Legislative games could kill medical amnesty bill

UPDATE: The Stephens amendment was pulled around the same time this post was published. HB 965 cleared the House by a vote of 144 to 23 and is headed to Gov. Deal’s desk.

With time running out on the clock, State Rep. Ron Stephens (R-Savannah) is planning a last minute attempt to wade into a political debate between mail order and brick-and-mortar pharmacies that could have the effect of killing HB 965, the proposed 9-1-1 Good Samaritan law.

Advocates for the medical amnesty bill say that Stephens, a pharmacist, will propose an amendment that would require a someone to sign for a controlled substance delivered by mail order pharmacies. The Senate, I’m told, has been reluctant to wade into this, meaning that the chamber could reject the amnesty with the attached amendment or not take it up before the clock expires on Day 40.

Basically, it’s the stereotypical end of session legislative game, the result of which could kill a piece of legislation that could save lives.

Rose Brannen, who, through Georgia Overdose Prevention, is lobbying for passage of the medical amnesty bill, pleaded with Stephens to drop the pharmacy amendment in an open letter posted on her Facebook page:

Please leave the Medical Amnesty/Naloxone Access bill alone. This is a matter of life and death for thousands of Georgians struggling with substance abuse, and we are running out of time to get this bill out of the legislature. We cannot afford to let the pharmacy amendment debates prevent this bill from passing.

My brother was born in Memorial Hospital, and he was buried at the age of 20 in Bonaventure Cemetery in Savannah. He died of a drug overdose at a spring break party He was seizing off and on for two hours in a room with a dozen mostly sober people. They knew he was overdosing. He was 1.5 miles away from a hospital. The only reason he isn’t alive today is because his friends feared being arrested for possession. To the families sitting with me in the house floor balcony, and the families of young adults struggling with drug abuse who are still here today, this bill is not a political game.

Please be an advocate for Randall Brannen and other young people in your district. Human life has to take precedence over politics.

The amendment is likely to come to the floor on Thursday. Supporters of the medical amnesty bill are hoping that either Speaker David Ralston (R-Blue Ridge) will decide that the Stephens amendment is not germane or that the House will reject the amendment and sign off on the already-approved Senate version of the measure.