FRANKFORT — A state senator expressed disappointment Monday over the demise of his bill to ban over-the-counter sales of cold medicines that contain pseudoephedrine and urged his colleagues to help him come up with a solution to stop deadly meth labs in the state.
In a speech on the Senate floor, Sen. Tom Jensen, R-London, said current laws are not stopping meth labs, noting that 1,100 were found last year in the state.
"I will ask over the next few months you figure out a way to stop the labs," Jensen said to his Senate colleagues. "If my solution is not the answer, figure out a way."
A state data-collection system showed that 498,000 people in Kentucky bought pseudoephedrine last year, he said.
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"How is law enforcement supposed to track them?" he asked.
Jensen said passage of legislation similar to his Senate Bill 45 in Mississippi and Oregon has reduced dramatically the number of methamphetamine labs in those states.
Jensen's Judiciary Committee, after hearing testimony from U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers, R-Somerset, approved SB 45 on Feb. 3, but the measure has not been called for a vote in the Senate.
Pseudoephedrine is a key ingredient in the manufacture of meth, but opponents of Jensen's bill said that requiring a prescription for pseudoephedrine would be burdensome to people with colds and allergies.
Jensen compared the controversy over his proposal to the legislative debate several years ago over making seat belts mandatory.
He noted that some people initially objected to mandatory seat-belt use, but in the long run, it has proven to save lives.
He said his bill will save lives, recalling the death of a 20-month-old boy in Wayne County who died in May 2009 after drinking a substance used in making methamphetamine.
He also asked how legislators would react if a driver were making meth in a vehicle and it struck a school bus.
Sen. Joey Pendleton, D-Hopkinsville, said that Western Kentucky is experiencing "a tremendous problem with meth labs" and that he has seen "lives totally destroyed by meth."
He agreed with Jensen that lawmakers against SB 45 "should come up with a better solution."
Sen. Kathy Stein, D-Lexington, said her problem with Jensen's bill is that the state "has not been able to tame prescription drug abuse. By adding more medicines to prescriptions, that would not solve the problem of abuse."
Stein said she wishes "there could have been some sort of compromise with SB 45" and said she would be more than willing to work with Jensen to come up with a way to curb meth labs.