For most of the last couple of years, Florida officials have been
getting called on the carpet in Congress for the state's reputation
as the "pill mill" capital of the nation.
But when Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi was brought to
Congress last week, she had something very different to share about
the war on prescription drug abuse: good news.
Bondi said thanks to new tougher state regulations, the number of
pain management clinics in Florida have dropped from 900 a year ago
to 580 today.
"And I guarantee you that number is going to continue to
plummet," Bondi, a Republican, told members of Congress at a hearing
Thursday held by the subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing and
Before the new rules, Florida had notoriously weak regulations
and poor oversight over prescription drug-dispensing businesses that
draw drug abusers from around the nation to buy highly addictive
medications such as oxycodone.
Bondi said the new law stops doctors from dispensing the most
abused narcotics and makes them use counterfeit-proof prescription
Combined with more aggressive police action, the new laws have
made a dramatic change, she said.
In 2010, Florida had 98 of the top 100 oxycodone-dispensing
doctors in the nation. But now, because of the tougher regulations,
Florida has only 13 people on the list, she said.
Instead of complaining about Florida, other members of Congress
are now pushing other states to follow Florida's example.
"If it works in your state, why wouldn't it work nationally?"
U.S. Rep. David McKinley, R-W.Va., asked Bondi during the hearing.
U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Longboat Key, has been among those
trying to pass tougher national laws on prescription drug abuse.
Buchanan proposed a bill last year that would create tougher federal
sentencing rules for pill mill operators and make it harder for
people to get hydrocodone, one of the most abused pain medications.
Teary farewell for Bennett
State Sen. Mike Bennett, R-Bradenton, has built a tough-guy
reputation over the 12 years he has been in the Florida Legislature.
He never thought twice about fighting environmentalists over his
pro-development positions and laughed off criticism that he was
trying to kill manatees when he suggested boat speed limits to
protect them might not be needed.
But on Friday, the Vietnam veteran's hardened exterior was
reduced to tears as he tried to say farewell to the Legislature he
has worked in since 2000.
Because of term limits, Bennett is in his final session in
Bennett, 67, repeatedly stopped himself during his farewell
address to fight back tears, especially as he talked about his wife
Dee's support. …