Capitol: Lawmakers debate “sting” operations, STD drugs

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January 24th, 2012

Lincoln, NE – The Nebraska Legislature took a step today toward easing up on what some see as unfair “sting” operations targeting alcohol sales to minors, and debated making it easier to receive drugs for STD infections.

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Sen. Abbie Cornett of Bellevue (Photo courtesy Nebraska Legislature)

The bill by Omaha Sen. Bob Krist would require young people to respond truthfully to questions when they’re helping police check whether businesses are selling alcohol to minors. For example, they’d have to say yes if asked if they were working with law enforcement, and give their correct age if questioned. Senator Abbie Cornett of Bellevue, a former police officer and bar manager, said that would effectively gut future compliance checks.

“I will tell you that being able to – if you want to say lie – lie, is how police work is done a lot of the time,” Cornett said.

“You don’t go in to buy narcotics and say ‘I’m a cop.’ You don’t do a sting operation on prostitution wearing a badge. You don’t go in and go…’I’m not 21’ or ‘I work for the police department’ when you’re trying to buy alcohol illegally.”

But Senator Russ Karpisek of Wilber, chairman of the General Affairs Committee that recommended the bill, said current practices border on entrapment of businesses. “They don’t want to lose their liquor licenses,” Karpisek said. “That’s how they make their money. They aren’t trying to sell to minors on purpose. Mistakes happen and we do need to make certain that they don’t, as much as possible. But to send some people in to deceive and play ‘Gotcha’ I don’t think is the right way, the upstanding way, that we should be doing these.”

Sen. Russ Karpisek of Wilber (Photo courtesy Nebraska Legislature)

Senators gave first round approval to the bill on a vote of 25-17. Krist said later he’s trying to send a warning to law enforcement agencies about what he considers abusive practices, like sending officers into a bar and having them vouch for young people’s age, so the bartender serves them without checking ID. But he said he’s open to amending or discussing the bill further.

Lawmakers also began debate on a proposal that would let doctors and other medical personnel give out antibiotics for sexually transmitted diseases without actually seeing the people who would get them. Under the bill by Lincoln Sen. Amanda McGill, if one person visits a doctor for an STD, he or she could be given medicine for their partner or partners. McGill said the practice known as expedited partner therapy, or EPT, is used in 30 states and could help combat an epidemic of sexually transmitted diseases, especially in Omaha.

“Even if a person might suspect they are infected, many are afraid, embarrassed, or do not have a means to seek medical treatment because of insurance reasons,” McGill said. “Obtaining an in-person exam is obviously still the preferred option for STD treatment. However, the EPT would be permitted if a medical professional believes the partner is unable or unwilling to seek that attention in person.”

Several senators said prescribing drugs without seeing patients could be risky. Omaha Sen. Steve Lathrop said he didn’t know if the drugs would be safe. “But I do know that the physicians want immunity,” he said. “And the fact that someone wants immunity from something suggests to me that there’s a risk with what we’re doing here.”

Lathrop was referring to a part of the bill that would shield medical personnel from liability for dispensing the drugs. The Legislature adjourned for the day before reaching a vote.

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