Friday, April 13, 2012

Pill-mill bill does not pass as legislative session ends in failure; special session starts Monday

Though it's considered by experts as the most important bill needed this year, the Senate failed to pass a measure that would crack down on so-called pill mills before the end of the legislative session last night. Gov. Steve Beshear, above, called a special session that will begin Monday to give legislators more time to consider the bill, as well as approve funding for a $4.5 billion road-building plan — which was the main cause for the legislative gridlock.

Beshear wasn't happy, and blamed Senate President David Williams: "His rank partisanship, his obstructionist attitude, have caused numerous special sessions and cost the taxpayers millions of dollars of unnecessary expenses." The special session will cost more than $60,000 per day. "He's Senate president. I can't do a thing about that," Beshear said. "But what I can do is make sure that the people of this state know very loudly and clearly what damage he is causing to Kentucky."

Beshear even criticized Williams in his agenda for the special session, which included "legislation to enhance and expand tools and resources critical to Kentucky's continuing efforts to address the scourge of prescription drug abuse that plagues our citizens."

Negotiators on the prescription-drug measure, House Bill 4, came up with a compromise that pleased the Kentucky Medical Association, which opposes moving the state prescription-drug monitoring system to the attorney general's office from the Cabinet for Health and Family Services and the doctor-controlled Kentucky Board of Medical Licensure. The compromise would still make that move, and still limit ownership of pain clinics to physicians, but dropped a requirement that all physicians pay $50 to use the system.

Beshear railed against the impasse. "Sen. Williams willfully ignored the visible misery of our communities and allowed this essential bill to die," he said in a press release. "Why? Because of his road projects." Some lawmakers said another factor was House Democrats' refusal to override any of Beshear's budget vetoes, in spite of what Williams said was House Speaker Greg Stumbo's pledge to override. Stumbo denied making such a pledge.

On the road issue, "Williams wanted Beshear to sign the transportation projects list into law before the Senate voted on the bill authorizing the road construction money. Without the funding bill, those projects couldn't get started," reports Ryan Alessi of "Pure Politics" on cn|2, a cable-company news service. "Williams didn't want to give Beshear the ability to veto the project list and be able to unilaterally decide how to spend the $4 billion in federal and state road and bridge construction money."

According to Beshear, $288 million was allotted in the funding plan for Williams' district, $130 million of which would have been funded in the near future. But Williams "made some last-minute fine-print changes that moved an additional $155 million of those projects in his district ahead of those in other communities around the state." (Read more)

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