Indiana mayors urge lawmakers to get tougher on meth

A group of Indiana mayors is pushing state lawmakers to do more to help battle methamphetamine abuse and meth labs that are ruining families in their communities.

Lawmakers have taken steps in recent years to combat meth, including a law that took effect this year requiring retailers to enter information about the sale of medications that contains pseudoephedrine — the cold-fighting ingredient essential for making meth — onto a national online tracking system.

But Evansville Mayor Lloyd Winnecke said he and other members of the bipartisan Indiana Coalition of Mayors want lawmakers to require prescriptions statewide for people purchasing medicine that include pseudoephedrine.

Winnecke told the Evansville Courier & Press that other options include allowing individual counties to adopt ordinances requiring prescriptions. He calls meth a "scourge" that's southwestern Indiana's "No. 1 public service problem."

In Vanderburgh County, police raided 37 meth labs in 2007, but that number grew to 112 in 2011, Winnecke said. So far in 2012, 104 meth labs have been raided, leading to 37 children being placed in foster homes.

Terre Haute Mayor Duke Bennett said meth's toll in some parts of the state has been significant.

"It destroys families. It destroys communities," Bennett said.

The coalition's push for new meth controls isn't its only priority in the coming session. The group also wants more money for local governments to maintain roads now that the $3.85 billion the state got from leasing the Indiana Toll Road is running low.

Petersburg Mayor Jon Craig said his southern Indiana city received only about $70,000 from the state to pay for road maintenance and that means he can only employ one part-time road maintenance worker.

The mayors said they'd like to see lawmakers use gasoline tax revenue exclusively on transportation, rather than also using it to fund the Bureau of Motor Vehicles and the Indiana State Police.

In addition, the mayors want more power to deal with abandoned and foreclosed homes. That could include the authority to require banks and mortgage companies to handle weed control and mowing at foreclosed homes, or to reimburse municipal governments taking care of those problems.

The mayoral coalition has launched a website — www.TrustLocalIndiana.com — for its new "Trust Indiana" initiative aimed at spurring lawmakers to boost local government control.

"State legislators have a lot of power affecting our ability to get things done," said Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend. "They have a choice on how to use that power. They can use it to put tools in our hands or they can use it to tie our hands."

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