His criticism of a proposed syringe exchange program came as part of his message to the Secretary of State taking issue with the bill that struck down his executive order mandating that sixth grade girls receive the HPV vaccine but allowing the bill to become law without his signature. Bob Deuell’s needle exchange bill, which passed the Senate in April, saves lives and money–exactly the same arguments Perry used, accurately, to defend his executive order. Unlike Perry’s HPV policy, which ran into statewide criticism, the needle exchange bill faced no adverse testimony in committee. Here’s what the governor had to say:
“It is also confounding that some members of the legislature who complained my executive order encourages sexual promiscuity later voted for a needle exchange program that provides free needles to drug addicts. If we are worried about the messages we send, it would seem that the mission of discouraging illegal drugs would be just as significant, if not moreso, than discouraging sexual activity among a population that is mostly not engaged in sexual activity yet (girls entering the sixth grade).”
This sort of thing is what drives me crazy about Rick Perry. He understands that HPV vaccine doesn’t promote sexual activity, but he doesn’t understand that a needle exchange program doesn’t promote drug use. The drug use is already occurring. The question is whether the users are going to live or die. Deuell said in committee that no medical study has ever found that needle exchange promoted drug use. In fact, he said, it does the opposite: 20% of needle exchange clients seek treatment through the programs. The two bills have exactly the same benefits–save lives, save money. Maybe if Mike Toomey had been lobbying for the syringe manufacturers, the governor might have embraced the bill.
Perry was right on HPV. If, in his State of the State address, he had asked the Legislature to pass one of the bills that sought to authorize use of the vaccine, and had worked with the authors to make the bill palatable to parents, an HPV bill would be on its way to becoming law. But he bypassed the Legislature with an executive order, and put himself on the path to irrelevancy for the rest of the session.