Week Four: Teachers Rally, Water Fights, Foster Care and More
This week, two contentious bills were moving fast – the Ominous Education Overhaul bill and one putting foster kids into managed care organizations (MCOs). Both will get increased scrutiny as they move to the other side.
There are now 1,331 bills introduced with more every day until the cutoff mid-month. Our bill tracking list just keeps getting longer until then.
Keep up with all the daily action in the Gazette–Mail, Metro News, or by watching WV Public Broadcasting – all excellent sources. (The Gazette-Mail is making it easy with a 99 cent 3-month online subscription. Public Broadcasting just finished their ‘chocolate challenge’ but one can sign up as a donor anytime.) Alternately, we post updated content (links to significant media stories) right on our home page at wvcag.org. Check it out every day or so for the latest in reporting on the ‘food fights’ at the legislature. While you’re there, sign up as a contributing member too!
Teachers and Supporters Rally outside Senate to oppose Ominous Education Bill
Legislators, union leaders, school board members, principles, teachers and students all spoke at the “Our Students First” rally outside the Senate chambers at 5PM on Thursday. About 300 educators and community members got in the building before security went home. Latecomers were locked out so who knows how big the crowd could have grown. The Ominous Education bill had just passed in the Senate ‘committee of the whole’ and the crowd was riled up and ready to push back. SB 451 will likely pass the full Senate on Monday by the same party line 18-16 vote. Only two Republicans have opposed this railroaded bill. Senator Bill Hamilton, who just moved up from the House after beating home-schooling Senator Robert Karnes in last year’s primary. The other was Senator Kenny Mann who, until this year, was chair of Senate Education, but obviously ‘too friendly’ to public education (during the teacher’s strike) to suit Senate President Carmichael. Union leaders have called for an ‘authorization’ vote giving them the go-ahead to call an unspecified statewide action in response to the bill.
Foster Care MCO Passes House
HB 2010 passed out of the House on the Day of the Child & Social Work Day at the Capitol, when most child advocates are opposing the transfer of our children in foster care into a for-profit managed care organization (MCO). It now goes to the Senate where the fight continues. Tell Senators to slow this down and take a closer look at the pitfalls of managed care for our state’s most vulnerable population.
Cannabis Banks on HB 2538
House Banking and Insurance passed out HB 2538 this week and sent it to Judiciary. This is one of the two bills needed to make West Virginia’s Medical Cannabis Act work. Senate Judiciary is working on fixing the poison pills that House leadership inserted when the Legislature passed the Act in 2017 and then killed the Senate ‘fix’ bill the last night of the 2018 session. Contact members (especially if you’re a constituent) of both House and Senate Judiciary committees and ask them to heal the medical cannabis program!
Water Fights Continue in Senate
DEP’s water quality standards rules (SB1 67) has again had the DEP and EPA recommended water protections stripped out in a hasty 15 minute Senate Judiciary meeting Friday. The bill now goes to the full Senate for passage next week. Ask your Senators to protect our water by amending them back in on the floor!
Social Security Tax Break Clears House
HB 2001, which would eliminate all state income taxes on Social Security income, passed the House this week. Low income recipients already don’t pay income taxes so this bill will not benefit them at all. What they need is a state EITC (Earned Income Tax Credit) as recommended by the WV Center on Budget & Policy. For factual data on all things financial read their blog and get on their mailing list.
Anti-Refugees – Why?
The House Veterans and Homeland Security Committee chair says they’ll be considering HB 2664 & HB 2685 to allow local governments to ban refugee settlement in their jurisdictions. Really? With West Virginia losing enough population that we’re predicted to lose yet another Congressional seat after the 2020 census, we should be welcoming legal immigrants with open arms. When did we as a state and nation become so fearful?
Medicaid Expansion for Expecting Moms
This is not yet introduced but should be out soon with some leadership support. It would extend Medicaid coverage to pregnant women with incomes up to 300% of Federal Poverty Level. Good stuff!
Solar Power Purchase Agreements in Senate
SB 409 is now in the Senate Energy Industry & Mining Committee (EIM) with a second reference to Finance. This week the PSC issued a ‘fiscal note’ on its cost to the state and said costs were minimal to none. Now, with the blessing of the PSC, we’re hoping to get this moving. Contact EIM chair Randy Smith (who is a co-sponsor) and ask him to pass the bill. If either of your Senators are on this committee tell them to vote it out too. Or, go to WV for Energy Freedom for a handy way to send this message.
Pro-Democracy, Anti-Corruption Platform Update
Good news! Several bills have been introduced that advance the goals of the Pro-Democracy, Anti-Corruption Platform and the list is growing. Two of these bills have already started working their way through the legislative process. These include SB 236, which would provide notice and an opportunity to persons convicted of certain crimes that they are eligible to vote after completion of their punishment, passed the Senate this week and is now pending in the House Judiciary Committee. Millions of Americans are permanently barred from participating in our democracy because of past mistakes, but restoring voting rights to former felons is one of the things West Virginia does right. SB 236 will help ensure they are aware that, after they complete their sentences, they will not be denied this fundamental right.
Here’s the list of Pro-Democracy, Anti-Corruption Platform bills that have been introduced so far. Stay tuned here for Pro-Democracy Platform updates, or sign up to get alerts and updates directly from WV Citizens for Clean Elections (WVCCE). If you haven’t already, please check out and share WVCCE’s video with the hashtag #WVProDemocracy. You can watch and share the video from Twitter, Facebook, or YouTube.
Thursday is Environment Day and All Kinds Welcome at the Capitol
This Thursday, Feb 7th is the WV Environmental Council’s E-Day at the legislative session. Most member green organizations will have tables set up and info on how to lobby your lawmakers. A Green Jam is scheduled for happy hour at the Empty Glass. Also that day is All Kinds Are Welcome Here civil liberties day with Fairness WV, ACLU, WVFREE, and other social justice groups (including WV CAG) setting up booths. Come on down for a day of lobbying to support your favorite cause!
Valentines Eve Community Fair Feb 13
If you’re in the Charleston area, please join our local affiliate Rise Up WV for this fun event. There will be food, fun, door prizes, and opportunities to plug into some very exciting Charleston area organizing projects around city politics, the addiction crisis, voter engagement and more. It’s on Feb. 13, 6:30-8:30pm at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation building, 520 Kanawha Blvd. W., Charleston, WV. RSVP at the Facebook event here.