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Meth home protection bill fails to become law

By DEVAN SCHWARTZ, Herald and News 7/9/13

Oregon Rep Gail Whitsett

A last-ditch effort to resuscitate a bill protecting homeowners from methamphetamine chemicals failed to pass Sunday. The legislative session ended Monday just before 3 p.m.

House Bill 3499 was crafted by Rep. Gail Whitsett, R-Klamath Falls, upon hearing the story of Jonathan Hankins and his family. Only after they purchased a foreclosed home in Klamath Falls were toxic chemicals related to meth production discovered there.

Hankins told his family’s story to national news outlets and has since become an activist, creating petitions on the website change.org to keep the issue visible.

The proposed bill offers homebuyers some protection by requiring public notice that foreclosed property for sale may have been used for manufacturing methamphetamine. The bill passed the House unanimously June 6. It was then sent to the General Government, Consumer and Small Business Protection Committee, which wasn’t expected to meet before session’s end.

A motion was made Sunday to withdraw the bill from committee and push it toward a Senatewide vote. The motion failed 16 to 14. State Sen. Doug Whitsett, R-Klamath Falls, provided a local ‘yes’ vote for his wife’s bill after making the motion.

Speaking in support of the bill, Sen. Whitsett said the following on the Senate floor: “Colleagues, last year a young Klamath Falls family was poisoned by methamphetamine residue after purchasing, renovating, and living in a home auctioned at a trustee sale in Klamath Falls. The Hankins family, including a young child, was unaware that the house could be so poisonous without showing any sign, any smell, any outward indication of the high level of methamphetamine residue that it contained. They continued to live in the house until it nearly killed them and their child.”

Gail Whitsett’s staff expressed uncertainty as to why Senate President Peter Courtney, D-Salem, withheld the popular bill from a vote.

Sarah Dressler, legislative aide for Rep. Whitsett, said a simple majority would have been required.

Dressler added that the next time the bill could be taken up would be February when a new legislative session begins.

“I guess that’s just politics,” Hankins said about the bill being killed in the final stretch.

Although he expressed a mutual disappointment shared with Whitsett’s office, he said they are optimistic about introducing the bill afresh.

On the plus side, Hankins mentioned how family and friends have noticed realtors and home buyers gaining awareness on the possibility of drugproduction contamination.

“I would love for all foreclosed homes to be tested,” he said.




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