The April 12 deadline for the legislature to approve in regular session a bill seeking to curb prescription drug abuse has come and gone with no resolution. Now House Speaker Greg Stumbo has filed a similar bill to be voted on in the ongoing special session of the General Assembly.
House Bill 4, also known as the pill mill bill, stalled in a Senate committee last week. According to Brian Wilkerson, a representative for Stumbo, as the bill was in committee several changes that weakened it were being discussed.
“There had been a lot of changes in those final hours before the session ended that we felt had watered it down,” said Wilkerson.
The bill was widely supported, yet amendments and piggy-backing legislation made the discussions slow and ultimately fail to pass in the regular session. The bill was created by Stumbo with support from Governor Steve Beshear. Twenty other representatives had also signed on in support of the bill, including many Eastern Kentucky lawmakers.
Rather than push forward with the weakened legislation, they decided to end the regular session without passing the bill. Governor Steve Beshear called for a special session on Friday, where Stumbo filed a new version on the bill, House Bill 1.
Since the regular session ended, all of the bills that did not pass are discarded. This newly filed bill will seek to do many of the things that House Bill 4 sought, but is almost an exact match to the way the bill appeared as it left the House before going to the Senate.
“It is pretty much almost identical to the form that passed the House earlier this year,” said Wilkerson.
But now, the bill will also have to go through the entire process again. The quickest a bill can pass is five days, so it could be passed as early as Friday, April 21, or it could take longer. Each day of the special session is costing taxpayers around $60,000.
House Bill 1, also called the KASPER bill, seeks to help reduce prescription redundancies, doctor shopping, and instances over prescribing. It seeks to do this by moving the KASPER program, a program that helps to monitor and track prescriptions of controlled substances in the commonwealth, to the state attorney general’s office to give better access to law enforcement and prosecutors.
Since many of the drug problems in Kentucky stem from the use of prescription pills, the bill seeks to put an end to or hamper the excessive number of pills being put on to the illegal drug market. Over the last decade, only around one third of physicians used KASPER. This bill would make it mandatory.
Of the doctors that did use it, 90 percent said that occasional monitoring and checking of patients influenced a decision to prescribe or not prescribe a substance.
The bill started in the House of Representatives on Monday, April 16 along with the budget for the road plan. While the session was called by the governor it must be closed by the General Assembly. During this session these are the only two bills that can be discussed.