Joe and Jane Voter rarely show up at the legislature to speak for themselves. Folklore from sessions gone by says there were lawmakers who adamantly did not want to see or hear from Joe and Jane, and held power like a hammer over the heads of lobbyists who might have considered packing a hearing room with citizens.
This week, in a rarely-exercised act of self-determination, Joe and Jane got a chance to kill a bill, without setting foot in Carson City.
Senate Bill 203 would have changed the status of over-the-counter cold and sinus medicine, requiring a prescription for drugs like Sudafed.
The objective: keep the drug away from folks who would use it to manufacture methamphetamines. Law enforcement estimates between one and two percent of the drug store purchases end up in the meth lab.
Joe and Jane Voter apparently didn’t care for the proposal, which would require them to drag their allergic brood to the doctor’s office on a school day, and shell out the requisite co-payments in order to then proceed to the grocery store and get a box of decongestant. That was the scenario painted in a radio spot that ran with relentless frequency over the last couple of weeks. The spot was paid for by an alliance of drug makers who were fighting the bill. It urged a phone call to legislators protesting Senate Bill 203.
Word to the business lobby: What took you so long to realize that the consumer is your natural ally? It doesn’t take thousands of dollars worth of media to call the consumer to action. A simple op-ed piece or talk show appearance is sufficient to notify the people who really have something at stake. It’s a head scratcher, but rarely are Joe and Jane Voter actively brought into the loop on issues that affect them in the marketplace.
The radio campaign was executed by a national organization, not by any Nevada group, although the Retail Association got the credit for stirring opposition too strong to overcome.
Ironically, the people who killed this bill – Joe and Jane Voter — are largely unaware that they averted an equally undesirable alternative. The drug industry is also paying for a cloud-based decongestant user database — linked in a growing number of states — that logs purchases, along with personally identifying information of every stuffy-nosed citizen who buys a box. Law enforcement has complete access, any time. Had SB 203 gone forward, this would have been the inevitable compromise.
By the way, Sudafed and its sister drugs are already tightly controlled at the retail level, having been placed out of reach of the runny-nosed customer in 2006. Currently it’s necessary to sign a log and provide identification in order to get sinus relief, but the information stays in the store.