Editorials, Opinion

The Good, the Bad and the Stupid

Today, we’re introducing what may become a recurring segment: The Good, the Bad and the Stupid, where we break down some of the bills introduced in the Legislature. Without further ado, let’s get started.

Good: HB 4252 — to cap insulin copays at $35 and copays for related devices (but not insulin pumps) at $100. Besides the fact that affordable insulin is a huge problem in West Virginia (and America as a whole), this bill is particularly special because of its bipartisan nature. It’s sponsored by two Republicans and our own Barbara Evans Fleischauer.

Bad: SB 31 — redirects soda tax from WVU Medicine to local law enforcement. We can understand the impulse to financially support law enforcement, but the soda tax funds important medical research. Also in the pipeline this legislative session are two bills related to marijuana: one to legalize recreational marijuana and the other to legalize medical marijuana edibles. Pass these bills and use the tax revenue from marijuana to fund law enforcement instead.

Stupid: HB 4095 — to mandate a “moment of silence” at the beginning of each school day. A moment of silence in the wake of a death or other tragedy is not uncalled for; it is a public recognition of a communal trauma. But to insist that every day starts with one sounds a lot like forcing kids to pray. If a student doesn’t want to participate, can they scroll on their phone or finish up homework, as long as they are quiet? If someone wants to use their moment of silence to perform a spiritual ritual, can they pull out a prayer rug or an ancestral altar, or silently read a passage from the Tanakh? Or will only Christian-style spiritual activity be tolerated in this state-mandated moment of silence?

Good: SB 269 — to create statewide protection for LGBTQ+ individuals from conversion therapy. We’ve discussed the dangers of conversion (also called “reparative”) therapy. You can’t torture, guilt or brainwash someone into being straight or cisgender — but you can cause irreparable psychological damage that causes them to hate themselves or others, or to harm themselves. Banning conversion therapy is the right thing to do.

Bad and Stupid: HB 4038 — to allow 18- to 20-year-olds to concealed carry without a permit. There’s a reason people aren’t allowed to buy handguns until they are 21. Science has shown that teens’ brains are still developing, and they often don’t fully understand the consequences of their actions. It’s one thing to allow teenagers to use hunting rifles — in West Virginia, it’s practically a rite of passage — but there is no reason to let them walk around armed wherever they go, especially without going through the permitting process.

Good: HB 4088 and HB 4092 — to establish guidelines for creating and taxing rare earth mineral extraction industries. We’ve discussed rare earth mineral/metal extraction before. These elements, which can be found in acid mine drainage, are essential to electronics manufacturing. So, rare earth mineral extraction gives the U.S. a leg up over China and it incentivizes cleaning up AMD. Win-win for us.

Bad and Stupid: HB 4031 — to ban mask mandates. Really? Almost two years into this pandemic — more than 5,500 West Virginians and more than 850,000 Americans are dead — and we’re seriously looking at banning mask mandates? If certain politicians would put as much effort into protecting public health as they do trying to thwart it, we very well could have kissed COVID goodbye a year ago.