community "first responders." 8:09:30 AM MS. PIERSON listed the different ways that the program is promoted. She reported that since implementing the program, Kansas has reported benefits, including the reduction in the number of meth labs and unifying grant programs to fund and educate communities. She said there are prerequisites to receiving funding. Communities applying for grants shall prioritize meth prevention and education, have past experience in community coalition building, and be part of an existing coalition that includes medical and public health officials, educators, youth-serving community organizations, and members of law enforcement. She said that the bill will: authorize professional prevention staff to develop research and science- based prevention strategies for the community to be served; demonstrate the ability to operate a community-based meth prevention and education program; establish prevalence through the use of community needs assessments; and establish goals and objectives based on need assessment. MS. PIERSON stated that the appropriate money for fiscal year (FY) 2006-07 should be asked for from the general fund and Department of Health and Social Services for grants under AS 47.30.520 through AS 47.30.620. 8:11:15 AM REPRESENTATIVE GARDNER noted that the committee packet contains a press release from Kansas, dated September 17, that lists workshops that have been done in various states. She noted that the press release includes mention that Alaska has asked the Kansas Department of Health and Education for assistance in setting up a meth watch program. She pointed out that there is another press release in the committee packet dated February 20, 2005, that lists Alaska as one of the states that has already been assisted in implementing a meth watch program. She asked Ms. Pierson if she knows where Alaska is in the process of setting up a program. 8:11:54 AM MS. PIERSON replied that Prince of Wales Island has instigated a meth awareness program that is not the official meth watch program. REPRESENTATIVE GATTO asked what a meth awareness program is. MS. PIERSON replied that the program would: make people aware of the drug and its effects; teach people what signs to look for to detect a meth lab in their community; and educate children, teachers, and retailers. 8:12:43 AM REPRESENTATIVE GATTO commented that reducing the number of labs may not necessarily go hand in hand with reducing the amount of meth that enters a community. He explained, "It's a free market, and if somebody goes out of business, somebody [else] takes up the slack." 8:13:13 AM MS. PIERSON, in response to a question from Representative Gatto, said she thinks the system is two-fold, because it would reduce the supply of the precursor chemicals and bring the awareness into the community of what is happening. 8:13:37 AM REPRESENTATIVE RAMRAS commented that the work with [the Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS)] on HCR 4 is being done in conjunction with HB 149, which deals with the supply of pseudoephedrine. Additionally, he indicated an increase of penalties "for child endangerment and for manslaughter for cooking up a bad batch of meth." He noted that [the Division of Juvenile Justice in DHSS] already has extensive school programs. He mentioned juvenile court, intervention, and substance abuse programs. He added, "So we anticipate that this meth watch would be the education component and it's not designed to create funding for another position in law enforcement." REPRESENTATIVE RAMRAS stated that meth is cooked up in little kitchens in people's homes, and often children are in those homes - sometimes even participating in the making of the meth. He indicated that urban areas may retail the meth, whereas rural areas have the small labs. He named the Matanuska-Susitna (Mat- Su) Valley and North Pole as area in the state where the problem is more severe. 8:15:56 AM REPRESENTATIVE GARDNER asked if, under current law, a retailer can refuse to sell pseudoephedrine to people. MS. PIERSON replied that she didn't know if a retailer could refuse the sale, but he/she could call the police. She mentioned that Kansas has a reporting form. 8:16:51 AM REPRESENTATIVE GRUENBERG directed attention to page 2, lines 20- 26, which read as follows: BE IT RESOLVED that the Alaska State Legislature urges the Department of Health and Social Services to take the lead in establishing a meth watch program in Alaska, to apply for available grants from the federal government, and to request appropriation of matching funds by the Alaska State Legislature if necessary, to encourage other eligible entities to apply for funding from both government and private sources, to assist community organizations in applying for funding and implementing local meth watch programs, and to help educate Alaskans about methamphetamine abuse and the presence of meth labs in their communities. REPRESENTATIVE GRUENBERG noted that AS 44.29.020 sets forth the duties of DHSS and "doesn't seem to have anything specifically that covers this." She noted that HB 141 had already been heard by the House Judiciary Standing Committee, and he suggested that an amendment be offered to that bill which would incorporate "the substance of lines 20-26 on page 2 that would assign to [DHSS] the ability to carry out just what you have on here." He added, "I think that would fit under the title of the bill, and then you would have the authorization you need as well as this resolution." 8:18:24 AM REPRESENTATIVE LYNN asked if the resolution would be sent to anyone other than DHSS. 8:20:04 AM REPRESENTATIVE GRUENBERG explained that the resolution will be filed by the governor and then the sponsor can distribute it wherever he wishes. He explained, "We don't have to distribute it specifically. That kind of thing usually is in a joint resolution where it goes to members of Congress or the secretary of state or something like that. But this is something that you can just distribute wherever you wish." REPRESENTATIVE LYNN stated his support for the resolution. 8:21:10 AM REPRESENTATIVE LYNN moved to report HCR 4 out of committee with individual recommendations and the accompanying fiscal notes. There being no objections, HCR 4 was reported out of the House State Affairs Standing Committee.