Business & Politics

April 19, 2010

Tooth bill hits you right in the mouth

— There are bills discussed at the Capitol which you feel there is really not a great side to take and whatever you choose. You feel like you are not getting to the problem behind the issue. 

One such issue we have seen at the Capitol this session is the tooth-floaters bill that has been brought up several times. 

Rep. Don Armes and Rep. Brian Renegar are both close friends, but are on very different sides of this issue. 

It’s tough when you rely on friends who have experience in a field and they take different positions, and I’m not just referring to these two legislators, but also several experts in the field who are constituents and trusted advisors.

The root of this problem goes back to the scope of practice on whether the people who practice this profession, and what is allowed under the law for the men and women who work to care for horses by grinding down their teeth when it is necessary. 

Rep. Renegar originally authored this issue to prevent tooth-floaters from using certain drugs which have been labeled as dangerous in certain doses designating it as a felony to possess these drugs without approval from someone certified to prescribe the drugs. 

Rep. Armes changed the law last session to reduce the penalty from a felony to a misdemeanor. 

This year, the bill was brought back to expand the definition of teeth-floating, to require the teeth floaters register with the State Board of Veterinary Medicine Examiners and requires that the tooth-floater must arrange for use of the drugs through a veterinarian. 

This still left the concern with Rep. Renegar that the bill would allow teeth-floaters to be able to fall under the guidelines of monitoring and supervision of the individuals and the type of drugs in question.

Another provision, which was supported by several agricultural groups, would be to include the act of “animal husbandry” in the list of things not regulated by the State Board of Veterinary Medicine Examiners, along with those individuals who register and pay a $200 filing fee to be certified as a tooth-floater. 

The veterinarians involved in this fight did not want the tooth-floaters to be out from under the control of this board and, therefore, be out of control of their regulations of the industry. 

This language added in to the bill allows a potential loophole according to some opponents which would significantly reduce the large animal vet practice by allowing “animal husbandry” to be exempt and potentially allow people to claim they are in this practice rather than veterinary medicine as per claims by the Attorney General’s liaison for the Vet Board. 

This could reduce the number of students going to vet school and opting for apprenticeship under a veterinarian instead.

Many would think this issue would be something which could be fixed with just a few minor changes or modifications to statutes.  A problem we are seeing in recent years is the heads of state agencies and those in the decision-making process on agency rules are trying to avoid legislative authority. 

We have had bills to restrict agencies from decision-making policies, but those bills have yet to pass the full legislature. As we see term-limits come into full effect, we have seen a decrease in institutional knowledge of legislators, and therefore, we have seen much of the power shift to bureaucrats. 

It is important now, more than ever, for legislators to understand the background on an issue, the personalities involved and be willing to visit with informed constituents and experts to find the right answer on a subject.

On this subject, this is one of those issues which has taken several hours of debate and addresses many concerns, but should really not be that difficult to resolve. It was my understanding that many hours of discussion occurred between the interested parties and that agreements were made, but a few points could not be worked out. 

That is often the problem with our process at the State Capitol, along with Washington, D.C., that we try to solve a problem, but there are always consequences involved which will hurt someone or some group. 

We just have to hope the work we do will have an impact on the greatest number possible. 

Any bill, no matter how hard we try, will have a positive and a negative impact on someone and we have to hope the negative is something which truly fixes an injustice within the system. 

I voted no on this bill because of some of these concerns, but I truly hope as this issue progresses, we are able to find the answer fairest to all those involved, including the tooth-floaters, the veterinarians and the horse owners.

On a final note, I want to thank all the 4-Her’s who visited the Capitol last week to educate legislators about the program. It was great to see the green and white fill the gallery and show a strong presence on a great student organization. 

I also want to congratulate Cameron and Faith Blair on their marriage this past weekend.  Faith was an intern in my office and I am very happy for them and wish them the best in a long life together.

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