Kentucky House and Senate vow to compromise on heroin bill
FRANKFORT, Ky. (WDRB) -- In 2013, there were more than 100 heroin deaths in Jefferson County alone.
After failing to pass a bill last year, lawmakers are now promising a plan to fight the problem.
The Republican Senate passed its heroin bill last month and now the Democratic House has come up with a plan of its own.
“You'll find that House Bill 213 will have far more in common with Senate Bill 5 than not,” said Rep. John Tilley, (D-Hopkinsville) the bill's primary sponsor.
The House bill is most different from the Senate version in the way it treats heroin dealers.
The Senate bill says anyone convicted of dealing heroin -- no matter the amount -- is guilty of a Class C Felony, which means up to ten years in prison.
“If we aren't imposing harsh penalties on dealers, they're going to continue to deal,” the bill's sponsor, Sen. Chris McDaniel (R-Taylor Mill) told WDRB News.
The House plans calls for a three-tiered system, ranging from so-called peddlers to high level traffickers.
Prison time would depend on the amount of heroin convicted dealers possessed.
“There should be proportionality in any criminal code, first of all, but I think you also have to have an incentive to drive lower-level traffickers to treatment,” said Tilley.
The House bill also contains a local-option needle exchange program. The Senate does not.
“Obviously, that is a problematic position for a lot of people,” said McDaniel.
“A participant in a needle exchange program is five-times more likely to enter into treatment,” said Tilley.
Both sides increase funding for treatment and both sides say they're confident they can reach agreement.
“It's time to put policy over politics in this state,” said Tilley.
“I'm optimistic that we'll see some kind of compromise this year,” added McDaniel.
Rep. Joni Jenkins is counting on that. Her nephew died of a heroin overdose. In fact the House bill numbered 213 in his honor as his birthday is Feb 13.
“We'll never know if some of the interventions that are in House Bill 213 might have saved his life, but we hope they save other lives,” Jenkins told WDRB.
Tilley says the bill should come to the full house for a vote this week. If it passes, the House and Senate will then try to hammer out a compromise before the session ends in March.
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