Jensen drops lead sponsorship of meth bill to avoid conflict but pledges to redouble efforts to pass it

01/27/2012 04:17 PM

State Sen. Tom Jensen, R-London, removed himself as the lead sponsor of a bill aimed at curtailing methamphetamine to avoid any appearance of a conflict because of his past legal work for an anti-drug program.

Jensen announced to the Senate chamber Friday morning that he would allow co-sponsor Robert Stivers, the Republican floor leader, to carry the legislation. He said some reporters had asked him about whether he did legal work through his private law practice for Operation UNITE, the Eastern Kentucky-based organization that focuses on drug enforcement, treatment and education.

Jensen said he wrote up language in 2003 — before he was elected to the Senate — for intergovernmental agreements so that county law enforcement agencies could coordinate on drug busts and treatment efforts.

While he said he didn’t feel it was a conflict, he wanted the focus back on the bill — not him.

Jensen’s announcement seemed to re-energize the effort among some lawmakers who agree with Jensen and want cold medicines containing pseudoephedrine — a key ingredient in meth — to be available only through prescriptions. The bill, Senate Bill 50, would not apply to pseudoephedrine in liquid gel-cap format because it is more difficult to convert into meth.

“It’s a shame that had to happen, but as I was sitting here, I began to think: More than likely, that will strengthen the position of the bill because typically you rally to the side of someone who had been wronged,” said Democratic Sen. Kathy Stein of Lexington.

Stein said Jensen’s announcement probably won’t have an effect on lawmakers who already are against it but could persuade some undecided legislators.

A similar measure failed to get a vote on the Senate floor last year. But Jensen pledged to have all 38 senators go on the record this year.

As the Senate Judiciary Committee chairman, Jensen has presided over two hearings so far in which experts, proponents and opponents have testified.

The Consumer Healthcare Products Association, which represents drug makers, is backing another bill that would require only people with meth convictions to have to get prescriptions for cold medicines containing pseudoephedrine.

Carlos Gutierrez of the organization testified on behalf of that approach earlier this month.

The industry spent more than $350,000 airing ads last year against measures to require prescriptions for those medicines.

This year, the group is running radio and print ads.

On Friday, House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, lashed out at the industry because he said they don’t have the best interest of Kentuckians.


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