Robert Stivers: House had the time but not the will to pass heroin bill

May 5, 2014 

  • At issue: April 23 Herald-Leader editorial, "House fails to act on heroin crisis; Beshear should explore executive orders"

In the days since the adjournment of the 2014 session of the Kentucky General Assembly, much has been said about the failure of the House of Representatives to pass Senate Bill 5 — Sen. Katie Stine's legislation aimed at tackling Kentucky's growing heroin problem.

Members of the House have said they "ran out of time" to pass this important piece of legislation. I'm not sure how having a bill for almost three months constitutes running out of time.

The truth is, the House received this bill on Jan. 17. Instead of hearing and passing it immediately, they held onto it. The only logical explanation is that they kept this bill to use as a pawn in their political games.

Don't believe me; don't believe them. Instead, believe the record ; and here's what it shows:

Dec. 19, 2013: Stine, Attorney General Jack Conway and Rep. John Tilley announce legislation that would become SB 5 during a press conference in the attorney general's office. During the press conference, Conway says: "Make no mistake about it, we believe this bill has the potential to save lives in the Commonwealth of Kentucky."

Jan. 7: Introduced in Senate

Jan. 16: Introduced in Judiciary Committee, with testimony from Stine; Tilley, who carried the bill in the House; Eric and Holly Specht, whose son Nicholas died of a heroin overdose; and many others.

Jan. 16: Reported favorably from Judiciary Committee.

Jan. 16: Posted to Senate Orders of the Day; passes 36-1.

Jan. 17: Received in House.

Jan. 22: Posted to House Judiciary Committee.

Feb. 5: I sent a letter to House Speaker Greg Stumbo urging the House to take up the bill quickly, and to add an emergency clause onto the bill so it goes into effect immediately upon the governor's signing. The letter mentions the death of actor Philip Seymour Hoffman, which drew national attention to the country's heroin problem.

March 26: House committee substitute bill reported favorably from House Judiciary Committee to Rules Committee, following testimony by many of the same individuals who testified Jan. 16.

April 15: Taken from House Rules Committee, posted to Orders of the Day.

April 15, 11:44 p.m.: Bill, with House committee substitute, is heard for the first time on the House floor.

It is clear from this timeline of events that the House did not "run out of time" as claimed; instead they held it until the last possible minute. As a result, Kentuckians and their families will suffer.

Let's put this into perspective.

In 2006, more than $2 billion was spent preparing for a bird flu pandemic. How many U.S. deaths were the result of bird flu? Zero.

In one Kentucky county alone — Kenton County — there have been at least 26 deaths since January that have been attributed to heroin.

That, one would think, would spark a public outcry and a call to action.

Senate Robert Stivers is president of the Kentucky Senate.

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