Legislators discuss attack on meth epidemic

Authored by Jim Langham on Mar 18, 2013

Local legislators Matt Lehman (State Representative District 79) and Travis Holdman (State Senate District 19) discussed legislation aimed at decreasing the meth epidemic without burdening those who use over the counter medicines that contain ephedrine and pseudoephedrine.
At Saturday’s town hall meeting with the two legislators, Lehman pointed out that the new legislation under discussion allows a person to purchase no more than 61.2 grams of ephedrine or pseudoephedrine in a year.
The bill (Senate Bill 496) status, said Lehman, passed the Senate 44-4 and has now been referred to the House Committee on Courts and Criminal Code.
In addition, the bill prohibits a person convicted of certain offenses involving methamphetamine from possessing certain drugs within seven years of the person’s conviction, unless it is dispensed under prescription.
“Only pharmacies or retailers that use the NPLEx tracking system may sell ephedrine or pseudoephedrine,” said Lehman.
“Sudafed is one of the primary drugs for meth. It may end up with a prescription only status,” said Holdman. “It may be for a short period of time that this has a prescription only status. We need to draw some lines and get the problem fixed.”
Holdman said that on college campuses, residents are paying students $20 a shot to get Sudafed. The senator noted that in bigger cities, people are going to homeless shelters and paying $10 a shot for those there to obtain Sudafed for them.
Lehman reported that in House Bill 1006, discussion is being given to re-classify criminal code by changing some sentences for non-violent, non-weapon offenses.
He noted that some non-violent crimes may be changed from felonies to misdemeanors and to find other ways than imprisonment for punishment.
Both Lehman and Holdman expressed their concerns about the developing Affordable Health Care Act.
The legislators noted that a recent study indicates that the state cost for Medicaid was $2.2 billion in 2012 compared to a projected $6.4 billion in 2015.
“By 2015, one in five people in the state will be on Medicaid,” said Holdman.
Holdman said that there is concern that as the public becomes more aware of the program, there will be a tendency toward a, “woodwork effect,” meaning that just because folks become aware from media and discussion, they will be more apt to seek assistance from the program.
“This is going to increase our cost significantly,” said Lehman. “The feds say that they will pick up the cost for the first three years, but I will have to see that.”
Concerning House Bill 1001, the biennial budget, Lehman said that the new budget proposal maintains healthy reserves and accelerates the phase-out of the death tax. In addition, it reduces taxpayer-funded debt by paying off bonds on state-owned facilities.
“This prioritizes higher education without adding a penny of debt, saving taxpayers millions of dollars in interest by investing $197 million into infrastructure projects on university campuses,” said Lehman.
“It invests an additional $33 million into workforce training programs and another $23 million into programs for economic innovation,” added Lehman.
In addition, the new budget would provide an additional $250 million per year in sustainable funding for roads and bridges.
The bill passed the house, 68-28, and has been referred to the Senate Committee for Appropriations.

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