House and Senate begin working on anti-heroin bill compromise

heroin conf committeePenalties and treatment funding were at the center of discussions Thursday between members of the conference committee on heroin legislation.

In a public meeting, the House and Senate members on the committee spent two hours going over the details and differences between their anti-heroin bills before breaking for lunch with no compromise reached.

The main differences between the House and Senate proposals continues to be how penalties are imposed. House members expressed the need to divide traffickers into three tiers in order to charge them while the Senate still feels all should be charged the same.

A disagreement over these provisions was discussed in the committee meeting Thursday as Rep. John Tilley, co-chair of the conference committee and sponsor of the House version of the bill, stated they would like to see a two gram minimum to impose a Class C felony to make sure they are going after traffickers and not just throwing every addict in prison. However, Senate members expressed a concern that traffickers will carry just under two grams, if any at all, to avoid the stricter penalties.

Another big difference discussed in the meeting is funding sources. The House bill allocates funds that they say come from savings from justice reform and a House floor amendment was added to the bill that would give $10 million to allow for immediate funding to address the issue.

Legislators from both chambers and sides of the aisle agreed that there needs to be money to immediately address the issue. However, questions about where exactly that $10 million in the floor amendment will come from were unanswered.

Language in the House bill to allow for the creation of local needle exchanges has also been a big disagreement between the two chambers. The issue was skipped over during the public meeting Thursday morning.

It is unclear when the conference committee will meet again to continue to work toward a compromise.

The Kentucky Chamber is supportive of finding a solution to the ever-growing heroin epidemic in the state and passing legislation that will help save lives across the Commonwealth.

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Jacqueline Pitts
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