Capitol Notes: Heroin Bill Passes Kentucky Senate

These notes from the Kentucky General Assembly are provided by the Kentucky Legislative Research Commission via KY Forward.

Heroin treatment and trafficking bill clears Senate: A bill that would increase treatment options for heroin and other opiate addiction and stiffen penalties for trafficking the drugs has passed the Senate.

Senate Bill 5, sponsored by Senate President Pro Tem Katie Stine, R-Southgate, would dedicate to substance abuse recovery programs a quarter of funds saved through correction reforms passed by the legislature in 2011. The bill would also require Medicaid programs to cover addiction treatment options.

According to Stine, the bill was prompted by a sharp increase in heroin trafficking, abuse and overdose in Northern Kentucky in recent years but is also a problem in other parts of the state and nation as well.

A report from the Kentucky Office of Drug Control Policy stated that heroin samples collected and analyzed by Kentucky State Police increased from 433 confirmed submissions in 2010 to 1,349 in 2012. Heroin deaths increased from 22 in 2011 to 143 in 2012.

The bill would increase the availability of naloxone, a potentially life-saving antidote administered to heroin overdose victims, and would give criminal immunity to “good Samaritans” seeking medical attention for overdose victims.

“We hope to save lives,” Stine said.

Stine told fellow lawmakers the bill takes a “three-pronged approach of education, intervention and interdiction” in addressing opiate abuse in the state. Under the bill, traffickers convicted of selling more than two grams of heroin or methamphetamine would be required to serve at least half of their sentence before becoming eligible for probation.

Other provisions of the bill would help facilitate the prosecution of dealers for criminal homicide in the event of a fatal overdose, Stine said.

“The bill targets two different groups: The trafficker who needs to be run out of Kentucky or locked up, and the addict who has broken the law but who has created their own personal prison of addiction that is worse than any jail the state could design and needs treatment,” she said.

Senate Bill 5 passed the chamber on a 36-0 vote with one lawmaker abstaining and now goes to the full House for consideration.

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Felon voting rights bill clears House, goes to Senate: A bipartisan bill that would allow Kentucky voters to restore voting rights to more than 180,000 nonviolent felons across the Commonwealth has passed its first hurdle this legislative session.

House Bill 70, sponsored by Rep. Jesse Crenshaw, D-Lexington, and House Minority Leader Jeff Hoover, R-Jamestown, cleared the Kentucky House Thursday by a vote of 82-12. Should it become law, voters will be able to decide by statewide ballot in the next general election (scheduled for Nov. 4) whether or not to approve a state constitutional amendment that would automatically restore the right to vote for Kentucky’s nonviolent felons.

The amendment would apply only to nonviolent felons who have served their sentences or completed the requirements of probation or parole. It would exclude felons convicted of rape, sodomy, intentional murder, or sexual contact with a minor.

Crenshaw said it’s a matter of fairness that those who have paid their debt “be able to take part in their own governance. And, ladies and gentlemen, that is what House Bill 70 does.”

HB 70 received vocal support from Rep. David Floyd, R-Bardstown, who has supported similar legislation filed by Crenshaw in past sessions. Floyd told the House that there “is no political consideration that can push aside my sense that a debt paid is a debt satisfied.”

HB 70 now goes to the Senate for consideration.

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Photo: Heroin needles in a beer can found in Covington/RCN file