Pinellas County commissioners took the first step Tuesday toward extending a moratorium on pill mills and tightening the scope of the rules.
The vote, which was unanimous, set a public hearing for May 8 on the proposed extension.
If the proposed change is adopted, the moratorium on new pain clinics would extend until 60 days after the end of the 2013 session of the Legislature. The rule was scheduled to expire 60 days after the end of this year's legislative session.
Commissioners originally passed the rule in 2010 anticipating that the Legislature would act. But that has not happened and the commission has extended the moratorium before.
Every time the commission extends the moratorium, it's because the Legislature has not acted, Commissioner Susan Latvala said.
"This is virtually all we can do at the local level," Latvala said. The moratorium is having an effect, she said, but is not a solution.
Law enforcement officials have said there has been a decline in pill mills across the Tampa Bay area. Pinellas Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said in February that, a year and a half ago, there were 65 to 70 but the number is now in the low 20s.
The ordinance also requires the registration of "high prescribing" health clinics. Under the current rule, a high prescribing clinic is one that writes more than 34 prescriptions of certain drugs in a single day. The proposed change would reduce that to more than 20 prescriptions.
Reach Anne Lindberg at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8450.