Letter to the Editor

Bill's cost impact is unknown

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

To the editor:Among legislation not widely mentioned this year is House Bill 366. Referred to as the Special Committee on State Parks and Waterways, the bill makes it a crime to distribute a controlled substance within 1,000 feet of a public or private park. It was already a crime to distribute controlled substances at these locations, but this bill changes the penalty to a Class A felony, with a 10- to 30-year prison sentence, the same as second-degree murder.

Forget that our lawmakers have been broken records, repeating "tough on drugs" for decades. Ignore that the concept of "private" parks might lead an over zealous prosecutor to argue that any person's lawn or garden is a private park. And never mind that this law won't effect Missouri's drug problem. The real trouble is in the fiscal implications or lack thereof.

The state claims there will be no financial impact from the bill. However, this estimation springs from a variety of questionable assumptions. Missouri's Department of Corrections says there's no significant impact if fewer than seven people are imprisoned under the law. The Office of Prosecution Services reports that they cannot estimate the bill's impact, but assumes that costs can be offset to county or local entities. The state can't figure out what this bill costs, so they say it won't cost anything. In essence there are likely tens, maybe hundreds of thousands of tax dollars that will need to be spent for a law that's unlikely to impact Missouri's drug problem.