The Franklin News-Post|
P. O. Box 250
310 Main Street, SW
Rocky Mount, Virginia 24151
Sen. Bill Stanley
Friday, February 14, 2014
By K.A. WAGONER - Staff Writer
A bill introduced by Del. Charles Poindexter (R-Glade Hill) that would have increased the minimum penalty for methamphetamine convictions was killed in committee this week.
HB676 would have increased the mandatory minimum sentence for manufacturing, selling or possessing with intent to sell at least 28 grams of meth to 10 years.
The current mandatory minimum sentence is three years for more than 28 grams and five years for 227 grams or more.
As the bill was left in the House Courts of Justice Committee at midnight Tuesday, the halfway point in session where each chamber must complete work on is own bills, it essentially was killed.
One possible reason for its demise could be the fiscal impact on the state budget, which was estimated at $2.7 million in 2015, due to the projected need of 89 additional prison beds.
The Franklin County Sheriff's Office and Virginia Sheriff's Association supported the legislation.
"As we see a marked increase in methamphetamine use in the county, increasing the mandatory minimum sentence for convictions will be better for the community," said Capt. Mark Torbert. "It's a safer environment for our citizens with meth dealers off the street. The increased sentence would also be a deterrent to those committing the crime in the first place."
Sheriff's offices also support a bill introduced by state Sen. Bill Stanley (R-Glade Hill) to make homes safer after methamphetamine labs are discovered.
SB31, which would require the health department to establish a program to certify that buildings that were previously a methamphetamine lab site are safe for human occupancy, passed by a unanimous vote in the Senate and has been referred to the House Courts of Justice Committee for consideration.
"Most labs in Franklin County are found inside residences or buildings, like garages or workshops, very close to residences," Torbert said. "The chemicals used in the manufacture of methamphetamine are toxic so it's necessary to ensure the environment is safe for human inhabitants."
"The bill is well written because it specifies that the financial burden for the certification process does not fall back on the locality," Torbert added.
The bill would require the person convicted of the crime to pay the cost of certification. Virginia law already requires those persons convicted to pay for the cost of lab cleanup.
Those costs are high, Torbert said. The cost of cleanup ranges from $1,500 to $2,500 for a small lab. The larger the lab, the higher the cost.
From May to December 2013, Franklin County spent $11,443.81 in meth lab cleanup, Torbert said.