Katie Stine

A renewed effort to pass legislation to combat Kentucky’s heroin epidemic is gaining traction in the state legislature.

The chairs of the House and Senate Judiciary committees are in talks to revive the bill, championed by outgoing Republican Sen. Katie Stine, whose Northern Kentucky district has been hit especially hard by heroin abuse. 

Stine’s bill died in the final moments of the 2014 session over constitutional concerns about its homicide provision, which would have charged dealers for murder in the event of an overdose, and GOP dissension over the bill’s needle exchange program.

“We are discussing ways to curb the addiction, get it off our streets; to deal more harshly with those whom are dealing in the misery; and to save lives, ultimately,” said Rep. John Tilley, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee. “And that’s what we as public servants need to be doing.”

Tilley says all options -- including the homicide provision -- are still on the table, and that several bills will likely take shape soon.

Gov. Steve Beshear remains undecided on whether he’ll call a special legislative session to revisit the issue.

Kentucky LRC

The Speaker of the Kentucky House is signaling that a bill designed to fight heroin stands a good chance of passing his chamber this year.

Democratic House Speaker Greg Stumbo was quoted by the Courier-Journal as saying the odds of the bill passing the House are “pretty good”, given that lawmakers have shown a bipartisan ability to back legislation battling illegal drugs. A bill sponsored by Senate Republican Katie Stine seeks to increase the punishment of those convicted of selling high-volumes of drugs while increasing access to substance abuse treatment centers for addicts.

Stine’s bill passed the full Senate on Thursday and is now being considered by the House.

The northern Kentucky lawmaker says her part of the state has seen its treatment centers and law enforcement agencies swamped by a major surge in heroin abuse.

The Courier-Journal reports defense attorneys are objecting to a part of the bill that would help prosecutors convict some drug dealers of homicide when the sale of illegal drugs results in overdose deaths.

Kentucky LRC

A bill aimed at combating Kentucky’s rising heroin abuse problem is on to the House after gaining unanimous support in the state Senate. Republican Katie Stine’s measure was passed Thursday on a 36-0 vote, and seeks to distinguish between those who are selling the drug, and those who have become addicted.

“The bill targets two different groups: the trafficker who needs to be run out of Kentucky or locked up, and the addict, who has broken the law, but who has created their own personal prison of addiction that is far worse than any jail the state could design, and who frankly needs treatment,” said the Campbell County lawmaker.

Stine’s bill creates tougher punishments for dealers, making them serve more of their prison sentences before becoming eligible for parole. The legislation also requires the Kentucky Medicaid program to pay for substance-abuse treatment.

According to Stine, the increasing heroin problem is having a major impact on courts and emergency rooms in parts of the commonwealth, especially in the northern part of the state.

A debate over Kentucky’s health insurance exchange ended with a walkout by Democratic lawmakers Wednesday. They were angered over an attempt by Republicans on the joint Health and Welfare committee to declare Governor Steve Beshear's executive order establishing the exchange illegal.