- Associated Press - Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Recent editorials from West Virginia newspapers:

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Dec. 31

The Intelligencer on cutting back on regulations:

A researcher’s recommendation that West Virginia legislators set arbitrary caps on the numbers of regulations state agencies can enforce sounds simplistic. As one lawmaker, Delegate Scott Brewer, D-Mason, put it, “How do you differentiate between good regulations and bad?”

On the other hand, however, does it make any more sense for government agencies at all levels - and yes, state legislatures and Congress - to issue hordes of new regulations every year based, for the most part, on bureaucrats’ hunches the rules may be necessary?

Brewer was reacting to comments by James Broughel during legislative interim committee meetings. He told lawmakers the Mercatus Center at George Mason University has been researching the adverse effect of government regulations on the economy. “There’s increasing academic evidence that regulation, especially federal regulation, can be a drag on economic growth,” Broughel said.

West Virginia legislators can do nothing about federal regulations, of course. But Broughel said Mercatus Center researchers also are looking into how much of a drag state rules have on the economy.

Brace yourself for this: Broughel told lawmakers the center has determined West Virginia has 125,700 regulatory restrictions.

Some of them are necessary, of course. They safeguard the public, working men and women, the environment, etc.

But 125,700? Could not some of them be eliminated?

That idea is behind the center’s suggestion that states inform individual agencies of numerical limits on how many regulations they can have and enforce.

Addressing Brewer’s concern, Broughel noted such limits could force government to determine which regulations are important and which are not.

Yes, it is simplistic - but no more so than leaving every existing rule on the books with no consideration of whether they are necessary. Broughel’s idea ought to be given serious consideration by lawmakers during 2018.

Online: http://theintelligencer.net/

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Jan. 1

The Herald-Dispatch on why protections for miners should not be abandoned:

President Donald Trump, during his campaign in 2016 and since taking office, has stated clearly that he backs the coal industry. In the months ahead, we’ll likely find out whether his administration’s concern for the industry also extends to the health and safety of coal miners. The answer will come based on how his administration handles two issues.

One has to do with two lawsuits filed by the mining industry taking issue with the Mine Safety and Health Administration’s enforcement of its “pattern of violations” rule. The program was authorized by Congress four decades ago after it determined that repeated citations and fines by federal inspectors didn’t improve safety performance. Under the program, mines with a history of serious safety problems are moved into a tougher enforcement protocol requiring closure of the part of a mine where additional serious violations occur. The pattern-of-violations designation can only be removed if a mine goes an entire quarterly inspection without a serious violation.

The rule was seldom used until about a decade ago, and an actual rule change based on the patterns of violations didn’t occur until 2013, according to a report by the Charleston Gazette-Mail. The lawsuits by mining industry groups were filed within a year or two, and the cases are pending.

As it stands now, coal industry operators and federal regulators are in settlement talks aimed at resolving the lawsuits. But that begs a couple of questions. Why isn’t the government standing firmly behind the pattern of violations rule, unless it plans to weaken protections for the safety of coal miners? And, if the government does settle, will a weaker enforcement program pose more dangers to miners?

Imposing tougher penalties on repeat violators is not a rarity. In criminal law, it’s common. When lives of miners are at stake, why abandon the principle?

The other pending issue has to do with rules regarding miners’ exposure to coal and rock dust, which causes black lung disease, and diesel exhaust, which can cause cancer. The Mine Safety and Health Administration announced in mid-December that those rules were being reconsidered, three years after the Obama administration lowered the allowable limits on exposure to coal dust. The agency is asking for public comment on whether standards “could be improved or made more effective or less burdensome by accommodating advances in technology, innovative techniques, or less costly methods.”

That review was part of the Department of Labor’s regulatory and deregulatory agenda released by Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta, who said on the occasion that “President Trump made clear the progress his Administration is making in bringing common sense to regulations that hold back job creation and prosperity.” Acosta said the department will continue “to protect American workers’ interests while limiting the burdens of over-regulation.”

Opening up the rule for review begs a question similar to the one about the pattern of violations program. Why reconsider it unless there is an intent that protections for miners will be weakened to help out mining operators?

What’s sad is that both issues come at a time when black lung has seen a resurgence in frequency, particularly among younger miners, and the number of fatalities at the nation’s coal mines in 2017 already has surpassed the totals in the previous two years.

This is not the time to weaken the rules or the enforcement programs protecting the nation’s miners.

Online: http://www.herald-dispatch.com/

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Dec. 29

Bluefield Daily Telegraph on an act that would create permanent funding for substance abuse treatment:

U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., is urging fellow lawmakers to commit to passing the LifeBOAT Act, a necessary measure that would create a permanent funding stream to provide and expand access to substance abuse treatment.

The proposed legislation would be funded by placing a one cent fee on every milligram of opioid produced.

The measure has been introduced by Manchin twice now, and on both occasions has been allowed to languish in the U.S. Senate. It should be reconsidered, particularly in light of alarming new statistics released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

According to the CDC, there were 42,249 opioid-related overdose deaths in the U.S. in 2016. That is a 28 percent increase over 2015. The report concluded that 115 people are dying of opioid-related overdose deaths every day.

West Virginia had the highest overdose death rate in the country at 52 per 100,000 people, the report found. The national rate is 19.8 per 100,000 and the next two highest states - New Hampshire and Ohio - saw 39 deaths per 100,000, according to the report.

The CDC also found that the number of drug overdose deaths involving synthetic opioids other than methadone (fentanyl, etc.) doubled from 9,580 in 2015 to 19,413 in 2016.

In addition, deaths due to heroin rose nearly 20 percent and deaths associated with other opioid pain killers, including hydrocodone and oxycodone, rose by 14 percent.

“There has not been a year since I have been in the Senate that opioid overdose deaths have gone down, and this year is no different,” Manchin said. “Despite my best efforts to work with congressional leadership and two administrations for nearly a decade, our country still cannot properly combat an epidemic that is ravaging our nation and that will change every aspect of our society for generations to come. After all of the trauma our neighbors, families, and friends have been through and after all of the strain we’ve put on our community, state, and local budgets and resources, we still do not fully appreciate the devastating impact of this crisis and continue to do far too little to stop it.”

Manchin correctly argues for the need for targeted emergency funding that would help save lives now while also creating permanent funding for treatment centers that can save lives tomorrow. That’s what the proposed LifeBOAT Act would do. The funding stream generated from the measure would be about $2 billion a year.

“Congressional leaders, government officials and my colleagues should be alarmed by the rate in which people are dying,” Manchin added.

We agree. And we, too, believe the LifeBOAT Act can help. The opioid epidemic is not a Democratic or Republican issue. It is a federal public health emergency - as declared by President Donald Trump.

There should be a dedicated revenue source available for the operation of substance abuse treatment centers. These facilities are essential if we are to succeed in helping those who are suffering from the chains of addiction.

Online: http://www.bdtonline.com/


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