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Drug-sniffing Denny 

To Sen. Denny Altes the illness of his fellow man is insufficient hardship. Altes wants to violate their privacy as well, and make it harder for them to get relief for their pain. If they didn’t deserve to be punished, the reasoning goes, God wouldn’t have made them sick.

A Fort Smith Republican — an always dangerous type — Altes is the sponsor of SB 20, which would require the state Health Division to keep records on every Arkansan who takes certain prescription drugs: the patient’s name and address, the amount of the drug, the prescribing physicians’s name, the source of payment for the drug, etc. Pharmacists would be compelled to hand over the data, and be subject to criminal penalties if they didn’t. The Health Division would share the information with law enforcement, professional and regulatory agencies. Physicians already intimidated by various “drug warriors” would be even less likely to prescribe the medications their patients need.

Only Big Government would gain from SB 20, as bureaucratic snoopers would be given even more opportunity to harass taxpayers. This is the sort of bill that people like Altes, who call themselves “conservatives,” should hate, but instead embrace all too often. They don’t understand that addiction to freedom is no vice. So it’s up to the liberals and the civil-liberties groups to defend the little guy against government oppression. Thank heaven for the ACLU.

During debate on SB 20, Altes speculated aloud that one of his colleagues who opposed the bill might be a drug dealer — a disturbing prospect, to be sure. But if drug trafficking on the Senate floor is a problem, there is another, more meritorious proposal to deal with it. Always on call, dealers are known to keep their cell phones and pagers with them fulltime. A new rule endorsed by the Senate Rules Committee for submission to the full body would prohibit the use of cell phones, audible pagers and similar electronic devices in the Senate chamber, the committee rooms, and the galleries where the public sits. The main purpose of the rule is to restore decorum and order to the Senate; that it might disrupt some drug deals too would be icing on the cake.

White mischief

John White will do for the whole University of Arkansas athletic department what he’s already done for the women’s basketball team. Though they may not admit it, even the fiercest Broyles-haters know it would be better to have Frank Broyles choosing a replacement for John White than the other way around.

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