LINCOLN — Nebraska lawmakers shot down a bill Wednesday aimed at curbing the high rates of sexually transmitted diseases in the state.
Legislative Bill 304 fell four votes short of advancing to the second round of debate.
The measure would have explicitly allowed doctors, physician assistants and nurse practitioners to prescribe antibiotics for the sex partners of infected people.
The practice, called expedited partner therapy, is allowed in 30 other states and promoted by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
State Sen. Amanda McGill of Lincoln said the practice has been proven to keep people from getting reinfected and to reduce the spread of diseases such as chlamydia and gonorrhea.
"We're dealing with an epidemic," she said. "I encourage you to look at the reality, even if you may not approve of certain sexual behaviors."
But other senators called the idea bad public policy and raised concerns about the idea of providing antibiotics to people who have not been seen by a health care professional.
"I just don't think we should be passing medicine on," said Sen. John Harms of Scottsbluff.
Public health officials had pushed for the measure as a tool in the fight against STDs, especially in Douglas County.
Chlamydia rates in the county were 30 percent higher than the national average in 2009. The county has struggled with the problem since 2004.
McGill said some Nebraska health clinics and doctors already prescribe treatments for patients to take to their partners. State law does not prohibit the practice.
She hoped to encourage more use of the practice with a law authorizing it and providing some legal protection for doctors and other health professionals.