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Legislative update

March 18, 2015
By SEN. LIZBETH BENACQUISTO , Lehigh Acres Citizen

We recently marked the end to the second week of the 2015 legislative session. We had a full week of committee meetings, including the committee that I am honored to chair, the Senate Banking and Insurance Committee.

I had the opportunity to vote for a number of important bills this week, including a bill that will allow lawful gun owners to bring their firearm with them in the case of a stated emergency, SB 290 by Sen. Brandes (R-St. Petersburg).

In the higher education committee we voted on a bill that will codify into law that universities in the state must offer National Merit Scholarship awards to gain pre-eminent status. We must continue to attract the best and brightest from Florida's high schools, and this is an issue I have worked closely on the last two years.

Additionally, in the Senate Health and Human Services Appropriations Committee we heard a status report on children's medical services and the Early Steps Program state from Surgeon General John H. Armstrong.

As the session moves on, please contact my office with your thoughts and ideas. There is nothing I love more than hearing from the folks back home about what is truly important to them. Below are some updates on a couple of bills that I had the opportunity to pass through committee this week.

- SB 728: Helping Reduce Addiction and Treat Pain Fairly

As we all know, prescription pain medication continues to be abused across Florida, and while we have made significant progress on that front here in the state there is still work to do. Thanks to modern advances there are now products in the market that can't be abused in many of the traditional ways. This week I passed SB 728 through the Senate Banking and Insurance Committee to help reduce addiction in the state due to the availability these products.

During a study of actual opioid users, there was a 41 percent decrease in abuse among all individuals after the introduction of reformulated Oxycontin. Physico-chemical changes in the formulation keep the pills from being chewed, smoked, snorted or injected, although they can't stop someone from taking too many by swallowing.

SB 728 says that the insurer may not require the use of a non-abuse deterrent version before providing coverage for abuse deterrent drugs. Also, it says that a health insurer who already provides coverage for opioids may impose a prior authorization requirement for abuse deterrent opioids only if the same prior authorization is in place for non-abuse deterrent versions.

This bill is about the very real problem of drug abuse in our society, and making sure that here in Florida we make the choice to help reduce that abuse by keeping our statutes in line with current technology. I'm proud to sponsor this bill so that our state can continue to lead the charge against abuse of prescription medication, help save lives, and keep people out of emergency rooms from drug abuse related episodes.

- SB 676: Contributions to 'End Breast Cancer'

In the continued fight against cancer in the state of Florida I have sponsored SB 676, Voluptuary Contributions to End Breast Cancer. The bill passed its first hurdle by passing the Senate Transportation Committee this week. The bill adds a voluntary contribution check off to car registrations, new driver's license applications, and driver's license renewals of $1 or more per applicant to "End Breast Cancer."

The contributions will be distributed by the department to the Florida Breast Cancer Coalition Research Foundation, a not-for-profit, and must be used for breast cancer research and education.

The breast cancer plate remains among the top 25 best-selling specialty plates with more than 20,000 plates sold. Those sales have resulted in more than $3.5 million for breast cancer research and breast cancer education. All research and education grants are provided to Florida entities and all work is done in Florida.

State Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto represents District 30.



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