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Helena Independent Record - "McGrath Outlines Plans for Second Term as AG"

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Location: Helena, MT

Helena Independent Record - "McGrath Outlines Plans for Second Term as AG"

Unopposed for re-election, Attorney General Mike McGrath said he looks forward to being the state's chief legal and law-enforcement official for four more years to accomplish more for Montanans.

''I really, really like this job,'' said McGrath, a Democrat. ''It's a great opportunity to be involved with the law and public policy at the same time.''

He's proud of the state Justice Department's accomplishments during his first term.

He said the department has totally restructured the way law enforcement officials are trained at the Montana Law Enforcement Academy, north of Helena. More emphasis is placed on officials writing reports through a scenario-based program.

The department has made ''great strides in making government more efficient,'' McGrath said. The transfer of titles for vehicles, which formerly took six to eight weeks, now is handled in virtually the same day by the Motor Vehicle Division, he said.

McGrath has launched a multi-faceted initiative to fight methamphetamine that he looks forward to continuing in his second term.

''We have a lot to do in terms of public awareness, but we've done a lot,'' he said. ''People need to understand that law enforcement can't solve the job alone.''

McGrath also cited his efforts to go after companies ''that have abused their corporate power, which unfortunately we've seen a lot of in Montana.''

He has a lawsuit and case before the PSC over the electricity market manipulation by Enron and others in 2000-2001, a case against pharmaceutical companies over costs of prescription drugs and a case against WorldCom, a telephone company involved in a scandal.

''There's a lot more we can do for consumers in Montana,'' McGrath said. ''Right now, consumer protection functions aren't very well coordinated in state government. We're the only attorney general's office in the country that doesn't have primary consumer protection responsibility.''

McGrath said he will talk to the new governor and new legislative leaders about the possibility of consolidating consumer affairs in the attorney general's office. The main state office is now located in the Department of Administration, yet McGrath said his office receives ''an amazing amount of correspondence related to consumer complaints.''

At the 2005 Legislature, McGrath said he will be pressing for several highway safety measures:

n An open container law that would ban open containers of alcoholic beverages in motor vehicles.

n A ''primary seat belt law'' that would allow law enforcement officials to issue tickets to motorists for not wearing a seatbelt. Montana now has a secondary seatbelt law, which means law enforcement can ticket someone for not wearing a seatbelt only if a primary violation such as speeding occurs.

n A graduated driver's license bill that would delay a full license for young drivers until they complete a series of steps under lower risk conditions.

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