NASHVILLE (AP) – Gov. Bill Haslam said Wednesday he is standing by his anti-meth proposal despite the bill being sidetracked in a House subcommittee earlier this week.
The Republican governor told The Associated Press that his proposal to limit sales of cold and allergy medicines used to make the illegal drug will do more to combat meth production in Tennessee than a rival measure with lesser restrictions.
"If you talk to most law enforcement officials, they would say that the limits we set are a lot more likely to make a big difference to what's a big problem in Tennessee," Haslam said. "I think our bill will live to see another day and we feel good about its long-term prospects."
Haslam's comments came a day after the House Criminal Justice Subcommittee delayed consideration of his administration's proposal until its last meeting on March 18. The subcommittee did advance Chairman Tony Shipley's bill that carries lesser restrictions on the amount of medicines that could be bought without a prescription.
Shipley, a Kingsport Republican, said his bill would set that annual limit at an eight-month supply, while the governor's proposal would restrict people with chronic allergies to less than a three-month supply.
Shipley's proposal would cap prescription-free purchases to 44.8 grams of pseudoephedrine per year – more than three times Haslam's proposed limit of 14.4 grams.
The Haslam administration argues that 93 percent of Tennesseans buy less than 14.4 grams per year, but Shipley said the governor's measure would have failed outright in the subcommittee if it had been put to a vote.
"It's about legislation of the possible, versus legislation of the impossible," said Shipley, adding that he urges the governors' office to enter into more negotiations.
"Let's pick another arbitrary number – let's go to six months, that's 32 grams. Can we settle on that?" he said. "That's better than 14."
Shipley also pushed back against heavy criticism by House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick, R-Chattanooga, who had called the decision to advance another bill instead of the governor's a "terrible mistake."
"I don't like McCormick, and he don't like me," Shipley said. "That's not the story here. The story here is what do we do for the people of Tennessee and do we get it right."
House Speaker Beth Harwell, R-Nashville, said through a spokeswoman that she was interested in continuing to "let the committee work" on the issue.
"We will continue working on this important topic, and I know that we will reach an agreement that strikes a balance between consumer needs and targeting meth," she said. "The governor's leadership brought this issue to the forefront and we look forward to continue working with them on this."
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