Capital Eye: Vol. 12 No. 6

West Virginia Citizen Action Group
Capital Eye
 
Feb 18, 2019 View / Comment Online

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What a Week at Capitol High

One of the newer millennial lobbyists, who is also a poet and performer, has written a hilarious performance piece on the annual antics at the legislature, comparing it to her school days at Capitol High. This comparison fits far too often. As the session rolls along to its final days in early March, I’m reminded of “Capitol High” and smile daily. Thanks, Crystal!

Public hearings on the ominous education bill and campus concealed carry (of handguns) were both held last Monday. Both issues brought out a lopsided 3-1 testimony opposing them. The only groups to endorse campus carry were the NRA and WV Citizen’s Defense League who mostly dress in black logoed t-shirts, but without their weapons, which are not allowed in the state Capitol. Go figure!

The House deadline for introducing new bills was Tuesday; the Senate’s last day is today, Monday, Feb. 18th. Now the race is on to get their bills passed to the other side. Next Wednesday, Feb. 27th is that crossover deadline. Bills that don’t make it across the aisle on that day are dead for this session. We’ll see which ones make the cut.

Water Rules!

The drama continues with pollution lobby pitted against folks who just want clean water. DEP rules bill (SB 163), having passed the Senate, is now up for consideration in the House without the EPA/DEP recommended 60 chemicals needed to bring our water protection science into this century from back in the 1980’s. See this WV Rivers Action Alert for messaging and their easy action on this critical issue!

A Kiss for Coal

Every year, the Senate Energy Industry and Mining (EIM) Committee comes up with a bill that is essentially a BIG WET KISS for King Coal. This year is no exception. The bill (SB 635) looks like it was written by coal lobbyists, because it was. See the details in the WVEC update. Be sure to check out their reader’s comments too!

Solar Power PPAs Unplugged in Senate EIM

In private ‘stakeholder’ meetings with legislative leaders, lobbyists for First Energy and AEP pulled the plug on SB 409, which would allow third-party leases for solar installations. No matter that any homeowner, business owner, church or nonprofit could benefit from this arrangement by saving on their electric bill up front and then locking in that savings for the next 20 yrs. Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs) give consumers this option without their having to come up with tens of thousands of dollars up front or go further into debt.

Call Senate President Carmichael today (304.357.7801) and tell him not to be bullied by “big power monopolies” and to get his EIM Committee to pass SB 409!

Concealed Campus Carry, NOT!

HB 2519 still hasn’t been put on the agenda of the House Judiciary even though the committee has met several times since last Monday’s public hearing. There is a chance the Judiciary Chair will not put it on the agenda if enough of us contact him to say “our students are safer if you let it die!” If this should pass the House, we’ll take it on again in the Senate.

Medical Cannabis Bank Bill Passes to Senate

HB 2538 expands “financial institutions” that can “provide banking services for the fees, penalties, and taxes collected” through the medical cannabis program. It passed the House in an 89-7 vote and was sent to the Senate on Friday. Passage of this banking fix paves the way for the Senate to improve the rest of the medical cannabis law. Tell your Senators you want this fix to pass.

Delegate Mike Pushkin is interviewed about his support for the Medical Cannabis banking fix in front of the Senate Chamber on Hoppy Kercheval’s Talkline radio show.

Medicaid for More Expecting Moms

SB 564 is scheduled to be on the agenda of the Senate HHR Committee on Tuesday, the 19th, at 1 PM. This would cover pregnant woman up to 300% FPL with health insurance coverage and medical care through Medicaid and CHIP. Call members of the Senate Health and Human Services Committee, and ask them to pass the bill to protect more moms-to-be and their newborns.

Nix Unneeded Courts

SB 266 – Intermediate Appeals Court – is totally unnecessary and waste of taxpayer dollars. Big business loves it; however, it’s on third reading (passage vote) in the Senate today at 11 am. If passed, the fight then goes to the House.

This great op-ed by the former Supreme Court administrator explains why these new courts are a waste of our tax money, but a cash cow for big business and their lawyers.

Education Reform Passes Back over to Senate

The education reform bill was overhauled this week in the House and sent back to the Senate. Gone are the “Education Saving Accounts” (ESAs) which would give parents tax dollars for however or wherever they wanted to educate their kids. Charter schools were watered down to only two, with the restriction that a county’s teachers, parents, and school officials would have to all agree to convert an existing school to a charter. Also gone is the paycheck deception and non-severability BS. Good riddance!

Educators, service personnel and supporters rallied Thursday on the Capitol steps for a candlelight vigil in support of keeping education dollars in the public schools where they’re needed.

In fact, this bill is not nearly as ominous at this point. With the above deletions and funds added for innovation zones, which are proven to generate improvements in education policy, and money for additional counselors and other student support services, at least one of the unions representing teachers and personnel are saying they can live with it – unless the Senate makes it worse again!

One sticking point with social justice advocates is the House’s addition of armed police (Community Resource Officers???) in every school. Besides the enormous cost – 40 million – advocates are concerned about directly applying the criminal justice system to school misbehaviors, thus reinforcing the school-to-prison pipeline that we are opposing. More school counselors and mental health services seems like a better approach!

On Tuesday, February 19th, AFSC, Young WV, and others will be joining up for a youth day at the Capitol to push for reinstatement of WV’s summer jobs program.  This will coincide with Recovery and Re-Entry Day, and there will be opportunities for youth to educate the legislators on why they don’t want police in the schools. Contact Lida Sheppard at LShepherd@afsc.org for more details.

All eyes are now on the Senate to see what they’ll do with this bill which is so radically different than the one they railroaded to the House. Friday, Senate leaders decided not to “take up the message from the House,” officially informing them the House version was back in their court. Could be because they were short two senators and may have lost procedural votes when taking up the bill? The action begins in the Senate at 11 am today when they reconvene on the floor. You can watch the action live at their Legislative web page.

Always Free WV

Always Free WV is a new digital communications initiative coordinated by us at West Virginia Citizen Action Group, along with an advisory committee of local community leaders.

Always Free WV believes that to truly live up to our state’s motto “Mountaineers are always free,” able people need to be equipped to fill jobs that pay enough to take care of themselves and their families, and an economy that supports safe, healthy communities.

Recently, however, most working West Virginians have seen financial opportunity and security decline. Since 2016, most counties have lost jobs, poverty rates have risen, and the number of people without health insurance has gone up.

Always Free WV has a two part mission. The first is to make sure people across the Mountain State see what our elected leaders are doing to hurt or help working families in WV, and second to let West Virginians know what they can do to hold their political leaders accountable.

Give the initiative a “like” on Facebook to get more updates and actions on legislative happenings!

Thank You

At a legislative breakfast sponsored by the public employee’s retirement group, a woman came up to me and thanked us profusely for putting out this weekly Capital Eye update with “from the trenches” info and action items on critical issues before your lawmakers. We really appreciate the thank you’s and support. Another way to thank us is to log onto wvcag.org and join as a supporting member or make an additional contribution. Our lobbying efforts are not covered by foundation grants – it’s YOUR memberships and donations that keep our lobby team functional. Thanks in advance!

 
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