Journal-Times (Grayson, KY)

Columns

February 23, 2011

Senate week in review

Feb. 23, 2011 —     There was an alarming budget development in Florida that would have a huge impact on the illegal prescription drug use in Kentucky. Republican Governor Rick Scott has announced his decision to cut the $500,000 budget item for the state’s electronic prescription monitoring system, the equivalent of our KASPER tracking system.

    This announcement prompted me to file Senate Resolution 119, urging the Florida Governor and legislative leaders to reconsider the decision to defund the tracking system as we work toward a national system to encompass the United States. Delegate Don Perdue, D-West Virginia, with whom I work closely with on drug issues involving both prescription and non-prescription use, has filed similar action in West Virginia.

    Kentucky’s electronic monitoring system, although not perfect is a national model, forcing those seeking access to prescription drugs to go out of state. It is no secret that the state of Florida is a popular destination in the pill pipeline. Kentucky’s lawmakers, Attorney General, Lieutenant Governor and the law enforcement community have made efforts to include Florida in a tracking system. If Florida repeals its prescription drug tracking program, it will be harder for states like Kentucky and West Virginia to track those individuals who are doctor shopping across state lines. In the war on drugs, we need every tool in place to help us fight the growing prescription drug abuse problem.

    We need to move forward, not backwards as the proposed action in Florida would do.

Bills approved by the senate this week

    A constant question regarding our energy economy in Kentucky is what we can do with the carbon dioxide gas that our power plants produce. Clean coal mandates that we capture and store that CO2, but what do we do with it then? We now have the opportunity to join a carbon pipeline from Illinois to Louisiana, running through Western Kentucky, that would allow us to send that stored carbon to the Gulf of Mexico, where it can be used to help extract oil and natural gas from existing fields. We could see 1,000 construction jobs from the pipeline if everything is in place, and SB 50 puts us in a great position. SB 50 would create a process to site the pipeline and use eminent domain to purchase the land for it, just as we use it for electric lines and water pipes.

    In the wake of a recent bankruptcy of a major livestock entity that left farmers at great economic loss, the Senate took a step to protect farmers.  SB 94 establishes a livestock sellers’ lien and enhances existing protection under the Uniform Commercial Code.  Furthermore, SB 92 requires adequate bond amounts and conditions for stockyard owners or operators, buying station market agencies or livestock dealers. Penalty provisions of the measure are worrisome to me because the agency’s ability to assess penalties may be unduly enhanced in light of the failure of the entity. Overall, the bill provides adequate protection and is an improvement on current law.

    In an effort to create a healthier Kentucky, we passed legislation this week dealing with a wellness benefit plan. SB 114 would allow an insurer issuing a group or individual health benefit plan to offer a voluntary wellness or health improvement program that allows for rewards or incentives to encourage participation or to reward members for participation. There are many ways to encourage individuals to enroll in a health wellness program, such as gift cards, premium discounts or rebates, contributions toward a member’s health savings account and others. Under SB 114, any reward or incentive may not be an induce-ment to obtain or retain insurance.

    Just 10 legislative days remain before we break for the veto period. To leave a message for me, your House member, or any other legislator, call the General Assembly’s toll-free Message Line at (800) 372-7181. People with hearing impairments may leave messages for lawmakers by calling the TTY Message Line at (808) 896-0305. You can also e-mail me at robin.webb@lrc.ky.gov.

Senator Robin Webb represents Bracken, Carter, Greenup, Lewis, Mason and Robertson counties.

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