Politics & Government

Lawmaker pulls sponsorship of anti-meth bill after integrity questioned

FRANKFORT — State Sen. Tom Jensen, R-London, withdrew Friday as sponsor of a bill that would require prescriptions to obtain some cold medicines used to make meth after questions arose about a potential conflict of interest.

Jensen, during a floor speech in the Senate, said he heard that some media and blog reports were alleging that he, as an attorney, represents Operation UNITE, an anti-drug task force backed by U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers, R-Somerset.

Rogers is a strong supporter of Jensen's bill in the state Senate that is aimed at curbing methamphetamine labs by requiring a prescription for cold and allergy medications that contain pseudoephedrine, an ingredient used in making meth.

Jensen said he does not represent Operation UNITE but did do some legal work for the agency eight or nine years ago. That had nothing to do with his introducing Senate Bill 50, Jensen said.

He said he sponsored the legislation because it is needed to save lives. He also predicted that the measure will come to the full Senate for a vote.

Jensen, who is chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said he will continue to push the legislation in his committee but that Senate Majority Leader Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, will take over as its sponsor.

Jensen declined to say where he heard that anyone was accusing him of a conflict of interest.

Jensen's announcement moved several lawmakers — Republicans and Democrats — to speak on behalf of him.

No one should question Jensen's integrity, Stivers said, adding that any media or blogger who said Jensen had a conflict should confirm their information.

Sen. Robin Webb, D-Grayson, said Jensen's integrity cannot be impugned.

"There is no one with higher integrity than the senator from Laurel," said Sen. Julian Carroll, D-Frankfort.

House Judiciary Chairman John Tilley, D-Hopkinsville, who worked closely with Jensen last year during the passage of a prison reform bill, said "his integrity should be unquestioned. Period. End of story."

House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, had harsh words for the over-the-counter-drug industry, which has blanketed the airwaves and media with advertisements against SB 50.

"The health care industry that supports the defeat of that bill ought to be shot," Stumbo said, when asked if the industry had overshot its criticism of the bill. "Obviously methamphetamine is a scourge to our communities and needs to be addressed."

A spokesman for the industry said it had nothing to do with questioning Jensen's integrity and declined to comment on Stumbo's statement.