An Empty Political Gesture

We’ve been hearing a lot these days about the opioid crisis: too many people becoming addicted to opioids: prescription drugs with codeine, Vicodin, Dilaudid, Demerol, OxyContin, Percocet, and many others. When their legitimate prescriptions expire they lie to doctors to get more, and when they can’t, they buy the stuff illegally. In some cases people find it easier, and cheaper, to use illegal opioids like heroin. It’s a serious problem and there seems to be considerable agreement that something needs to be done about it.

One of those people who says something needs to be done about it is Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf, a man who usually has good intentions but almost as often has no idea how to do anything about them. During the summer, leaders from both parties in his state’s legislature asked him to call a special session of the legislature to address the state’s opioid crisis. During such a special session, opioids would be the one and only issue on the legislature’s agenda. Wolf, though, apparently didn’t want to interrupt legislators’ summer vacation – once the notoriously lazy Pennsylvania state legislature passes a budget, usually in late June or early July, it downshifts from low to neutral and abandons the state capital until after Labor Day – so he waited until the fall to act.

And instead of calling a special session of the legislature, as legislative leaders urged him to do, Wolf called for a joint session of the legislature, which was already in session, and gave a speech about the problem.

He gave a speech.

On September 29.

And that was Wolf’s idea of “action.”

He did it at a time when the state House and state Senate both plan to meet only six more days each between now and the end of October, after which they will adjourn for the year. Then, in November, all 203 seats in the state House and 25 of the 50 seats in the state Senate will be contested at the polls.

Which makes Wolf’s decision to give a speech instead of calling a special session curious.

And weak.

And ultimately, a very empty gesture by a guy whose heart is in the right place but whose ability to figure out how to get things done appears to be permanently missing in action.

Or maybe that should be “missing inaction.”

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