- The Washington Times - Friday, November 12, 2004

Virginia Attorney General Jerry W. Kilgore yesterday presented part of his legislative agenda, laying the foundation for his expected gubernatorial run next year.

Mr. Kilgore introduced bills designed to crack down on methamphetamine use, which has proliferated statewide. The bills would double the jail time for manufacturing the highly addictive drug and make it a crime to produce meth in the presence of a child.

“We rarely see cocaine being manufactured in Virginia,” he said in Richmond yesterday. “We do, however, see meth being manufactured here and with increasing frequency. The fact is that while cocaine is manufactured in Bogota [Colombia], meth is more likely manufactured in places like Bristol or Botetourt.”

Mr. Kilgore is expected to seek the Republican nomination for governor next year.

In the weeks before the General Assembly reconvenes Jan. 12, Mr. Kilgore plans to present other legislation aimed at fighting gangs and curbing domestic violence. Last year, he also rolled out his agenda over a series of weeks.

In 2003, police found 34 meth labs in the state. That figure increased to 78 this year. The problem has especially grown in the Shenandoah Valley.

State Sen. Mark D. Obenshain, Harrisonburg Republican, who will sponsor some of Mr. Kilgore’s legislation, said 82 percent of all hard drugs seized in the Shenandoah Valley the first half of 2003 were methamphetamines.

“In Southwest Virginia and in the Shenandoah Valley, we’ve been getting a preview of what is heading our way,” Mr. Obenshain said.

Mr. Kilgore’s bills would increase the minimum penalties for the manufacture of meth from five years to 10 years in prison.

Mr. Kilgore also proposed a bill to create a multiagency strike force to clean up toxic meth lab sites, direct the Division of Forensic Science and the Division of Consolidated Laboratories to develop protocols for storing and testing meth for safeguarding and prosecutions, and require convicted meth lab operators to pay for the cleanup.

“This is a growing problem, and it calls for the cooperation of all levels of law enforcement, new solutions, greater education of the public and tougher sentencing for those involved in meth-related crimes,” Mr. Kilgore said.

After his election in 2001, Mr. Kilgore created Meth Watch, a program that trains store clerks to recognize everyday products, such as cold medication, that are purchased for making meth.

Next month, U.S. Attorney Paul J. McNulty will convene a meth summit in Richmond.

Delegate Charles W. “Bill” Carrico Sr., Independence Republican, will sponsor some of the bills.

“Yes, I want to be the No. 1 manufacturing area in the state, but I don’t want it to be this way,” said Mr. Carrico, a former state trooper.

Lt. Gov. Timothy M. Kaine, a Democrat who also is expected to run for governor, will announce the first elements of his legislative agenda next week, spokesman Jeff Kraus said.

Mr. Kaine’s bipartisan Small Business Health Care Costs Commission will release its final report next week. The result will be legislation to address the high cost of health care for small-business owners.

Mr. Kaine also will propose an amendment to the state constitution that would protect the Transportation Trust Fund. Under the amendment, money in the fund could be used only to build roads and could not be drawn upon to balance the state budget.

This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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