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New Heroin Bill (with Needle Exchange), Smoking Ban Pass Kentucky House

A bill that would use both treatment and incarceration to reduce the devastating effects of the heroin trade in Kentucky today passed the House by a vote of 98-0. The bill now goes to the Senate.

House Bill 213, sponsored by House Judiciary Committee Chair John Tilley, D-Hopkinsville, and Rep. Joni Jenkins, D-Shively, includes several provisions to attack the problem including:

  • tiered penalties for traffickers, with the greatest prison time for those felons who sell over a kilo of the drug;
  • a “good Samaritan” provision that gives criminal immunity from prosecution for possession of substances or paraphernalia to both those who call for emergency help in overdose situations and for the person who suffered the overdose;
  • prescriptive authority for pharmacists to provide the rescue drug naloxone where needed;
  • immunity for paramedics and other first responders who carry and administer naloxone;
  • redirect a portion of criminal justice reform savings for treatment programs, community mental health programs and expedited prosecutions;
  • and allow local governments to set up a needle exchange program to stave off Hepatitis C and HIV infection from shared needles.

The bill was also changed by an amendment offered by Rep. Tom Riner, D-Louisville, approved 95-0, that would allow those charged with nonviolent drug felonies who are eligible for diversion to use faith-based residential treatment to meet their diversion or deferred prosecution requirement.

A proposed amendment sponsored by Rep. Addia Wuchner, R-Florence, asked that the needle exchange proposal in the bill be replaced with a 2015 legislative study of hypodermic needle and syringe drug outreach programs. “It only postpones this portion of the bill,” said Wuchner.

Tilley, who said cases of Hepatitis C related to opioid dependence have increased nearly 1600 percent, argued against the amendment. He said needle exchange programs in other states “have proven time and again to save lives.”

The amendment was voted down 45-53.

The Senate has also taken up an anti-heroin measure this year. The chamber approved Senate Bill 5 on Jan. 8 and sent the measure to the House for consideration.

Recent news reports indicate that there were nearly 200 deaths caused by heroin overdose in the Commonwealth in the first nine months of 2014.

Smoking ban clears House

A bill that would ban smoking and use of e-cigarettes both indoors or within 15 feet of public places and workplaces statewide passed the Kentucky House today by a vote of 51-46.  It now goes to the Senate for consideration.

“I’m acutely aware that the issues we vote on in this General Assembly impact not just the people in our backyard but throughout the entire state,” said House Bill 145 primary sponsor Rep. Susan Westrom, D-Lexington, who told her colleagues that she rejected the idea of statewide smoking restrictions 14 years ago in her early years as a state lawmaker.

Westrom said the fact that 950 people die each year in Kentucky from illnesses cause by second-hand smoke helped change her mind, leading her to begin filing smoke-free bills five years ago.

“This bill just requests that a smoker step outside 15 feet (from a workplace or public building). Fifteen feet isn’t too much to ask,” she said.

HB 145—also referred to as the “Smokefree Kentucky” bill—as amended today would create a fine (with no court costs) of $25 for individuals and $50 for each business violating the proposed ban—a significant reduction of fines proposed in the original bill. It would also carve out exemptions from the proposed ban for private clubs, facilities that do tobacco marketing research, and cigar bars and tobacconists that can prove their tobacco sales are at least 10 percent of their gross annual sales.

Private residences would be unaffected by the proposal except in areas used for paid lodging, childcare, adult care, or health care. Any location where smoking or use of e-cigarettes is prohibited would have to be clearly marked with a no smoking sign at each entrance.

The bill as amended also clarifies that HB 145 would not repeal existing local ordinances or regulations that restrict smoking, and would not prevent localities from passing more restrictive rules.

Two proposed amendments to the bill that were defeated include a proposal by Minority Caucus Chair Stan Lee, R-Lexington, that would have exempted e-cigarettes from the proposed ban and clarified that e-cigarette use is not prohibited by the bill. Lee said e-cigarettes, which contain nicotine but not tobacco, can help smokers get off cigarettes.

“I will tell you that e-cigarettes helped my father quit smoking. That’s what they were invented for,” he said. The amendment was defeated by a narrow vote of 46-49. Also narrowly defeated (44-45) was a proposed amendment by Rep. Jim DuPlessis, R-Elizabethtown, that would exempt labeled and ventilated “smoking establishments” from proposed ban.

Rep. Tanya Pullin, D-South Shore, said local governments have some time to craft and pass smoking ordinances acceptable to their constituencies before HB 145, if passed into law, would take effect later this year. Westrom agreed, clarifying that local ordinances would take precedence under the bill as amended.

From the Legislative Research Commission