A bill that would raise penalties on heroin traffickers and provide new treatment options for opiate addicts narrowly cleared a Kentucky House committee Wednesday.
The House Judiciary Committee approved Senate Bill 5 with 12 yes votes, and 8 members abstaining due to concerns over the measure’s constitutionality regarding charging drug traffickers with homicides for overdose deaths and the bill’s emphasis on prosecution.
Louisville resident Melissa Halfhill testified before the committee that the homicide provision would have allowed authorities to charge the dealer who she says gave her daughter, Katie, a fatal dose of heroin.
“I talk to the homicide detective about pressing charges. He said the laws are in effect, there’s nothing we can do unless we see him actually sell the heroin to someone. So in essence, there’s was nothing they could do," Halfhill told lawmakers.
The measure is expected to go to the House floor sometime this week, where it will be subject to a number of changes to allay that chamber’s concerns.
Heroin overdose deaths have skyrocketed in Northern Kentucky over the past few years, with over 170 in the first three-quarters of 2013.