In a debate where most of the sparks flew over often-specious questions about conflicts of interest, one of the biggest substantive disagreements between the candidates for attorney general Monday night was about whether to require a prescription for the cold medicine used to make methamphetamine. They also debated President Obama’s health-care reform law.
Democratic Attorney General Jack Conway. left, said he supports such a law, which failed in this year’s General Assembly, while Hopkins County Attorney Todd P’Pool, right, said he opposes it. The candidates were interviewed by Bill Goodman on KET’s “Kentucky Tonight” as part of a series of debates between statewide candidates in the Nov. 8 election.
Republican P’Pool, the first to respond to Goodman’s question, said he opposes making pseudoephedrine a scheduled drug because “I think it creates a burden for law-abiding citizens. . . . Let’s don’t put a burden on soccer moms.” He said he would support “a lifetime ban,” which he did not explain, “for anyone convicted of a meth crime.”
Conway said his position in favor of scheduling “is not the most politically popular position,” but said he responded to a plea from “my friend Hal Rogers,” the Republican congressman from Somerset who is a leading advocate. “I know it’s not popular with some soccer moms,” Conway said, and “I know it’s inconvenient” to require a prescription, “but when you see a kid in a burn unit that’s gone through a meth lab it tears your heart.” He said children at present at 80 percent of meth labs.
Conway said he is open to changing his position if opponents can show him how to prevent “smurfing,” the use of surrogates to avoid the recordkeeping of pseudoephedrine purchases. He said many drug stories do not use the online recordkeeping system. He added that Oregon and Mississippi had “dramatic declines” in the number of meth labs after they scheduled pseudoephedrine.
P’Pool began the debate by sharply criticizing Conway’s decision not to join lawsuits by Republican attorneys general challenging the constitutionality of the federal health-reform law: “He’s absent form the fight against Obamacare … because he supports Barack Obama and his re-election.” Conway replied, “I’m not gonna take some of the valuable resourecs of the office of the attorney general and put ’em on a lawsuit on health care when it’s an issue that’s gonna get decided anyway.” He said some attorneys general are supporting the law in court, and “I didn’t join them either because I wanted to focus on Kentucky first.”
As Goodman pressed the point, P’Pool said, “It’s really not about health care; it’s about the proper role of the federal government.” He said Kentucky could join the case with the stroke of a pen, but “My opponent has not been bashful in his support of Barack Obama and that’s why he’s on the sidelines.”
Conway replied that the lawsuit “might undo some of the underpinning” of Social Security and Medicare laws. “This is not a perfect bill; some things need to be fixed in health-care reform,” he said, but he implicitly defended the bill’s requirement to buy health insurance: “It costs Americans on average $46 billion a year to cover the uninsured,” he said. “They’re going to the emergency room to get their care … They’re already in the market. This is about being more efficient.”
for a story on the debate by Deborah Yetter of The Courier-Journal
. Video of the debate is posted online here