I noted on Friday that it appeared that our local "newspapers" were celebrating "free-publicity-for-our-favorites week." As of this morning, the papers have covered Capito, McKinley, and Morissey but have ignored their favorite state senator, Ryan Ferns. Ferns has been making news but my hunch is that it doesn't lend itself to good publicity.
As I've noted previously, Ryan Ferns is one of the sponsors of SB 508 -- the bill designed to protect businesses from nuisance lawsuits (see one post down). It's a bill that certainly won't make anyone who lives near a fracking wellpad happy.
Additionally, Ferns chairs the senate health committee and he and his committee have been pushing SB 284 which would give power to county commissions to change local board of health regulations (i.e. smoking). As Phil Kabler in the Charleston Gazette-Mail reported on Saturday:
Sen. Ron Stollings, D-Boone, a physician by trade, called Sen. Ryan Ferns, R-Ohio, “the Anti-Health Committee chairman” for sponsoring and pushing an unhealthy bill (SB 284) that would allow county commissions to overrule local board of health regulations, ostensibly to overturn indoor smoking bans, particularly for state casinos. (Just another in a series of initiatives this session to return West Virginia to the 19th century, some would say.)
Stollings led a walkout of Democratic senators that halted consideration of the bill in Health and Human Resources Committee, although the bill could live again via origination in a different committee.
“I don't know why they would want to go back in time,” Stollings said of repealing indoor air regulations that have served the public well for years.
He raises a good point: Why would a Health committee chairman advocate for something that would harm the public health?
I'll add another question: Why would a person with an advanced degree in the health field and whose job it is to make and keep people healthy (Ferns is a physical therapist) sponsor a bill that clearly jeopardizes the health of the state's citizens? (I'll let the reader answer that one.)
Fern's constituents should be aware of both SB 508 and SB 284 and the part that he has played in advancing them and yet very few citizens know these senate bills even exist. Ferns may want to keep quiet about his involvement but where are our local "newspapers" that regularly brag about how well they keep the citizenry informed? Maybe their lack of coverage suggests how bad these bills are that they can't put any positive spin on them.
Yes, it's still "free-publicity-for-our-favorites" week but sometimes the best publicity is no publicity.
I just checked the evening News-Register and their lead editorial tells us that we should "Keep Health Rules In Hands of Pros." Here is the conclusion:
Arguments can be made on both sides of the smoking ban question. But allowing county commissioners to snuff out the bans - and to override other regulations put in place by public health professionals - is not a good solution.
Yes, this bill is obviously so bad that even the News-Register editorializes against it. No, the editorial makes no mention of the sponsor (Ryan Ferns) or his health committee. (Just imagine how different this editorial would have been had this bill been sponsored by the Democrats.) And for Ferns, I think we can safely say that its "protect-his-ass" and not "free-publicity" week at the local "newspapers."