Senate bill would increase penalties for dealing heroin

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) - Anyone convicted of selling any amount of heroin for the first time would be a felon in Kentucky under a bill that has cleared the state Senate.

The Senate voted 31-6 to approve the bill on Wednesday. Kentucky lowered penalties for some heroin dealers in 2011. Since then, heroin use has increased significantly and overdose deaths have soared.

State Sen. John Schickel of Union said he voted to lower the penalties in 2011 and has regretted it ever since. Some Democrats opposed the bill, arguing it would put low-level addicts behind bars without treating their underlying substance abuse problem.

The bill now heads to the state House of Representatives.

Last year, the legislature agreed to spend more money on substance abuse treatment and require offenders to serve more of their sentences before being paroled.