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Fla. Senate Set To Vote On Pill Mill Bill

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Legislative Session Coverage

TALLHASSEE (CBS4) — The Florida Senate is poised to approve a bill that would crack down on unscrupulous pain-management clinics, after a debate Thursday about the possible trampling of privacy rights.

The bill (SB 818) would toughen criminal and administrative penalties for physicians and others involved in wrongdoing at clinics. Also, it would make changes to a planned prescription-drug database, including dropping a prohibition on state money being used for the drug-tracking system.

Lawmakers are trying to curtail widespread problems with addicts and traffickers going to clinics to get dangerous painkillers. The House has approved a bill with significant differences, so the two chambers would need to agree on a final version before the legislative session ends next Friday. Much of the debate Thursday centered on two proposed amendments aimed at requiring search warrants or subpoenas when investigators want to get patient information from the prescription-drug database or clinic records.

Sen. Ellyn Bogdanoff, a Fort Lauderdale Republican who sponsored the amendments, said she is worried about giving up constitutional rights as the state attacks the pill-mill problem.

“Where will we go next because we have a crisis in front of us?” Bogdanoff asked. But senators rejected the proposed amendments, after critics argued they would impede police investigations.

Attorney General Pam Bondi also weighed in to defeat the amendments.

“This is a fundamental change in how you do an investigation, much less a drug investigation,” said Sen. Steve Oelrich, a Gainesville Republican who is a former Alachua County sheriff.

(©2011 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The News Service of Florida contributed to this report.)

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