Tracknum: 29559.3add01ed.9931d7ba
Pubdate: Tue, 17 Apr 2001
Source: Modesto Bee, The (CA)
Copyright: 2001 The Modesto Bee
Author: Jim Miller 
Bookmark: (Methamphetamine)


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

"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

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

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

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.