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Tomblin in Martinsburg to sign substance abuse legislation

Governor says he intends to fill the 23rd Judicial Circuit vacancy as soon as possible

March 29, 2012|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD | matthew.umstead@herald-mail.com
  • West Virginia Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin hands a pen to state Sen. Herb Snyder, right, on Thursday after signing Senate Bill 437 at Patterson's Drug Store in Martinsburg, W.Va. Also pictured are state Sen. John Unger, left, and Del. John Doyle.
By Ric Dugan, Staff Photographer

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin was in Martinsburg Thursday to take part in a bill-signing ceremony for substance abuse legislation.

Tomblin said he also intends to fill the 23rd Judicial Circuit vacancy created by Judge Gina M. Groh’s appointment to the federal bench as soon as possible.

The Judicial Vacancy Advisory Commission, which interviews applicants and recommends finalists for the governor’s consideration, is scheduled to meet Wednesday via teleconference concerning the vacancy, according to Tomblin’s office.

“It will probably be a month before I get (the commission’s recommendations),” Tomblin said after he signed two copies of Senate Bill 437 at a ceremony at Patterson’s Drug Store in Martinsburg.

Groh’s eight-year term does not expire until 2016, but the person appointed by Tomblin will have to run for election in 2014 to complete the unexpired term, according to Secretary of State Natalie Tennant’s office.

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When asked whether his third visit to the Eastern Panhandle in as many weeks would be perceived as him campaigning for election, Tomblin said: “I see it as being governor, coming here, connecting with the people, listening to what they have to say.”

Tomblin, who took part in similar ceremonies Thursday in Huntington and Parkersburg, said the Eastern Panhandle was one of the first places he came last year to take part in a series of discussions around the state about the substance abuse issue.

“The things I heard that day — a lot of it is included in the bill,” Tomblin said of the roundtable he attended last summer at the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office and the subsequent legislation he asked lawmakers to pass.

Among a number of reforms, the bill includes a requirement that new prescriptions be recorded in a statewide database within 24 hours of being dropped off to prevent patients from collecting duplicate prescriptions from different doctors.

The law also imposes a strict annual purchasing limit for pseudoephedrine, the key ingredient in the illegal manufacture of methamphetamine, a hightly addictive stimulant.

Controlled substances dispensed directly from a doctor’s office also will be limited to two 72-hour doses per patient in a 15-day period.

Before signing copies of the bill at a small table in the crowded drug store, Tomblin noted in brief remarks that drug overdose deaths had overtaken car accidents as the “No. 1 killer” and said that substance abuse has almost reached an “epidemic stage” in the state. 

Attending the 1 p.m. ceremony were several members of the West Virginia State Police, community leaders and elected officials, including state Sens. John Unger, D-Berkeley/Jefferson, and Herb Snyder, D-Jefferson/Berkeley, Del. John Doyle, D-Jefferson, Berkeley County Sheriff Kenneth Lemaster, Berkeley County Councilman Douglas E. Copenhaver Jr. and Martinsburg Mayor George Karos, who owns the South Queen Street drugstore.

Karos, who is president of the state Board of Pharmacy, said legislation passed is not “a silver bullet,” but gives the pharmacy board another tool to combat abuse of prescription drugs.

Tomblin presented the signed copies of the bill to Karos and Lemaster, who like the governor have opponents this year in their respective bids for re-election. 

The governor was introduced by Snyder, who said Tomblin is a “personal friend.” Like the others, Snyder also has an opponent in his re-election effort.

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