Ramsey predicts push for changes in law covering decongestants

Hank Hayes • Jun 13, 2013 at 12:57 PM

GRAY — There will be a “huge push” next year to require nasal decongestant medicines like Sudafed to be prescription only, Tennessee Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey told a Northeast Tennessee Association of Realtors legislative luncheon Wednesday.

“That’s going to be tough,” Ramsey, R-Blountville, said. “That’s pushing government down on the people. All of us are going to have to balance that with what’s best for society.”

Medicine that contains pseudoephedrine — such as Sudafed, Actifed, Contac and Claritin-D — currently can only be sold in pharmacies and must be kept behind the counter in Tennessee.

Buying those drugs requires a customer to present photo identification to a store employee and then sign for the purchase.

The customer’s personal information is then entered into a government database meant to prevent an individual from purchasing more than nine grams of pseudoephedrine — about three boxes — in a 30-day span.

Still, that 2011 law apparently hasn’t reduced using pseudoephedrine as a meth production ingredient, Ramsey said.

“We have a real, real drug problem in Tennessee,” Ramsey said. “When I hear employers say they interviewed 100 people for jobs and only 15 passed a drug test, we have a problem.”

State Rep. David Hawk, one of the lawmakers at the NETAR luncheon, introduced legislation in the last session to require pseudoephedrine products to be maintained “in the same manner as other controlled substances.” Action on the bill was deferred to next year.

“We need to go further,” Hawk, R-Greeneville, said. “We’re investing too much money in jails.”

Aside from the brief drug discussion, lawmakers spoke of what they are doing to build up a post-recession business climate in the state.

The legislature has cut taxes and balanced the state budget with less money two years in a row, lawmakers told NETAR.

“What we can do as legislators is create a climate that does allow businesses to grow and prosper,” Ramsey, a realtor and auctioneer, said. “We don’t borrow a lot of money. ... If you are a citizen of the state of Tennessee, you owe less money per capita than any other citizen in the United States.

“You are looking at some of the most business oriented legislators in the whole state. ... These guys get it. They understand the role of government. They understand if we get out of the way, you all will create the jobs.”

Ramsey pointed out lawmakers passed two bills pushed this year by the Tennessee Association of Realtors. One will allow the Tennessee Real Estate Commission to suspend a realtor’s license for not having required errors and omissions insurance — a policy addressing negligent acts. The other bill requires criminal background checks for new applicants for broker’s licenses and timeshare sales licenses beginning next year.

State Sen. Rusty Crowe, R-Johnson City, also stressed Tennessee is getting national recognition from top business magazines.

“Barron’s said we are the third best run state. ... Bankrate.com said we’re best in the nation for retiring,” Crowe said. “It all began when we killed the (proposed state) income tax (in 2002). ... We’re always one, two or three in the best states to operate a business.”

For more about NETAR, go to www.netar.us.

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