The Des Moines Register, Wednesday, April 1, 1998, Page 4M

House backs meth crackdown

Tougher penalties, new law-enforcement tools win approval


    Iowa lawmakers, alarmed by a methamphetamine crime wave, voted Tuesday to mete out harsher penalties for drug dealers and users.
    The House gave lopsided approval to proposals that include stiffer penalties for repeat offenders of drug possession laws; enforcement of mandatory minimum sentences for meth dealers; and new law enforcement tools to nab drug-using motorists.
    Members of the House Republican majority, who assembled the package of proposals, said it would provide the state with more powerful weapons in its war on drugs.
    "Our judicial system ... is something of a turnstile.  The drug dealers come in one courthouse door and they come out the other in a short time," said Rep. Chuck Larson, R-Cedar Rapids.  "This legislation is going to put meth dealers in prison."
    Rep. Jeffrey Lamberti, R-Ankeny, said the measures send a strong message to people manufacturing or peddling meth that Iowa is not a good place to do business.
    Most House Democrats voted for the legislation, even though some said the Republicans were offering a simplistic solution to a complex problem that requires more drug-abuse prevention and treatment efforts.
    "What I see is a continuation of the philosophy that if we push the penalties high enough, we'll scare (drug dealers) off.  Folks, we haven't scared them off," said House Minority Leader David Schrader, D-Monroe.
    Rep. Wayne Ford, D-Des Moines, one of three lawmakers who opposed the bill, said its new law enforcement provisions could be used by police to harass members of minority groups.
    Under one proposal, similar to legislation approved by the Senate earlier in the session, Iowa's drunken-driving laws would be extended to users of meth or other illicit drugs.  The measure would make it easier for prosecutors to charge drug-impaired drivers.
    Other provisions of the anti-drug package adopted by the House include:

    The anti-meth provisions were attached to a bill dealing with Iowa's drunken-driving laws.  The revised legislation returns to the Senate for more debate.
    House Republicans and Democrats in recent days have offered rival plans to combat methamphetamine trafficking in Iowa.  Parts of the Democrats' $4 million plan were rejected during debate Tuesday of other bills.
    The GOP-controlled House, during a nighttime debate of a justice system budget bill, defeated a $1.5 million proposal for drug buys and creation a 15-member "meth strike force."
    The House Appropriations Committee defeated a Democrat-backed proposal that would have spent $2.5 million on meth treatment, education and local law-enforcement efforts.  Republicans want to spend a smaller amount of money on a proposed informant reward program, police undercover purchases of the drug and educational programs.

Jonathan Roos can be reached at
(515) 284-8443 or

The Des Moines Register
Wednesday, April 1, 1998, Page 4M