Sunday, December 11, 2005

A conference report by Senate and House negotiators to extend for four years provisions of the USA Patriot Act includes a comprehensive anti-methamphetamine package restricting the sale of products containing ingredients needed to cook the drug and providing new tools to police and prosecutors to combat dealers.

Sens. Jim Talent, Missouri Republican, and Dianne Feinstein, California Democrat, said the Combat Meth Act — together with anti-meth measures championed in the House — were included in the Reauthorization Conference Report filed Thursday.

Mr. Talent and Mrs. Feinstein worked with leaders in both parties to push for the legislation, which is expected to be debated this week. The proposal, passed unanimously by the Senate, also includes treatment funding to help those affected by meth.

Law-enforcement authorities said meth use nationwide has increased by as much as 300 percent in the past decade.

“The Combat Meth Act is the toughest anti-meth bill ever considered by the Congress, and it will help people in neighborhoods all across Missouri and the country who are threatened by meth,” Mr. Talent said.

Mrs. Feinstein said the legislation “strikes a blow” against an ongoing meth epidemic.

“The heart of this legislation is a strong standard for keeping pseudoephedrine products out of the hands of meth cooks,” she said. “There were some who wanted to water down this legislation, but Senator Talent and I stood firm.”

The conference report also authorized several contentious provisions of the Patriot Act, including roving wiretaps, “sneak-and-peek” searches, and secret warrants for books and other records at businesses, hospitals and libraries.

Passage of the agreement is expected to be hotly contested, and one Democrat, Sen. Russell D. Feingold of Wisconsin, has threatened to filibuster the bill. He vowed to “do everything I can, including a filibuster, to stop this Patriot Act conference report, which does not include adequate safeguards to protect our constitutional freedoms.”

Sen. Arlen Specter, Pennsylvania Republican and chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said he expects approval of the report in both the Senate and the House. The House is expected to vote on the report Wednesday. The Senate also is scheduled to vote on the report this week.

The anti-meth legislation restricts and records the sale of medicines containing meth precursors, including pseudoephedrine, ephedrine and phenylpropanolamine; relocates those products behind the counter, requiring purchasers to show identification and sign a logbook; and allows legitimate consumers to get the medicine they need, but limits how much one person can buy to 9 grams a month and 3.6 grams in a single day.

The bill provides an additional $99 million a year for the next five years to train state and local law enforcement to investigate and lock up meth offenders and expands available funding for personnel and equipment for enforcement, prosecution and environmental cleanup.

It also allocates $20 million in grant funding in 2006 and 2007 for rapid-response teams to promote collaboration among federal, state and local agencies to assist and educate children who have been affected by the production of methamphetamine.

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