Week 3: All Hands On Deck

Citizen Action Group
Legislative Update
Feb 1, 2015 View this Alert Online Donate


All hands on Deck

This is a critical moment in WV history. We are in the midst of a major reorganization of fiscal, labor, justice and social policies that will have repercussions for years. The worst thing we could do is stand by and watch it happen. If we don’t resist we don’t have any chance of mitigating the damage or holding the perpetrators accountable. The primary elections are just over a year away. In the fall of 2016, we can expect voters to turn out in greater numbers to elect half of the WV Senate, the whole House of Delegates and a new president.

We need to begin now to work for a state and country that works for all of us, not just the wealthy! We need you to call your legislators on a weekly basis. We need you to come to the capitol to see them if you can. We’ll be calling on you to show up to protest when the going gets tough. We’ll need you to stay active recruiting friends and neighbors to undo the damage of the 2014 elections. Remember, when the going gets tough, the tough get going!

War on Wages

West Virginia was one of the incubators of the Labor Movement with the Blair Mountain march of 40,000 miners against the coal bosses, the Matawan Massacre, and more in the struggle for fair wages, humane treatment and safer workplaces. As such, it’s painful to see our state’s labor laws now under attack at the legislature. Three bills are moving that will undercut labor’s foundation and lead to lower wages and fewer resources for unions to fight back. Looking at this well-orchestrated attack on labor being waged in all the states the Billionaires have already bought like Wisconsin, North Carolina and others, its plain that hobbling labor is part of the plan to de-fund opposition to their plan turn the USA into America, Inc. They plan to pull together a Billion Dollar War Chest for the 2016 elections!

Prevailing wage is a law requiring state construction contracts to be awarded to contractors who pay the same wage that “prevails” in the local economy. The result is local workers making a living wage, local contractors being awarded construction contracts, and both paying state taxes and spending money in local economies. Both Contractors and Building Trades oppose SB 361. Call your Senators to weigh in against reducing or repealing prevailing wage.

“Right to Work” (for less) is a direct attack on having all workers who are covered by a union contract and grievance protections kick-in at least the administrative costs of such protections. There is a lot of misinformation flying around about what our current law does and what the proposed SB 337 will change. Both of these bills are being sent to only a single Senate committee – Judiciary – this is very unusual for major legislation like this to be fast-tracked. See Metro News article and SEIU-1199 for more info.

Teachers and their organizations are also under attack. SB 14 & HB 2014, another set of American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) bills to begin the privatization of our public education system via “Charter Schools,” is also fast tracked in the Senate by only a single reference to Education Committee. ALEC is another Koch Brothers-funded organization designed to push their conservative agenda to state legislatures. The WV Blue Blog has an in-depth look at this bill and problems Charter Schools have had in other states. Do we want our public tax dollars going to private schools run by for-profit corporations with little or no accountability to local elected school boards? Speak out on this!

Energy Portfolio Repeal Improved

HB 2001, the repeal of the Renewable and Alternative Energy Portfolio, passed both houses this week and was sent to the governor. This is mostly a symbolic victory for the climate deniers and free marketeers as the power companies have consistently stated that they can meet this standard all the way to 2025 by burning coal. Solar power has been saved through the hard work of many, led by our allies in the solar industry. The state’s “net metering” law was restored after being cut in the original bill.

Free Market Recycling Bill Moving Forward

Spearheaded by the WV Sustainable Business Council, SB 352gives county Solid Waste Authorities the ability to grant exemptions to the PSC’s Certificate of Need process for recycling businesses to operate in territories where big companies are given a de facto monopoly and are not providing adequate recycling services to individuals and small businesses. It was tabled this week by the Senate Natural Resources Committee when the lobbyist from the commercial waste haulers objected, but is likely to be taken up again soon. Call the members of this committee and ask them to allow competition between waste haulers.

Citizens’ Concerns Must Not Matter in House Judiciary

In a move that is unprecedented in recent memory, the House Judiciary Committee took up a bill, amended it, and passed to the floor four days ahead of a requested public hearing on the legislation.

As the House is intended to be the people’s chamber, all requests by citizens for a public hearing on a bill must be granted if a committee is going to run it on their agenda. The purpose of the public hearing is to allow committee members to hear from the public before sending a bill to the full House. We have never before experienced ANY committee disrespect the citizens who elected them by setting a public hearing for a bill and then passing it out before the hearing. This is what happened on Friday on HB 2004, the bill to hobble state agencies from implementing the EPA’s Clean Power Plan. The public hearing is set for 5PM on Monday Feb 2nd in the House Chamber.

For more information see the WV Environmental Council’s Action Alert here.

Your Input Needed

Your elected officials will pay attention when the folks back home who get to vote in 2016 have concerns. If enough of us take action, it really makes a difference! Keep the phone calls coming and, even better, a hand-written letter is harder to ignore. Go to www.legis.state.wv.us to find your lawmakers. If you need help, give us a call. If you can come down to the Capitol for a visit, let us know and we’ll try to meet you there to visit your reps.

Thanks again to all of you who have sent in member renewals and contributions. We have never been so busy at a legislative session and your support is critical to help us get the message out. Go to www.wvcag.org to renew or donate on-line or send mail to 1500 Dixie St, Charleston WV 25311.

Join us for First Friday next Friday, February 6 from 5 – 8 pm

Come by our office at 1500 Dixie Street next week for good food and great conversation! There will be plenty to talk about after another week of the legislative session.

Feel free to bring your favorite dish and your preferred Friday night beverage!

A Well Planned Train Wreck…

Was what came to mind as I saw that SCR 13 had been introduced. This call for a constitutional convention supposedly to “balance the Federal budget” was on our radar even before the election as its one of the major agenda items of ALEC. See excellent analysis by the VV Center on Budget & Policy and call your Senators & Delegates to ask they kill this resolution or at least drop the Convention language.

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