The Stephenville Empire Tribune recently ran a poll on the 80th Texas Legislature performance and most of us thought they preformed poorly or just plain horribly. I have to admit I voted for horrible.

However, recent news has modified my opinion. Texas Representative Ruth Jones McClendon, in the final hour of this session attached an amendment to budget bill (SB 10) allowing for a pilot needle exchange program in San Antonio. The Legislature has acted decisively to prevent the spread of AIDS! Providing addicts with clean needles and making condoms available to prisoners is safer for us all. Almost half of HIV-infected State prison inmates at end of 2004 were in New York, Florida and Texas.

Also as of this coming Sept. first, H.B. 2391 signed into law offers law enforcement a fine-don’t-incarcerate option and applies to hundreds of different Class B misdemeanors including people who are found with less than 2 ounces of marijuana, theft or hot checks under $500, criminal mischief or graffiti involving damage under $500 and driving without a license. Such options for “nonviolent and victimless crimes” will relieve prison overcrowding and prevent fiscal waste.

These are a wonderful first steps to making science based, fiscally prudent, and compassionate public policy the wave of our future!

Drug abuse is a medical problem. We will do a better job preventing overdose deaths, of keeping intoxicated folks off the road and our children drug free with compassionate policy offering helpful treatment. Encourage your legislators to help construct science based drug policies about saving and rehabilitating instead of ruining lives.

Colleen Minter McCool