Update: Pseudoephedrine bill narrowly clears panel but Senate vote delayed

02/03/2011 03:38 PM

(UPDATED 4 :02 p.m.) FRANKFORT — After hours of wrangling and in the wake of loud rally, a Senate panel narrowly passed a bill that would require people to have prescriptions for cold medicine with pseudoephedrine as a way to make it more difficult for meth makers to get.

That set the legislation up for a potential vote on the Senate floor as soon as Republican leaders who are backing the bill could line up enough votes for the legislation. The bill was placed on the calendar for a vote as early as Thursday, but the Senate adjourned just before 4 p.m. without taking it up.

The Senate Judiciary Committee took testimony and debated the bill during a morning meeting but didn’t take a vote on it as it appeared the members of the panel were split over the issue.

Backers of the bill — who include GOP Majority Floor Leader Robert Stivers of Manchester — say it’s necessary to crack down on the meth epidemic. They also received the help of Republican U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers of Somerset, who testified in the committee and appeared at a 2:30 rally in the Capitol Rotunda.

But opponents, including some Republicans, questioned whether it was the right approach. They said it would make it more difficult and potentially expensive for people suffering from the common cold to get medicine. And law enforcement officials have said moving pseudoephedrine behind the counter might make it slower to track then the current MethCheck system that requires people buying the medication to sign a registry.

After not voting in the morning, the committee re-convened later and narrowly passed the bill.
The vote was anything but along party lines. Instead, it split more between rural and urban legislators.

Republicans Stivers, Tom Jensen of London, Carroll Gibson of Leitchfield and Dan Seum of Louisville voted for it and were joined by Democrats Ray Jones of Pikeville and Robin Webb of Grayson.

Northern Kentucky Republicans John Schickel and Jack Westwood voted against it, as did Democrats Perry Clark of Louisville and Jerry Rhoads of Madisonville.

Republican Sen. Katie Stine of Southgate — who is the Senate president pro tem — wasn’t present for the afternoon vote.

After the committee passed the bill, the Senate went back into session. At the same time the rally in the rotunda for proponents of the bill got underway featuring high-profile speakers including Rogers and Attorney General Jack Conway.

As Kenny Colston tweeted from the Senate floor: “Noise from the rally in support of SB45 rattling throughout Capitol. Senate ‘seals’ doors to try and muffle noise. Not having much luck.”

(To follow legislative developments and other political happenings via Twitter, follow mycn2)

- Reporting by Kenny Colston and Don Weber

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