Each legislative session, there's an issue that reinforces the most cynical observations about the relationship between money and public policy.
Last year it was a bill that permitted optometrists to perform some laser surgeries previously performed only only by ophthalmologists.
Despite abundant testimony about the medical dangers, the bill sailed through both houses in less than two weeks, buoyed by hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions by optometrists and their PACS.
This year, a contender for the legislation-most-affected-by-huge-spending award is anything having to do with restricting access to pseudoephedrine, a decongestant that is both one of the most commonly used treatments for colds and allergies and a key ingredient in methamphetamine.
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The Consumer Healthcare Products Association, which represents companies that make over-the-counter medicines with pseudoephedrine, reported lobbying expenses of $194,957.76 in January — five times that of any other lobbying group.
The association would have us believe this was all spent to assure that cold and allergy sufferers have ready access to relief from their symptoms.
But Lt. Todd Dalton, a Kentucky State Police supervisor in the drug enforcement division, sees it differently. "I think their biggest customers are the methers."
Dalton has investigated a lot of meth labs and sends troopers out daily to investigate them. Last year, 14 officers were injured by exposure to toxic fumes or chemicals while investigating meth labs.
State police figure that it costs an average of $2,300 to clean up each toxic meth location. In Kentucky, last year 1,187 locations were reported. That comes to $2,730,100 before the costs of courts and jails or of social services for the children who are too often found in homes that have become meth labs.
Meth makers often pay "smurfers" to buy pseudoephedrine for them. Bills in Kentucky and elsewhere to limit access to the drug aim to cut out smurfing.
Law enforcement officers like Dalton supported Sen. Robert Stivers', D-Manchester, bill this session to require a prescription for any product containing pseudoephedrine.
Stivers ultimately withdrew that bill in face of well-funded opposition and offered instead a proposal to limit the amount that can be purchased without a prescription to 3.6 grams a month — enough for about 15 full days of treatment, or 15 grams a year.
Even the industry agrees those amounts would cover about 85 percent of purchasers.
That bill made it to the floor of the Senate Friday where it passed but not until after the Senate agreed to an amendment by Sen. Jerry Rhoads, D-Madisonville, to raise the limits to 7.2 grams a month and 24 grams a year.
The measure moves on to the House this week.
Perhaps this bill, which would allow adults to buy more pseudoephedrine than the vast majority of them will ever need is better than nothing. But it will keep smurfers employed, protect sales for the industry and assure that cynicism about the General Assembly remains unchallenged.