Tracknum: 29559.3add01ed.9931d7ba Pubdate: Tue, 17 Apr 2001 Source: Modesto Bee, The (CA) Copyright: 2001 The Modesto Bee Contact: http://www.mapinc.org/media/271 Website: http://www.modbee.com/ Author: Jim Miller Bookmark: http://www.mapinc.org/meth.htm (Methamphetamine) METH GROWS AS ISSUE FOR LEGISLATURE SACRAMENTO -- The fight against methamphetamine is a popular issue this year for Central Valley lawmakers, who see it as a nexus of good policy and good politics. More than a dozen methamphetamine bills are pending in the Legislature. Gov. Davis, meanwhile, included $40 million for anti-methamphetamine efforts in his January budget proposal. In Congress, there is a new "meth caucus" of lawmakers from the valley and elsewhere. This week, Rep. Cal Dooley, D-Hanford, and U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer will host another Central Valley methamphetamine summit, the second in four months. The drug has been around for decades, but tremendous growth in its manufacture and use explains all the attention, officials say. They also cite a growing public awareness of the drug's toll on children, the environment and an area's quality of life. "It has a constituent dimension that a number of other public safety issues don't have," said John Lovell, a lobbyist who frequently works on bills involving drug crimes. "Most crime issues do not have the same immediacy for large numbers of people in a district." Like past causes that have become political bandwagons, such as health maintenance organization reform and education, proposals to fight methamphetamine cross party lines. A similar number of Republicans and Democrats have introduced meth bills, some of them with similar language. "There is a kind of pack mentality that shows up with these issues," said Tony Quinn, a Republican political analyst. This year's legislation lineup follows similar themes -- punishing the people who use and deal, helping young victims, and cleaning up environmental damage. Among their provisions: AB 577, Assemblyman Dave Cogdill, R-Modesto. If methamphetamine is found in the system of a child removed from a home where methamphetamine was produced, that would be proof of injury to a child and could lead to other charges and action by child protection authorities. AB 515, Assemblywoman Sarah Reyes, D-Fresno. Counties would have to give health screenings to children found in a home where methamphetamine is manufactured. SB 1103, Senator Bob Margett, R-Arcadia. Anyone under the influence of methamphetamine and in possession of a loaded gun would go to jail. A proposal by Assemblyman Dennis Cardoza, D-Merced. An omnibus methamphetamine bill that would increase prison sentences for methamphetamine crimes committed near schools. In addition, Sen. Charles Poochigian, R-Fresno, is drafting a request to Gov. Davis to take the interest from a Department of Toxic Substances Control bank account and spend it on cleaning up methamphetamine contamination. Today, the Assembly Public Safety Committee is scheduled to discuss the bills by Cardoza and Cogdill. "As soon as people are educated about what's happening, we're seeing a lot more community and legislative support," said Steven Jacobson, a criminal investigator with the Stanislaus County district attorney's office. Legislators introduce bills for a variety of reasons, said Richard Simpson, policy director for Speaker Robert Hertzberg, D-Sherman Oaks. "In many cases it will be advocacy groups that come to them with an idea. Or it will be an issue at the forefront of their election campaigns. In other cases it's an issue the community is intensely interested in," Simpson said. When the issue is a popular one, lawmakers often go it alone. For example, Cardoza and Cogdill, representing neighboring Northern San Joaquin Valley districts in an area with a sizable methamphetamine problem, have not joined forces. Earlier this month, Cogdill held a news conference on his methamphetamine bills -- in Cardoza's district. Because of the focus on energy matters, "people didn't have time to talk about their legislative packages," Cogdill explained Friday. "I would be glad to work with Dennis on these issues as I'm sure he would with me." The Central Valley Methamphetamine Treatment Summit will be Wednesday from 10 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. in the Grand Ballroom of the Doubletree Hotel, 1055 Van Ness Ave., Fresno.