A Strike and Two Vetoes?
The 2018 legislative session is FINALLY over, and this is our wrap-up edition. Of the 1,778 bills introduced, 260 made it through the sausage grinder to the other end. They all will be signed, ignored by the governor (and become law without his signature), or vetoed. We’re asking him to veto two of them (we’d prefer he veto scores but that’s not going to happen), so read on for why, and make your calls if so moved.
We’d also like him to add the fix to last year’s Medical Cannabis bill to the next special session he calls – there’s always a bill or two that passed that needs to be redone. Read on to hear how it was sabatoged the last night of the session.
Oh, yeah, and then there were all those teachers in red t-shirts chanting, singing, and making a hell of a racket for weeks until they got the raise they deserved. Wow, this is what democracy looks like – and we like it!
5% Raise and PEIA Task Force Reopen Schools
There is not sufficient time or space in this update for a blow by blow account of the nine-day strike by West Virginia teachers and school service personnel. There will undoubtedly be books and myriad articles written about it as folks who aren’t from here try to figure out us cranky Appalachians who voted for Trump and then pulled off the first major US labor victory of the 21st century. Over 1,000 teachers protested at the Kentucky state Capitol this week. One of them had a sign that said, “Don’t make us go WV on you!” I heard it said often during the strike that “the teachers had the best [protest] signs.” Especially the art teachers! The challenge now is to keep folks paying attention all the way to November. Blue wave anyone?
The uprising by teachers and service personnel created an atmosphere of intense scrutiny of legislative actions that saw several bills on the Koch Brothers playlist (which were, up until then, purring along) abruptly crashed and burned. These include the ‘Paycheck Deception’ bill to force unions to re-up members every year, a preemption bill to keep cities and towns from enacting higher minimum wages, and one killing off public employee seniority – all designed to weaken organized labor and pay standards.
Another one that failed is the major effort to give large manufacturers and extractive industries a perpetual $140+ million tax break on their equipment and inventory. Optics were bad on that one while, at the same time, they were saying they didn’t’ have enough revenue for teachers. Lots of good ripples in that sea of red t-shirts!
One unfortunate casualty blamed on teachers by leadership was the effort to make community college’s two-year programs free to state residents. This modest investment in our youth was tabled too.
Timber Bill Cut Down
A big win for the environment was the failure of SB 270, that misguided attempt to pay for our state parks’ infrastructure by cutting down their trees. WV Environmental Council and the SOS Parks coalition get the major credit for taking this one out. Also, kudos are due to our Republican Commissioner of Agriculture Kent Leonhardt for his very public opposition to this hare-brained scheme. Ultimately, lawmakers designated a portion of our state lottery revenue to make the critical repairs to park lodges by passing SB 438.
SB 600 = Tons of BS
Another big win that we reported weeks ago deserves a repeat. SB 600 was pure collusion between big energy users and our state’s utility lobby to give large industrial users of electricity steeply discounted rates that would have to be made up by everyone else in the form of higher electric bills. This brazen corporate welfare scheme was opposed by AARP, WVEC, WV CAG, as well as the PSC’s Consumer Advocate. That being said, reason and logic do not sway many at the Capitol. This one was so ‘greased’ by the power lobby that it made it through two committees in three days and was only defeated by a surprise 17-17 tie vote on the Senate floor.
The radical, reactionary Republicans who run the House (until November?) hate government regulations. Two bills failed that would have whacked at ‘big government’ and we’re pleased these wacky ones died. HB 4011 would have required state agencies to offer up two administrative rules for execution for every new one they submitted for legislative approval. This is no way to run a state! HB 4154, the Regulatory Reform Act, would have expedited permits and other agency processes forcing approval of applications without proper scrutiny by overworked agency staffers. We’re sure they’ll be back next year for another try.
HB 4187 , nicknamed the ‘parking lot’ bill because it prohibits employers from telling workers to leave their guns at home, passed the Legislature while we’re still mourning the recent loss of 17 students and teachers in a school shooting in Florida It allows employees to bring loaded guns to work as long as they keep them locked up inside their vehicles. What could possibly go wrong?
Don’t believe everything you read in the papers. The failure of HB 4345 late Saturday night can be credited to one man – House Speaker Tim Armstead. This bill would have enacted the recent recommendations of the WV Medical Cannabis Advisory Board designed to make the legislation passed last year actually work. Remember, last year the House revolted and ran over leadership to get the WV Medical Cannabis Act passed. Armstead got his revenge this year and snookered Senate President Carmichael into letting the House have the final say on the bill on the last day of the session. When the Senate sent over the stripped down bill the House demanded, the House Clerk conveniently ‘lost track’ of it in the haste of the final hours leading to midnight’s end of session. Funny, that was the only bill that happened to on Saturday. Calls are needed now to Governor Justice at (304)-558-2000 asking him to fix the WV Medical Cannabis Act during the first special session he convenes.
Another Shade of Green
A big THANK YOU to all who came to the Capitol or made calls on important legislation. Now that the session is over, we’re working hard to catch up on all the work left undone as we roamed the marble halls. Thanks also to those who sent in support checks or donated online. The greens you sent in kept us going through early morning public hearings, evening committee meetings, and long floor sessions.
It’s never too late to send in a membership renewal or donation as the fight continues as we pivot to federal issues and make sure that voters ‘Remember in November’. The fight for our state and nation is in the balance!