Wed, June 26

House OKs bill to give cites, counties control over sober living homes

PHOENIX -- Cities and counties would get new powers to register "sober-living homes' under the terms of legislation given final House approval on Friday.

Rep. Noel Campbell, R-Prescott, said he crafted the measure specifically to deal with what he said has been an explosion of facilities in his community designed to provide a place to live for people dealing with drug and alcohol addiction. They are not medical facilities but more like halfway houses for people, including former prison inmates.

But HB 2107 would apply statewide.

Communities could demand things like the name of the property owner or who is leasing it. More to the point, they could require the facilities provide a written copy of supervision requirements for the residents as well as operation plans that include the rehabilitation process.

During legislative hearings, neighbors complained about noise and criminal activity. Campbell called it "a health, safety and wellness issue.'

But opponents of HB 2107 questioned the necessity for a state law.

"I do see that Prescott is really struggling,' said Rep. Celeste Plumlee, D-Tempe. But she said communities already have the power to deal with nuisances.

Rep. Juan Mendez, D-Tempe, was more direct in his opposition, pointing out that addicts who are in recovery are protected by federal law against ordinances designed to restrict where their homes can be located.

"This unnecessary, permissive bill encourages adoption of discriminatory ordinances, violates a person's right to privacy regarding their health care, and creates regulatory burdens for entities providing a much-needed service,' he said.

But Rep. Mark Finchem, R-Oro Valley, dismissed those concerns.

"This is not about denying health care to anybody,' he said.

"This is about supervision of those people who are supposed to be closely supervising the operation of these facilities and who, in many cases, are not,' Finchem said. "And because they are not, they are not functioning in the best interests of the community or the people who are supposed to be being given rehabilitation care.

The measure now goes to the governor.

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