Senate Update: Senate passes bill targeting the AG; three-day opioid supply bill

03/30/2017 08:56 PM

FRANKFORT – In the final hours of the 2017 legislative session, the Senate passed several notable House bills.

House Bill 281, sponsored by Rep. Jason Nemes, R-Frankfort, would cap lawyers’ pay in contingency fee contracts awarded by the Office of the Attorney General at $20 million. The legislation also picked up an amendment from Senate President Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, which would redefine some of the powers of the Attorney General in letting the governor, not the attorney general, be the voice of the state when filing amicus briefs before the U.S. Supreme Court.

HB 281 passed by a 26-12 vote with Republican Julie Raque Adams joining the 11 Democrats in the Senate voting no.

Prior to the vote, Stivers outlined what the four main components of the Senate committee substitute.

Sen. Reggie Thomas, D-Lexington spoke against the legislation saying that it was an action by the governor to weaken the Attorney General.

“I think House Bill 281 is nothing more than a power grab not to just weaken the attorney general but to weaken the people of the state of Kentucky,” Thomas said.

Nemes told Pure Politics on Monday that he hoped the Senate would pass the bill as it passed the House without their changes altering the office of the Attorney General.

However, HB 281 was not taken up by the House before the midnight deadline as the bill died for the 2017 session.

House Bill 333, sponsored by Rep. Kim Moser, R-Independence, passed by a 29-9 vote.

The legislation would limit prescriptions for addictive opioid pain killers like oxycodone, fentanyl and morphine to a three day supply, with exceptions for the terminally-ill and some others.

In addition, it would increase felony penalties for those who illegally deal in the synthetic opioid pain killer fentanyl and make it a felony to deal in drugs derived from fentanyl as well as carfentanil, which is used as an elephant tranquilizer. Trafficking in any amount of fentanyl, its derivatives or carfentanil would carry up to 10 years for a first offense, with longer sentences for repeat offenders and those who deal over certain amounts of the drugs.

Sen. Whitney Westerfield, R-Hopkinsville, believes that the bill ican help curb the number of prescription medicines and opiates in Kentucky’s communities.

“It limits the prescriptions for acute care to a 3-day supply while still protecting critically the opportunity for physicians to make the best decisions they can for treatment of pain and other conditions for their patients,” Westerfield said. “It provides 6 or 7 exceptions to that so the doctor can deviate from that 3-day restriction so as long as they make a finding in the chart and they document the rationale from deviating from that three days.”

While voting “yes” on the legislation, Sen. Ray Jones, D-Pikeville, expressed concern that the legislation may handcuff doctors in some cases.

“We have seen the pendulum swing to where quality physicians are reluctant to prescribe pain medication because of the bureaucracy and the fear of being accused of breaking a law or violating a medical ethics rule,” Jones said.

The Senate also passed House Bill 330 on a 30-7-1 vote.

HB 330 would extend the life of a tax increment financing project for the KFC Yum! Center by extending the TIF by up to 25 years, send excess revenues at the KFC Yum! Center to retire refinanced debt and require annual reporting to the General Assembly.

HB 333 and 330 will now go to the governors desk for his consideration.

On Thursday night, Gov. Matt Bevin paid a surprise visit to the chamber and addressed the body.

Bevin thanked the legislators for a “phenomenal session”.

“I just came up to thank you,” Bevin said. “Those that voted for things that I would have voted for and those that voted against things that I would have voted for, thank you just the same. When we get older and our kids and grand kids grow up, we’ll be able to look back on the 2017 session and be amazed at the things that you’ve set in motion.”


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