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Friday, April 18, 2014

Editorial: Senate Bill 5 Shining Example of Dysfunctional Frankfort

Photo via CN2
This is why people get so frustrated with politics.

Fort Thomas City Hall, Frankfort, Washington - they all have characteristics that drive "we the people" crazy. They ignore common sense and many times the desire of its constituents. In the case of the Kentucky House of Representatives' inability to pass Senate Bill 5 to deal with our area's heroin epidemic, it's bordering near criminal. 

Sen. Katie Stine, R-Southgate and the sponsor of the bill, said she didn’t know what else could have been done from her end. The Senate passed the measure Jan. 16, giving the House nearly three months to make changes and negotiate.

House leaders, including Judiciary Chairman John Tilley, say they struggled to find the right combination of provisions to get the bill through the House.

The Senate leaders expected the House to act. The House leaders were trying to figure out what could pass on both ends of the Capitol. And the lack of cohesive and consistent negotiations between the two chamber pushed the bill to the brink. And the House ran out of time before the clock struck midnight Tuesday.

“I was absolutely … appalled,” Stine said.

In a nutshell, the Senate bill had plenty of non-controversial proposals that would have had an impact in the fight to prevent more heroin deaths. It would have increased funding for the treatment of addicts and promoted awareness of the risks of the drug. It would also have made the overdose antidote drug Naloxone more widely available to first responders, treatment facilities and the friends and families of addicts.

There were also a few controversial measures. One would have allowed the state to charge high-volume drug dealers with homicide if someone dies of an overdose; some lawmakers wondered whether the measure was constitutional. Another would have created a needle-exchange program to prevent the spread of HIV and hepatitis C among addicts, which caused concern over whether it promoted drug use.

During the waning hours of April 15, the final day of the legislative session, Rep. Sannie Overly, a Democrat from Paris, Ky., attached an amendment to Senate Bill 5. Overly’s amendment would have attached another amendment, which would have paved the way for tolls to help pay for the Brent Spence Bridge project.

While Overly may have been doing the dirty work for pro-toll special interest groups, she was not alone in her incompetence to pass a bill that would have immediately saved lives. The entire House had 3 months to work out the intricacies of the bill. Many were worried about a needle exchange, but that point is now moot as a vote did not even take place. They waited until 11:45PM, 15 minutes before the deadline, to "get serious" about passing the heroin bill.

Shame on you, Frankfort!

So now without a special session to get this legislation passed, which would cost the Kentucky taxpayers $300,000, Senate Bill 5 will have to wait until 2015 to be passed. Katie Stine, the bill's co-sponsor will be home in Southgate, her legacy now completely out of her hands.

There have been over 40 overdose deaths in Northern Kentucky since the passage of Senate Bill 5 in January. 40 families. How many more will heroin take before the House takes this bill back up in January?

I'm no politician, but here's a measure I believe each of these officials should adhere to: One bill, one issue, one vote. 

Stop adding superfluous amendments to bills that have nothing to do with one another. It's what makes politics disgusting. It's sneaky, disingenuous and downright stupid. Politicians will tell you that amendments like these are important to the democratic process. That this is just how things "get done."

To that I would say, "Change the way things get done." Make it simple. Put your name on one vote and stop gumming up the works so that the people who put you in office can hold you accountable and you cannot hide behind the politics of it all. 

Not passing Senate Bill 5 is now the shining example of how dysfunctional you are, Frankfort.

Here's video of Katie Stine via CN2 Politics:

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