The End Is Near!
by Gary Zuckett, firstname.lastname@example.org
Just the end of the session, not the planet! Global
Climate Change will take a lot longer to do us all in, but the 2012
regular session ends on midnight Saturday, March10th. It isn’t just our
opinion that this has been a rather sedate session. Consider this quote
from Ry Rivard’s Monday Daily Mail article, “Lobbyists and lawmakers say
frequently in private that the session has been slow, something that
gets attributed to 2012 being an election year and there being little or
no extra money for the Legislature to spend.”
It’s been slow for us since Wednesday, named “crossover day,” since most
all the legislation we were promoting did not make the “crossover” –
that is passing out of its house of origin and over to the other side.
Now our task is to monitor the 146 bills passed by the House and the 175
that made it out of the Senate to see which ones we’ll support, what
needs amended to be acceptable, and which ones we should try to kill –
not a pleasant task but that’s why we’re up there.
Dietitians Takeover Expired
One of those bills which we were glad didn’t make the cut was HB 4045,
the attempted takeover of nutritional counseling by the folks who
develop menus for hospital food. As Joe wrote last week - there is a
difference, and those of us who think eating organic and natural foods
is better than counting calories want to be able to engage the services
of nutritional counselors who have this awareness. This is not the first
time this bill has surfaced in our state legislature, and I’m sure won’t
be the last. The price of even nutritional liberty is eternal vigilance.
Insurance Disclosure Crosses Over
One common sense bill promoted by the WV Association for Justice did
make the jump. HB 4486 would require insurance companies to disclose the
amount of insurance coverage available to an injured person prior to
commencement of a trial. Since we wrote about it last week it has passed
the House and moved to Senate Judiciary where it should get approved.
This is a minor tweak in the civil justice system that will make a lot
of headway in eliminating unnecessary court actions to disclose this
This was a both a disappointing and hopeful week at the courts for some
high profile candidates. Frank Deem was kicked off the ballot in his bid
to unseat incumbent Senator Donna Boley (R – Pleasants) who has held
that 3rd District seat since forever. Deem, a long time 3rd District
Senator from Wood who lost in his party’s primary in 2010, had
challenged the WV Constitutional provision that says multi-county
districts cannot have two senators from the same county. Since a win for
Deem in 2012 would give Wood two senators, the state Supreme Court sided
with Boley. However, the extreme of this situation is in Wayne Co. where
Sen. Plymal has a virtual fiefdom in the few precincts of the 5th
district located in Wayne when the rest of the district encompasses all
of Cabell. Since Cabell can have no more than one senator, the other
must always be elected from those handful of precincts where Plymal
resides. He has not had a significant challenger in recorded history.
Another court action has allowed Senator Helmick (D- Randolph) to remain
on the ballot for Agricultural Commissioner, nullifying a century-old
law mandating that only "practical farmers" with 10 years of experience
can run for the post. The judge in that case deemed the legislation
restricting who can run as unconstitutional. Helmick lost his leadership
position as Chair of Senate Finance when Senator Kessler took over as
Senate President so is looking for greener pastures.
Highway Money Mess
Don’t’ expect WV roads and bridges to get much better anytime soon. At a
hearing this week at the capitol, Transportation Secretary Paul Maddox
told legislators that WV will be about a billion dollars short per year
for the next 25 years to meet the demand for road and bridge repairs and
needed new construction. Wow, that’s a lot of dough in a state with only
an $11 billion combined state and federal annual income. The news from
Washington on highways is not good either. As we previously reported,
the US House’s bill (HB7) cut nearly $50 million in funding for WV
highways. Thankfully, House leadership did not even have the votes in
its own Teaparty to pass that bad boy. Now the Senate is working up a
two-year proposal to maintain current funding. But even this will have
to go to conference committee with the House so who knows what will
happen. In the meantime, all federal surface transportation funding will
expire at the end of the month. This will likely mean another temporary
extension of current funding until such time as Congress can agree on a
long-term reauthorization. I was in Washington DC again this week
talking with our Representatives about the need to maintain federal
funding to repair our crumbling infrastructure and keep some set aside
for safer streets and people-centered improvements too. See our national
ally Transportation 4 America (www.t4america.org ) for all the details.
No Newsletter Next Week
Since the session ends on Saturday night, we will wait until the
following week to send out the next newsletter to wrap up the session.
However, watch your inbox for critical action items as the last week of
session unfolds. We never know what they will try to slip through at the
last minute so be ready to make a call or send a note if we need some
help from you, our grassroots. Thanks again to all who have made the
calls and come out to hearings and such. It makes such a difference when
lawmakers see or hear from their folks back home!
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Cross Over Wins and Losses
by Julie Archer, email@example.com
Wednesday was crossover day – the last day for bills to
be considered and voted on by their originating body (House or Senate).
This means that many of the election related bills we’ve been watching
and working are dead because they were not taken up in committee in time
to meet this important deadline.
Perhaps the most disappointing is that our bill (HB 4016) to extend the
WV Supreme Court Public Campaign Financing Pilot Project through 2017
did not make it. In addition, to extending the pilot project for another
election cycle, the bill also took out the trigger matching fund
provision that was ruled unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court.
Although the bill, as amended by the House Judiciary Committee, had no
fiscal impact on next year’s budget it still needed to clear the House
Finance Committee before it could be voted on by the full House.
Unfortunately, it didn’t make on to the Finance Committee agenda in
time. The good news is that the pilot project does not actually sunset
until mid-2013, so we have another shot at fixing and extending it next
Alternatively, one bill that we were happy to see meet its demise, was
HB 4387, which would have required voters to provide photo
identification (ID) when voting. We would have preferred that the bill
die a quite death, however, even though it was effectively dead already,
we learned Monday afternoon that the House Judiciary Committee had
scheduled a public hearing on the proposal. The hearing had apparently
been requested by members of the Tea Party, about a half of dozen of who
turned out to support the bill saying it would prevent people voting
under phony names, double voting and voting from the grave. However,
opponents of the bill, which included WV-CAG, the AARP and the National
Association of Social Workers-WV pointed out that we already have a good
system in place to keep people from voting if they’re not eligible, that
the legislation would only serve as a barrier to law abiding citizens
exercising their right to vote and would disproportionately depress the
votes of the elderly, the poor, racial and ethnic minorities and
students. Secretary of State Natalie Tennant also spoke against the
bill, citing a U.S. Department of Justice investigation that debunked
the notion that voter fraud is widespread. Tennant also noted that, like
the recent voter fraud scandals that occurred in West Virginia, the few
instances of voter fraud uncovered by the investigation would not have
been prevented by a voter ID requirement. She also cited a recent
Brennan Center for Justice report that concluded that in this year’s
upcoming elections more than five million Americans could be affected by
new voting restrictions implemented since 2008.
Some of the election bills that met the crossover day deadline include:
SB 510 – Amending Election canvass and recount procedures. As originally
proposed, this bill would have narrowed the scope of our post-election
from a hand-count of the votes cast in five percent of randomly selected
precincts in each county to a single race or issue chosen in each of the
chosen precincts. Before being passed by the full Senate, the Senate
Judiciary Committee amended SB 510 to limit the canvass to 2% of
randomly selected precincts, but continue to require a hand-count of all
the races on the ballot in each of the selected precincts. Earlier in
the session, a subcommittee of the House Judiciary Committee killed that
body’s version of the bill so it remains to be seen if they will want to
revisit the issue.
SB 518 would disqualify anyone convicted of treason, a felony, bribery
or perjury from running for or being appointed to any elected office. We
think the bill too broad and prefer to see it amended to limit it to
those who were convicted of crimes related to election rigging.
HB 4257 would bring West Virginia in line with 36 other states by
allowing late voter registration (up to but not including the day of the
election) for members of the military, Merchant Marines, and others who
reside temporarily outside of the United States.
HB 4238 would establish procedures for the inclusion of Address
Confidentially Program (ACP) participants to be included on the special
absentee voting list and specify the method of application and ballot
provision for the program participants. The ACP is a program,
established by the legislature in 2007, is designed to enable state and
local agencies to respond to requests for public records without
disclosing the location of a victim of domestic violence, sexual assault
or stalking by using an address designated by the Secretary of State as
a substitute mailing address. This program prevents abusers or potential
abusers from using public records as a resource to find their victims.
The purpose of HB 4238 is to further protect a program participant’s
Because resolutions are not subject to the same rules as bill, we are
still hoping that the House and Senate will act on their respective
resolutions (HR 8 and SR 7) opposing Citizens United regarding the
constitutional rights of corporations. The resolutions support an
amendment to the U.S. Constitution to provide that corporations are not
entitled to the same protections or rights of natural persons,
specifically so that the expenditure of corporate money would no longer
be a form of constitutionally protected speech.
We will update on you the fate of these bills and resolutions after the
2012 legislative session comes to a close
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REALLY?!?!: A Reaction to a Corporate
by Joe Dickerson, firstname.lastname@example.org
It never ceases to amaze me how much we value corporations over the
citizenry in this country. When found out that 30 of the most profitable
corporations in the United States paid less than zero in taxes for the
past three years, I certainly wasn't happy, but I wasn't surprised.. The
discovery is part of a recently released study from Citizens for Tax
Justice and the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, “Corporate
Taxpayers and Corporate Tax Dodgers, 2008-2010,” The publication is a
comprehensive analysis of 280 of the Fortune 500 companies, and the tax
loopholes and breaks they exploit.
“These 280 corporations received a total of nearly $224 billion in tax
subsidies,” said Robert McIntyre, Director at Citizens for Tax Justice
and the report’s lead author. “This is wasted money that could have gone
to protect Medicare, create jobs and cut the deficit.” According to
citizens for Tax Justice:
30 Companies average less than zero tax bill in the
last three Years, 78 had at least one no-tax year.
Financial services received the largest share of all
federal tax subsidies over the last three years. More than half the
tax subsidies for companies in the study went to four industries:
financial services, utilities, telecommunications, and oil, gas &
U.S. corporations with significant foreign profits
paid tax rates to foreign countries that were almost a third higher
than they paid to the IRS on their domestic profits.
This detailed study not only explains who receives these tax breaks, how
they get them, and the math behind the process; it also discusses the
numerous impacts these tax breaks have. These loopholes lower revenue
streams to the State during critical budget shortages, increase the tax
burden on citizens (as well as making them subject to more stringent tax
regulations), as well as damaging weaker companies ability to compete in
the open market.
The industry tables found on page 25 of the report clearly shows that
discrepancies within industries are prevalent.
DuPont and Monsanto both produce chemicals. But over
the 2008-10 period, Monsanto paid 22 percent of its profits in U.S.
corporate income taxes, while DuPont actually paid a negative tax
rate of –3.4 percent.
Department store chain Macy’s paid a three-year rate
of 12.1 percent, while competing chain Nordstrom’s paid 37.1
In computer technology, Hewlett-Packard paid 3.7 of
its three-year U.S. profits in federal income taxes, while Texas
Instruments paid 33.5 percent.
FedEx paid 0.9 percent over three years, while its
competitor United Parcel Service paid 24.1 percent.
All of which run contrary to the lassie faire claims
from Conservatives, who are also the largest supporters of corporate tax
breaks. Maybe they were too busy spouting support for Ayn Rand’s books
to actually read them.
We’re still climbing out of a financial hole dug by overspending,
corporate greed, and fiscal irresponsibility on a criminal level. Some
may claim that these breaks are necessary for the ever elusive animal
“job growth”, but from where I sit they are nothing more than an
outdated, unnecessary, and unfair practice.
report is loaded with technical information it is a must read for
this interested in the ongoing debate on corporate taxation. Corporate
tax loopholes have run so far off the rail that most Americans can
rightfully complain, “I pay more federal income taxes than General
Electric, Boeing, DuPont, Wells Fargo, Verizon, etc., etc., all put
together.” That’s an unacceptable situation. End corporate favoritism
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Least Cost Planning Update
by Cathy Kunkel, email@example.com
Wednesday was the deadline for bills to make it out of
their house of origin and move from the House to the Senate or vice
versa. Unfortunately our bills to promote energy efficiency did not make
it out of committee, mainly due to power company and coal industry
opposition. The "least-cost planning" legislation (SB 162 / HB 4646)
failed to make it onto any committee's agenda; this bill would have
required power companies to submit long-term plans to the Public Service
Commission showing how they could meet future electricity demand at the
lowest cost to their customers. This bill was opposed by the power
companies and also the coal industry who wanted all mention of "least
cost" removed from the bill; the coal lobby argued that the bill would
kill jobs by forcing some coal power plants to be shut down -
essentially admitting that their persistent claim that they are the
cheapest source of power for West Virginia is bogus.
We were hoping to have our least-cost planning language amended into the
bond bill that Appalachian Power was promoting. This bill, which gives
the Public Service Commission the authority to let Appalachian Power
float a bond to spread their projected rate increase over ten years, was
passed out of the House and is now coming to the Senate floor for a
vote. We were hoping that legislators would recognize the need for
better long-term planning to avoid the sort of crisis that led to
Appalachian Power proposing this bonding mechanism to deal with their
$350 million coal debt, but unfortunately there was not enough support
for amending least-cost planning into the bond bill.
Our efforts at the legislature did result in a successful amendment to
limit the scope of Appalachian Power's bond bill, however. As originally
written, the bill would have allowed any utility to come to the PSC and
ask to float a bond to cover their current or projected fuel costs -
which we feared would make a habit of pushing expensive fuel costs onto
future ratepayers instead of dealing with the underlying problems of
poor utility planning. Our concerns led to amendments in the bill so
that it specifically only deals with Appalachian Power's current fuel
debt. Our efforts have also led to ongoing conversations with the Public
Service Commission and some sympathetic legislators about how to improve
long-term utility planning
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Oppose Discrimination and the
“Religious Freedom Restoration Act”
A radical bill has made its way through the House of Delegates and
is now before the the Senate Judiciary Committee. This bill is a
wolf in sheep's clothing. While it claims to be a religious freedom
bill, it is really, among other things, a disguised attack on
efforts to protect LGBT West Virginians and all students.
Please help stop this terrible bill from advancing any further by
contacting members of the Senate Judiciary Committee and urging them
to oppose the bill. A list of committee members and there contact
information is available at
Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) Talking Points:
HB 2657 could allow individuals to argue that their
religious beliefs exempt them from complying with laws that prohibit
discrimination on the basis of religion, gender, marital status,
national origin and sexual orientation. For example, based on
religious objections: An employer who believes that pregnancy
outside of marriage is a sin could cite the RFRA as a defense for
firing an unmarried pregnant female employee, even though such an
action is prohibited by state law. Similar examples are a counselor
could refuse to counsel LGBT students, or a bus driver could refuse
to let Latinos or African Americans ride the bus.
HB 2657 could endanger existing protections that
prevent the government from sponsoring or financing religious
indoctrination and discrimination. Provisions in the bill could
potentially give religious groups the right to use government grants
to proselytize or discriminate. In turn, the government would not be
allowed to deny funding to religious groups that indoctrinate or
There is a better way to protect Freedom of
Religion: It’s called the First Amendment.
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Big Changes to Boilermakers
By Maggie Fry, firstname.lastname@example.org
A report released for public comment by the EPA this week sets a
three year time limit for major operational changes to 1,750 power
plants across the nation. The new standards are expected to protect
lives and dramatically cut health care expenses. Though progressive
response to the new regulations is mixed, Earthjustice lawyer
Anthony Pew says, “EPA’s new standards are not perfect, but they
will save thousands of lives every year and they will prevent tens
of thousands of heart attacks and asthma attacks by finally bringing
the pollution from these extraordinarily dirty industrial power
plants under control”
The EPA says its recommended changes to existing boilers are
"achievable, protective and cost effective." With 37 plant in the
state, the report indicates that West Virginia in one of the
nation's worst states for boiler emissions of mercury, lead,
chromium, hydrochloric acid and soot.
According to Earth Justice’s February Report, The Toxic Air Burden
from Industrial Power Plants, regulating industrial waste,
specifically Mercury waste would mean significant improvements to
health and the environment. The study notes that more than
300,000 newborns each year could be protected from learning
disabilities caused by exposure to the toxin in utero.
Pew told the WV News Service today that just cutting the
emissions of this toxin will have enormous impact in WV. "It damages the
way of life in states like West Virginia where there are fish warnings
telling you that you can't eat the fish or at least you can't eat it
very often and you can't serve it to your children." Though the exact
implementation in West Virginia is still indefinite, changes are
expected to have far reaching benefits to health and life in the state.
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Support Public Safety and Offender
Accountability Act: SB 342
Our friends at the ACLU of WV are pushing for passage of SB 342, the
Public Safey and Offender Accountaility Act. The bill, which is
aimed at addressing prison overcrowding and reducing West Virginia’s
burgeoning prison poplulation, would reform our civil justice system
in a number of important ways.
Reform #1 – Shrink our bloated prison population by eliminating
incarceration as a penalty for certain classes of low-level,
non-violent offenses – especially when these offenses are the result
of mental illness, drug addiction or are first-time offenses.
o It is possible to shrink our bloated prisons while protecting
o Public safety is actually undermined when we waste space and money
on imprisoning low-level offenders. We should reserve prisons for
those who truly pose significant threats.
Reform #2 – Strengthen cost-effective alternatives to incarceration
and ensure that those who need drug treatment get it, so that they
can avoid re-offending and productively re-enter society.
Reform #3 – Reduce costs, recidivism, and increase public safety by
distiguishing between people who pose threats to safety and those
who are ready to re-enter society, better preparing people in prison
for productive lives “on the outside.”
Reform #4 – Require regular, systemic evaluations of our criminal
The bill has passed the Senate, but must clear the House Judiciary
and Finance Committees before it can be voted on by the full House.
Please contact your delegates and urge them to support these needed
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