With the House and Senate miles apart on legislation to combat prescription drug abuse in Florida, Sen. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey, said he'll make a major change to the Senate bill he's sponsoring. Fasano said he plans to file an amendment today to remove a provision in the bill that would repeal a ban on state funding for the prescription drug monitoring database. That should make Rep. Rob Schenck, R-Spring Hill, who is managing the House bill, and Gov. Rick Scott happy. They both wanted to kill the database altogether. They settled for leaving it in place in the House bill, but want to prohibit donations from pharmaceutical companies to the foundation that supports the program. Neither wants to use state money for the program, and the language in Fasano's bill gave Scott serious heartburn.
Today's news marks a huge about-face for Fasano, who had amended SB 818 to actually provide $1.75 million in state funding for the program. After the amendment passed on Thursday with barely a blink, Senate President Mike Haridopolos said it was a mistake and he would ask the Senate to repeal it. But the morning session passed without the bill coming up for a vote.
When the chamber broke, Fasano said he didn't know why Haridopolos didn't bring the bill to the floor, but that he planned to amend his bill in a way that would have prohibited the amendment he introduced on Thursday altogether.
Strangely, Fasano also managed to get $1.75 million in the Senate's budget for a pilot program to fight pill mills in his home county of Pasco. On Thursday, he said that money was separate from the general fund money that his amendment would have used to fund the database. On Friday, he said the pilot program money would have instead been used for the database instead of his county's program.
Both Fasano's bill and Schenck's bill include multiple provisions sought by Attorney General Pam Bondi to make it easier for law enforcement to target pill mill operators.
But there are huge sticking points. Beyond Fasano's repeal of the state funding ban for the database, the House bill prohibits doctors and many small pharmacies from dispensing narcotics and sets a limit of 5,000 dosages per month for those that do dispense. Fasano says the dispensing prohibition hurts small businesses, and the dosage limit will prevent people who legitimately need medication from getting it.