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Thursday, Jan. 23, 2014

Issue of the Week: Lawmakers Must Look Beyond Their Self-Interest

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This past week the usually very conservative Wisconsin Assembly passed several forward-looking bills on heroin sponsored by the conservative, law-and-order Rep. John Nygren (R-Marinette). So why is Nygren proposing legislation concerning heroin addiction any different from his usual narrow horizon? Unfortunately, and very sadly, Nygren’s daughter is a heroin addict, and like any good father he is looking out for his daughter’s well-being. So his proposals are not the usual lock-them-up-because-they-broke-the-law type of legislation he would usually support. Instead, his bills would provide, for example, immunity from prosecution for drug possession if a person brought someone to a hospital for emergency medical care. However, there is no immunity for other drug crimes. Another bill would enable a family member to administer the drug that counteracts an overdose of heroin. Currently that is limited to health professionals such as medical technicians.

Nygren’s legislation is carefully targeted to deal with his daughter’s issues, enabling family members to help their heroin-addicted daughter and to keep her and themselves out of the criminal justice system as they seek help for her addiction. Surely there are people in his district—and some of his colleagues in the Legislature—who are thinking that his daughter should be in prison and that he failed as a father. Those folks are mean spirited and just wrong.

We sincerely applaud Nygren’s forward-looking views on this one narrow issue that is affecting his daughter. But why does it have to hit home before some legislators can show any kind of real understanding and compassion? When Nygren deals with other legislation going forward, and he wants, for example, to lock people up for various victimless crimes, he needs to understand that these other addicted individuals—such as inner-city crack addicts—have family members who care about them as much as Nygren cares about his daughter. We ask Rep. Nygren to be a statesman and not just a good father and look beyond what is good just for his family and look out for what is good for all the families in Wisconsin.