WatchBlog: West Virginia Capitol odds & ends

By westvirginia on January 23, 2012
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By Steven Allen Adams | West Virginia Watchdog

CHARLESTON — We’re almost two weeks into the West Virginia Legislature‘s 2012 regular session. So far there are 1,319 bills introduced between both the House of Delegates and the state Senate. The House passed five bills last week, while the Senate has three bills on third reading today.

Last week the U.S. Supreme Court issued a stay of a lower federal court’s decision to toss out the congressional redistricting maps passed last summer. I imagine House and Senate leaders are breathing a sigh of relief (except for Senate Majority Leader John Unger, who represents a part of the state that probably wish the map had been thrown out).

The thought of passing a new congressional redistricting map was starting to become a distraction. It was becoming less like a legislature and more like kindergarten art class, with almost every lawmaker wanting to pull you aside and show you what they painted. The Supreme Court could still throw out the Mason County Flip (or Mason County Flop), but if they do it likely won’t impact the 2012 election. It would just mean lawmakers would need to pass a map for 2014.

Also last week lawmakers unveiled the Larry Border Act, which would require a prescription for drug products that contain ephedrine, pseudoephedrine, phenylpropanolamine or other ingredients used in the making of methamphetamine. They tried this last year, but it failed in the Senate. This time supporters think renaming the bill after the now-deceased long-time Wood and Wirt County delegate and pharmacist will get it more traction.

When I think of this bill I keep thinking back to the Tuesday before the start of the session, when House Republicans unveiled their agenda for 2012. One of their specific planks included finding ways to ease government interference in people’s lives. Then I asked if they intended to introduce another bill to drug test welfare recipients, which we’re always told is a problem but we’re never given any firm stats. They said yes, that will would be coming back.

My friends at Politifact took at at Florida’s attempt to drug test welfare recipients. While Florida Gov. Scott has evidence to back up the need for it, there is also plenty of evidence to back up why this kind of testing isn’t necessary. Their conclusion:

What’s obvious is that it’s difficult to make broad generalizations about a whole group of people. And it’s even more difficult to definitively measure drug use. Scott’s statement is at least partially accurate because there are studies showing a higher prevalence of drug use among some welfare recipients. But he also is neglecting research that suggests that drug use among welfare and non-welfare recipients is consistent.

The main point is drug use isn’t any worse in the welfare sector than it is in the non-welfare sector. The solution isn’t harassing the poor; the solution is far more complicated. The same goes for methamphetamine use. While the solution seems as simple as requiring prescriptions for any product that contains a methamphetamine ingredient, like Sudafed, it’s way more complicated. Worse than that, you’re going to see prices spike for simple cold medications, plus make the prescription drug problem worse than it is.

The true answer for dealing with drug use, illegal or prescription, is far more complicated and deserves more though than it’s getting. At some point it’s going to involve looking at the culture in this state and finding the roots of the problem. Is it as simple as poverty? Not necessarily, since plenty of middle and upper class people use drugs. But we need to get our smart people together and figure it out. Gov. Tomblin did that with the statewide prescription drug task forces, though it seems the problem is still being dealt with in a piecemeal fashion.

Otherwise today is a pretty light day. Keep reading West Virginia Watchdog for more stories on legislation.

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Posted under Blog, Governor, House of Delegates, Legislation, Legislature, State Senate, West Virginia.
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