PDMP falters at finish line as Rehder dissolves conference committee

Rep. Holly Rehder dissolves the conference committee on HB 90, her PDMP bill, May 9, 2017. (Ben Peters/MISSOURI TIMES)

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – In an unexpected move Tuesday evening, Rep. Holly Rehder dissolved the conference committee for her bill to institute a statewide prescription drug monitoring plan, effectively accepting the Senate changes to the bill.

Rehder evidently thought passing this version of the PDMP bill was the best she could do, especially after she finally breached the impenetrable wall that Sen. Rob Schaaf had been on the legislation.

“Negotiations on the sticking points have been ongoing, but we have not been able to compromise,” she said. “What the Senate sent to the House is not perfect, but it is a statewide framework that is desperately needed right now.”

Schaaf ended up not serving as her major obstacle, but amendments from Sen. Will Kraus and others served as poison pills to effectively kill the legislation.

Kraus almost got what he wanted. Rehder laid the bill over on the informal calendar after it became clear the tides had shifted against the bill. House leadership attempted to whip votes for the measure and Gov. Eric Greitens was seen emerging from Majority Floor Leader Mike Cierpiot’s office, but the unease in the chamber ultimately led to no vote late Tuesday night.

Senate passes Rehder’s PDMP bill with major changes

A decisive moment likely came when Minority Floor Leader Gail McCann Beatty said she would reluctantly vote against the measure, despite leading her caucus to help pass the bill out of the House in the first place.

“I really have heartburn tonight,” Beatty said. “I know the lady has put a ton of work into this bill for a while… I was hoping we would get a better product from the conference.”

The product from conference came with several amendments Rehder disagreed with and she ultimately decided to pinch her nose and swallow two major changes. Rehder wanted all Schedule 2-4 drugs to be covered, while the Senate said only benzos and opiates to be included in the PDMP. Rehder also strongly disliked the 180-day data purge from the PDMP.

She was not alone, as Rep. Kip Kendrick spoke against the changes Rehder had accepted, even though he said he would also continue to support the legislation – even if that meant doing so in 2018.

“I would hope and pray that we are back here next session getting our senses back and understanding that what North Carolina did would be the correct path as well,” Kendrick said.

Other representatives decried the bill for new reasons. Reps. Bill White and Keith Frederick both warned the amendment from Schaaf mandating doctors use the PDMP in their practice would deter doctors from wanting to practice in Missouri.

“This will diminish access to your physicians,” Frederick, a medical doctor, said. “This requires us to consult this database and it will count against your license if you don’t.”

On the other hand, Rep. Fred Wessels, whose own bill was merged with Rehder’s, said now was still the time to pass the bill, and that the changes would not go into effect for at least 18-24 months, giving the legislature a session or two to vote to make changes to a law, instead of continuing to work on a bill.

“We have the opportunity to get started on the program,” Wessels said. “Is this a bill that doesn’t have flaws? No. But do we want to start over next year? No.”

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