Senator Baldwin weighs in on legislature happenings

Wyoming state Sen. Fred Baldwin (right) and Rep. Andy Schwartz attend Gov. Mead’s State of the State address on Feb. 12, at the beginning of the State Legislature budget session. (COURTESY PHOTO / Wyoming PBS)

The 2018 Wyoming State Legislative Budget Session had its  mid-session recess on Monday, Feb. 26.

State Sen. Fred Baldwin discussed some of the bills he has sponsored for this session, as well as bills that the public should be informed  of.

Baldwin is a member of the Labor, Health and Social Services committee, the Transportation, Highways and Military Affairs committee, and a member of the 2018 Joint Legislative Executive Task Force on Department of Health Facilities.

Baldwin is the main sponsor of SF0083, a bill that adresses controlled-substance prescription tracking. The bill passed the Senate in a unanimous vote on Tuesday, Feb. 27.

Baldwin is a physician’s assistant at South Lincoln Medical Center, and several of the bills he has sponsored or co-sponsored during this session have to do with the medical field.

Co-sponsors on the bill are Sen. Bebout, Sen. Nethercott, Rep. Lindholm and Rep. Sommers.

“The goal of this bill is to begin a journey down a path to reining in the opioid epidemic that is both a state and a national problem,” Baldwin told the Gazette in an email. “It requires all medical providers to be registered to the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program, which is now optional.”

Baldwin said the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program is a database where controlled substance prescriptions are tracked.

“The bill brings Category V controlled substances into the reportable substances,” Baldwin said. “This includes codeine containing cough syrups that are not now included and are a substantial problem.  Thirdly, the bill mandates inclusion of small amounts of controlled substances given out in hospital ERs and other clinics when pharmacies are closed.”

Baldwin said those small amounts are currently not easily reportable, which paves the way for prescription drug abuse.

“The result is a patient bouncing from facility to facility where they receive small amounts of controlled substances multiple times, and these do not now show up on the PDMP,” Baldwin said.  “Ultimately the bill seeks to close some of the loopholes now being used to circumvent the system in place to monitor controlled substance abuse and addiction.”

Baldwin said he and the legislature hope the bill can address opioid addiction and prevent prescription drug-related deaths.

“The end goal of all of these opioid-related bills is to reduce the death and suffering caused by controlled substance abuse and addiction,” Baldwin said. “Another bill forming a substance abuse task force has made it through the senate and is now to be heard in the House of Representatives.”

Baldwin is also a co-sponsor of SF0086,  a bill that addresses penalties for DUI-convicted drivers that violate their driving privilege sanctions.

This bill passed the Senate with a unanimous vote and was received in the House of Representatives on Friday, Feb. 23.

“It takes the Governor’s study on impaired driving recommendations and puts some of them into statute,” Baldwin said. “It is not the ultimate answer to the drunk-driving problem in Wyoming, but puts some good measures into effect.”

The bill provides program alternatives for drivers who  were required to drive a vehicle with an ignition interlock device.

These devices are breathalyzers that a driver must blow into before starting their vehicle. The drivers would instead participate in a 24/7 sobriety program and be issued a specific driver’s license.

Baldwin said the public should be paying attention to school funding bills and the overall revenue adjustments.

“They will affect nearly everyone in the state, with a $900 billion structural deficit looming large,” Baldwin said. “There is no magic pill legislation proposed this year but several bills taking bites out of the deficit.”

Baldwin said dealing with a budget crisis has not been easy for the legislature.

“No cut or reduction in budgets is ever welcomed and thus most of the proposals are quite controversial,” Baldwin said. “This short session is a budget session and the most important legislation that will come out of this session is the state budget. “

“The budget will be balanced as required by state constitution,” Baldwin continued. “The final product is not yet known as the approaches by the House and the Senate are quite different and will be ironed out in conference committee.”

Baldwin said he is also involved in bills that will help reduce prescription costs for patients.

“One additional bill that I sponsored makes it possible for pharmacists to supply biosimilar drugs when available to replace trade name biologic drugs,” Baldwin said. “This becomes particularly important as the FDA approves several biosimilar drugs that will be much less costly for the patient.” 

Baldwin acknowledged that the legislators have been busy this session trying to do what’s best for the people of Wyoming whom they represent.

“With over 300 bills being filed and nearly 200 bills still alive as of (Tuesday) morning, the work load has been exceptionally heavy with much emotional debate,” Baldwin said. “For a citizen legislature, the hours and workload are extensive while trying to maintain a life back home, and in some cases full-time businesses and jobs at their homes.” 

Baldwin encouraged the community to stay involved with what’s happening in the legislature.

“Public involvement through emails with personal thoughts to your representatives are the most effective means of making your thoughts known,” Baldwin said.

Baldwin said that form letters and copies of other citizens’ letters are often overlooked.

“Most legislators look for original thoughts in your own words,” Baldwin said.

Baldwin reminded the public that all bill information, legislator contact information and live floor debate are available on the state legislature website,