Editorials, Opinion

The Good, the Bad and the Stupid Pt. 3

Good: SB 124 to require schools to create an age-appropriate dating/sexual violence prevention program for grades 7-12.

There are a lot of things the Legislature is doing wrong when it comes to public education, but there are a handful of things it is doing right. This is one of them.

That late-middle-through-high school age group starts to explore what it means to have a relationship — to have a “real” boyfriend, girlfriend or partner. But they may not have good role models in their own lives, and healthy examples in pop-culture are scarce. This is the perfect time to teach young people what healthy relationships should look like.

However, we hope the dating/sexual violence prevention programs don’t become yet another lecture to young women about the things they should or should not do to avoid being a victim. Rather, we hope they speak to boys and girls equally. We hope they emphasize respect and consent and teach young people to stand firm in their personal boundaries. Preventing violence is more than teaching someone how to avoid it; it’s also teaching not to perpetrate violence in the first place.

Bad: SB 243 to require “residential substance use disorder service facilities, upon discharging patients, to offer those patients a means of transportation back to their state of birth, a state in which they have previously lived, or a state where they have a family support structure.”

The problem is two-fold: It’s an unfair burden on treatment facilities, and it’ll likely harm patients rather than help them.

This proposal is essentially an unfunded mandate. It forces facilities to offer transportation, but there’s no mechanism to help pay transportation costs. And if we’re talking cross-state travel, there’s probably plane or bus tickets involved, and those aren’t cheap. Most facilities can’t afford to eat that kind of cost, so they will have to charge more for services — whether to individuals directly or to insurance providers. Cost is already a barrier to substance use disorder treatment, and this bill would only make it worse.

On the other side of the issue, forcing patients back to their “home” state may very well undo whatever progress they’ve made toward overcoming addiction. Healthy, well-adjusted people rarely decide out of the blue to start using drugs or abusing alcohol; there is usually some external factor that contributes to or triggers the substance abuse. Sending them back to a situation, place or people that caused or enabled their addiction will only make things worse.

West Virginia cannot make itself better by shipping its problems out of state. It can only improve itself by tackling the issues and their root causes head-on.

Stupid: SB 251, known as the U.S. motto bill, has passed the Senate and is under consideration in the House. It mandates schools (from K-12 to college) to “conspicuously” display any donated signs or framed posters that have “In God We Trust” printed over the U.S. and state flags.

This is a form bill that has made its way through many red-state legislatures. Texas already passed this exact law (and is now dealing with the consequences). We’ve articulated our stance on form bills in the past: They’re written by special interest groups that have an agenda to push and don’t care about what people actually want or need, and it’s lazy legislating when an elected official takes a cookie-cutter bill from a lobbyist and introduces it without changing even a single word.

This one makes the “stupid” category because it accomplishes nothing useful, it’s a waste of legislators’ times and it’s not going to be nearly as unifying as its sponsor insists.

We’ll keep saying it until Charleston gets the message: The Legislature needs to stop wasting its time and our money on stupid, petty culture-war garbage and focus instead on fixing West Virginia’s real problems.