A law passed during the Florida legislature’s special session in November over Gov. Charlie Crist’s veto that was intended to give lawmakers veto power over new state regulations has claimed its first victims.

House Bill 1565 has stalled the state’s crackdown on “pill mills,” under-regulated pain clinics charged with drawing drug tourists to Florida from other states and also prompted the Department of Community Affairs to withdraw two controversial rule changes intended to place a check on out-of-control growth.

The legislature unanimously passed a law this spring authorizing inspections and other measures to control pain clinics that were distributing pain medications like oxycodone. Florida’s lax regulations were blamed for attracting “drug tourists” from other states.

Some aspects of the law had already taken effect before the Legislature passed the rule-making reforms, but two rules (.pdf) expected to take effect Nov. 28 setting requirements for pain clinic management and authorizing unannounced inspections are now on hold. A statement on the Department of Health’s website says the Board of Medicine will likely have to revise the cost estimate, which will determine whether or not the new rules will cost the state’s economy $1 million over five years.

If the regulations do meet that threshold (Dr. Harold Cordner of Florida Pain Management Associates in Sebastian and Vero Beach told TCPalm.com that it likely will), some of the rules crafted under authority granted by state lawmakers may have to go back to the legislature for approval during its regular session next spring.

The board is expected to discuss the issue during its meeting today in Orlando.

The Sun-Sentinel reported:

“This is absolute absurdity from our Legislature,” said Paul Sloan, a Venice pain clinic owner who heads a trade group that favors the new rules and helped shape them. “Over 14 months of public workshops and rule hearings and all for what? One step forward, two steps backward.”

In addition, rules being prepared must be submitted to the Legislature by Feb. 4 to qualify for consideration. Those that don’t make it would have to wait until the 2012 legislative session.

The delayed rules are the second hitch in the state’s battle against so-called pill mills. A statewide database to track pain pill prescriptions was set to start Dec. 1 but has been delayed until next year as a result of a challenge by a company that lost a bid to run the database. Also, the database only has money to operate for about seven months because the Legislature set it up to run solely on donations.

A recent review of state regulatory review procedures by the Institute for Policy Integrity noted that “Florida’s entire regulatory review process needs to focus more on maximizing social benefits, not just on minimizing compliance costs.”

In this case, an effort to curb potentially costly regulations has snared an initiative widely seen as beneficial, at a time when addiction to pain medication has drawn comparisons to the crack epidemic.

As for the growth regulations, those have been put off until Rick Scott takes over as governor, the News Service of Florida reports:

“We were close to the adoption phase of the rule, but, due to it being an important rule and it being subjected to HB1565 if it passed, we didn’t want to force/rush it and decided to cease the process,” DCA spokesman James Miller said Thursday. “As a result, the new administration can decide how to proceed with it.”

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