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Souder fails to sway House from needle bill

Exchange programs do little to curb HIV, lawmaker argues

– The House rebuffed Rep. Mark Souder, R-3rd, Friday as he tried to preserve a ban against federal money being used for programs that give drug addicts clean syringes in exchange for used ones.

Democrats said needle exchange programs can help reduce the rate of HIV and AIDS infections.

Souder argued that HIV is spread mostly through sexual activity, not needles.

He said free syringes encourage drug habits and that money used for needle exchanges should be used for drug treatment programs.

“Are we going to eliminate the moral hazard in narcotics?” Souder said, arguing that Democrats were wrong to lift the longtime ban on needle exchange programs.

Needle exchange “is not about promoting drug use,” said Rep. Alan Mollohan, D-W.Va. “It is in fact about preventing disease.”

Souder said studies of whether needle exchange programs curb the spread of HIV and other diseases, “quite honestly, are mixed,” but that government-funded needle exchange programs imply an official approval of drug use.

Rep. David Obey, D-Wis., said the bill says exchange programs can’t operate within 1,000 feet of facilities that serve children, such as schools and parks.

Souder’s amendment was defeated 211-218.

The House also rejected an attempt by Rep. Mike Pence, R-6th, to prohibit any money for Planned Parenthood. His amendment was defeated 183-247.

He argued that none of the $317.5 million allocated for family planning programs in the U.S. should go to Planned Parenthood, because the organization “is the largest abortion provider in America.”

Even though family planning money can’t be used for abortions, Pence said, it can be used to pay Planned Parenthood’s rent and other overhead, which frees up money for abortions.

Souder’s and Pence’s amendments were offered to a bill that allocates $730.5 billion and sets policies for labor, health and education programs for next year. Souder voted against the bill, which passed 264-153. Pence did not vote.

Despite his “no” vote, Souder won $850,000 for three universities and a training program for adults with disabilities.

At Souder’s request, the bill includes:

•$260,000 to create a language institute at Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne.

The Strategic Languages Institute would teach Arabic, Chinese and Japanese to high school juniors and seniors and IPFW students, Souder said in his application for the money.

“The study of foreign languages has long been proven to be imperative for its educational, cultural, economic and strategic benefits,” Souder wrote. “Studies have shown that by learning a new language, students not only gain insight into new horizons but also build a stronger identity. …

“In a globalized world characterized by international links and intercultural connections, linguistic skills are crucial for employment and career.”

•$340,000 for Trine University in Angola to develop an online master’s degree in civil and mechanical engineering.

•$150,000 to help Grace College and Theological Seminary in Winona Lake develop the curriculum for and buy the equipment for an adult and continuing education program in medical device research.

•$100,000 to expand the work training program at Easter Seals ARC of Northeast Indiana. It serves disabled adults.

Also this week, the House approved money for two industrial parks in northeast Indiana and to widen Indiana 205 in Columbia City, three of the nine projects Souder sought money for through the bill that allocates money for transportation and housing programs.

The House approved $500,000 to create an industrial park in Syracuse and $200,000 for water and sewer service to Nappanee’s industrial park.

The Senate has not yet acted on legislation to pay for transportation, housing, education and health projects next year.

Money for the projects must be included in both chambers’ bills.