Editorials, Opinion

Two bills to save, and one bill to kill

The Legislature’s regular session ends  Saturday, and there are two bills we’d like to see keep going and one that desperately needs to die.

If HB 4252 sounds familiar, it’s because we keep talking about it. This bill makes three important changes to state code regarding insulin copays: “Cost sharing for a 30-day supply of a covered prescription insulin drug may not exceed $35 for a 30-day supply of a covered prescription insulin, regardless of the quantity or type of prescription insulin used to fill the covered person’s prescription needs. Cost sharing for a device may not exceed $100 for a 30-day supply; Cost sharing for insulin pump may not exceed $250, and limited to one insulin pump purchase every [two] years.”

We are sick of hearing story after story of diabetics who have died or suffered serious injury from rationing insulin because they couldn’t afford the copays. And this is a problem that acutely affects West Virginia. According to the DHHR, 12% of adults have been diagnosed with diabetes and an additional 4% are likely undiagnosed.

At the moment, HB 4252 is languishing in the Senate Finance because committee chair Sen. Eric Tarr refuses to put it on the agenda. Please contact Sen. Tarr by email at eric.tarr@wvsenate.gov or by phone at 304-202-4276, and let him know West Virginians need this bill, so he needs to put in on the committee agenda.

We’re also keeping an eye on SB 493, which would require school board meetings to be broadcasted and the video and audio archived. From a public records and transparency standpoint, this is a very good bill. Few parents have the time to attend BOE meetings in-person, but they could listen in while making dinner or go back and watch archived meetings when they have the time.

That said, Delegate Mike Pushkin made a very valid point: “We’re going to require more of local school boards than we do of ourselves.”

At this time, the West Virginia House of Delegates only provides a live feed of the House floor. There are no cameras or audio in meeting rooms, and no footage or sound is archived. However, the Senate provides audio and video feeds of all meetings and floor sessions and archives everything.

So, from a public records and transparency standpoint, the House should pass SB 493 — and then hold itself to the same standards.

While we’re waiting for a handful of good bills to keep moving, there is one bad bill that simply refuses to die. The so-called “anti-racism” bill, SB 498 continues to survive, despite frequent stakeholder objections. The revised version takes out some of the most disturbing elements, but one key feature remains: It prohibits that “an individual should feel discomfort, guilt, anguish, or any other form of psychological distress because of the individual’s race, ethnicity, or biological sex.”

No educator looks at a student and says, “The atrocities of the past are your fault.” But the vagueness of the language in the bill means that teachers can still get in trouble if a student feels uncomfortable with the content being taught.

Wyoming was considering an extremely similar bill (the SB 498 was, after all, a model bill submitted by lobbyists to many state legislatures), but it died after a Jewish legislator stood up and spoke against it. He said:

“[The bill] says ‘no one should feel discomfort or distress.’ But in learning about the Holocaust, I have suffered a lifetime of discomfort and distress, and it’s essential that as students learn about this dark time in our history, they, too, feel discomfort and distress.”

After he spoke, 24 of the chamber’s 51 Republicans changed their votes to no, denying the bill the two-thirds majority it needed to pass. Maybe one of our own legislators needs to stand up and make it clear to the House’s Republicans just what is at stake if SB 498 becomes law.

There are horrors in the world’s history that young people must learn about to understand the reality we live in — and those cruelties should make them uncomfortable.