Capital Eye Update: This Week – ACA vs AHCA
ACA vs AHCA
By Gary Zuckett
This week national events competed with the drama at the state capitol. The Republican’s American Health Care Act (AHCA) was released as a proposed replacement for the Affordable Care Act (ACA or ObamaCare) immediately it was attacked from both the far Right and the Left as unacceptable. Compared to the ACA, which is admittedly a flawed law, the AHCA comes up sorely lacking. CBO’s non-partisan assessment is that, if enacted, the AHCA will lead to more Americans losing their insurance than gained it under ObamaCare. So much for Trump’s empty promise that ‘everyone will get (better) health coverage that’ll cost less’…
Citizens set up Town Halls last week
Where do our Congressmen and woman stand on this classic bait and switch AHCA bill? That’s exactly what WV voters want to know. They are demanding answers and asking their representatives to show up at citizen-led town halls that are popping up like mushrooms all over the state. So far only Senator Manchin has had the courage to meet with us and answer questions on where he stands on the healthcare debate. He even did two town halls on Thursday and totaled four by Saturday. See our Facebook page for live videos of the Town Hall in Huntington. Click here to watch the full, live ABC coverage of the Martinsburg town hall.
Just In – House to Vote on AHCA Thursday – Vigils at Senator Capito’s on Friday
The Republicans are determined to kill off the ACA. The US House has scheduled a vote on Thursday to replace the ACA with their sham AHCA. Call your Congressman and tell them to vote no on AHCA! Since its likely to pass the House and move to the Senate, we’re planning noon vigils outside Senator Capito’s WV district offices for this Friday, March 24, in Charleston, Martinsburg, Beckley, and Morgantown. Please spread the word and come out if you live near one of these. If not call her on Friday and ask her to Fix not Nix the ACA!
McDowell in National News Again
Senator Bernie Sanders made good on his promise to hold his own town hall meeting back in McDowell Co. after last month’s fiasco of getting his venue abruptly cancelled. All In with Chris Hayes aired the town hall on Monday night. Bernie hits it out of the park….
This session is exceptional in the sheer volume of really bad legislation running through the Charleston sausage maker. All our allies are looking forward to Monday’s final deadline for bills to be introduced to stem the avalanche of new threats. Then our job will be to slow down and kill off as many as possible. Not the more rewarding way to spend a legislative session, but if we don’t do it, even more damage is suffered to our body politic. Keep those phone calls coming in – it shows them you’re paying attention!
This Brine is not for Pickles
Monday at 8:30 AM was the public hearing on the original version of this year’s tank bill that would have exempted 2/3 of the above ground storage tanks now regulated under the law to protect our drinking water. Industry speakers kept insisting that these tanks just contained ‘brine’ that was basically salty water. Our E-Council lobbyists effectively countered with actual facts. My testimony, quoted in Ken Ward’s coverage, was “Brine, that sounds like something used to make pickles. However, I submit that this is not something you want in your drinking water.” The bill was ‘watered down’ (made better) in Judiciary committee that scaled back the number of tanks exempted and restored the requirement that tanks be at least registered so we’d know where they are. HB 2811 passed the house on Friday and is now in the Senate.
Right to Freeload
SB 330 officially titled ‘Workplace Freedom Act’ was send back to the Senate after passing the House this week. It supposedly ‘fixes’ problems that lead to the courts declaring last year’s ‘right to work’ bill unconstitutional. Since what it really does is give workers in union shops the right to not pay for the union representation (that unions are required by federal law to provide to everyone in the workplace), Delegate Mike Caputo, a UMWA member, proposed a title amendment to name the bill ‘Right of Workers to Freeload off of Unions’ Act. His amendment failed. So much for truth in labeling….
Education Bill gets Detention
In the ‘oops, did we really just pass that?’ department, the Senate Education Committee is having second thoughts on the bill (SB524) they passed to kill off Common Core standards and replace them with other state’s standards from decades ago that are no long in use there. This bill had been ‘held over’ two days on the Senate floor this week where it is on amendment stage. It was finally amended on the floor and passed out of Senate on Saturday.
Broadband Bill Opposed
HB3093 that would allow small towns and even citizen coops to band together to build local high speed internet services was the topic of another public hearing this week. Of course it is opposed by Frontier and Suddenlink companies that have virtual monopolies on internet service in the state. Last year’s Broadband Bill was killed off by this opposition. Next week it’s being voted on by the full House. We hope this time these efforts lead to better on-line access for rural citizens.
Citizen Action Works!
This week’s flurry of Town Halls and citizen actions on the federal health care debate is uplifting and encouraging. It’s going to be a tough fight to keep the gains made over the past eight years but it’s a winnable one. Keep pushing both our local and federal policymakers!
What’s also uplifting is your support for these efforts by showing up at town halls, calling our state and federal lawmakers on all the bills whizzing around the legislative session. And you’re your financial support coming in online (and in the mail) is crucial to keeping us going! Thanks so much to you who’ve already sent in membership contributions! Please take a minute to do so now if you’ve been procrastinating.
Day of Empathy and Second Chances
By Alexandra Gallo
On Thursday March 16th, hundreds gathered at the State Capitol for a Day of Empathy and Second Chances to show support for SB 76 Second Chance for Employment. This is the governor’s bill that allows expungement of a person’s criminal record if they stay out of trouble and apply for it. Those in attendance included women from Recovery Point, as well as high school students from Logan County, many of whom understand better than anyone the impact addiction and incarceration has on a family. Jennie Hill, Community Engagement Specialist at Recovery Point said, “We turned in 60 testimonials to House Speaker, Tim Armstead, on how this bill will have an impact on the lives of these women. They just want to serve their communities, become teachers, nurses, classroom moms.” Jennie also said the House floor and top gallery were packed and the delegation welcomed the group with a standing ovation. Many showed support for this legislation, that will ease burdens on people who are currently or formerly incarcerated (the Governor’s Second Chance for Employment Act), while opposing legislation that increases the prison population (SB 219), and speaking up for real solutions to the cycles of poverty, incarceration, and addiction.. SB 76 has gained some momentum in the Senate. We need to keep the pressure on to push Second Chance for Employment Act in the House and to DEFEAT mandatory minimum bills.
Phone calls for Second Chances
Call your Delegates and ask them to support SB 76 the Second Chance for Employment Act—find their contact number here. Equally important, call Speaker Tim Armstead at 304-340-3210.
Need talking points?: We need to help, not hinder, people working in our state, and SB 76 is one crucial way to help people with nonviolent felony convictions have one less barrier to getting back on track after incarceration. SB 76 would reduce recidivism, help address addiction, and boost employment.
Phone calls to oppose mandatory minimums
Mandatory minimum bills (SB 219, HB 2541, and HB 2450 ) are moving rapidly through both the House and Senate. Call the Governor at 304-558-2000.
Need talking points?: Governor Justice, please consider the fiscal impact of mandatory minimum bills that increase fines and prison time for drug crimes—and would:
· Undo gains of the Justice Reinvestment Act
· Rapidly increase the prison population
· Siphon money from drug treatment programs
· Cost the state up to $20 million
· Do nothing to make our communities safer
You can help the LEEP Act get out of the Senate
by Emmett Pepper
The Local Energy Efficiency Partnership (LEEP) Act is an important step forward for energy efficiency in the state. It will empower local governments to give businesses the opportunity to utilize a new kind of financing for energy efficiency. Over the past five to ten years, many states have started utilizing this financing method. The key benefits to LEEP-style financing are: 1. the energy saving is repaid equal to taxes in the case of a default, and 2. the payments are made along with property taxes, so whoever owns the building makes the payments.
Both the House and Senate versions of the bill have been moving, but the Senate version, SB 480, is likely to be voted on by the full Senate on Tuesday, March 18.
Please click here to write your Senator to vote for the LEEP Act!
Consumer Act under threat
By Emmet Pepper
For the past two years, the West Virginia Consumer Credit Protection (WVCCPA) Act has been chipped away at by the legislature, but this year, a proposed bill would essentially remove consumer protections under the Act. The WVCCPA is an important incentive for keeping debt collectors from being unethical and abusive.
Debt collectors’ victims are often struggling to keep up with bills, so they can’t afford to protect their interests by hiring a lawyer. One way the law protects people is that for successful cases, the attorney fees are paid by the abusive debt collectors. The most regressive proposed bills, SB 556 and SB 563, would not only remove the ability to get attorneys fees covered by successful suits, but also could force people in debt to pay the attorneys fees for the big banks and debt collectors, the exact opposite of what the law should be.
There are other bad provisions in these bills, but the best thing to do is to leave the WV Consumer Credit Protection Act as it is. Please call your senators and ask them to protect Consumer Credit Protection Act. Here are the members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, who will be considering one or both of the bills in a few days:
Senator Trump – Chair – R – Berkeley, Hampshire, Mineral, Morgan – (304) 357-7980
Senator Weld – Vice-Chair – R – Brooke, Hancock, Marshall, Ohio –(304) 357-7984
Senator Beach – D – Marion, Monongalia –(304) 357-7919
Senator Jeffries – D – Putman, Kanawha –(304) 357-7866
Senator Miller – D – Greenbrier – (304) 357-7959
Senator Ojeda – D – Logan, Lincoln, Boone, Wayne – (304) 357-7857
Senator Romano – D – Harrison – (304) 357-7904
Senator Woelfel – D – Cabell, Wayne -(304) 357-7956
Senator Azinger – R – Pleasants, Roane, Wirt, Wood – (304) 357-7970
Senator Clements – R – Calhoun, Dodridge, Gilmer, Marion, Marshall, Monongalia, Ritchie, Tyler, Wetzel – (304) 357-7827
Senator Cline – R – McDowell, Raleigh, Wyoming – (304) 357-7807
Senator Ferns – R – Ohio, Marshall, Hancock –(304) 357-7918
Senator Karnes – R – Upshur, Grant, Nicholas, Pendelton, Pocahontas, Randolph, Webster – (304) 357-7906
Senator Maynard – R – Wayne, Mingo, McDowell, Mercer – (304) 357-7808
Senator Rucker – R – Berkeley, Jefferson –(304) 357-7957
Senator Smith – R – Tucker – (304) 357-7995
Senator Swope – R – Mercer, Mingo, Wayne, McDowell – (304) 357-7843
Voter ID Bill Would Eliminate AVR
By Julie Archer
On Tuesday, a House Judiciary subcommittee that is considering a stricter voter identification law met for the first time without taking any substantive action on the bill. HB 2781 would also repeal the automatic voter registration (AVR) provisions enacted as a compromise to last year’s voter ID law.
We expect the subcommittee to reconvene early this week. If you haven’t already please call or send an e-mail to House Judiciary Committee members telling them to oppose this attack on our fundamental right to vote and preserve AVR.
Backwards Campaign Finance Bill
In addition to outright attacks on voting rights, secret money in politics is also a threat to our democracy. One of the ways to counter its negative effects is through increased disclosure and transparency. We’re hearing that a major campaign finance bill, SB 539, may have momentum in the Senate and we are working to gain a better understanding of it.
The note at the end of the bill says is purpose is “to make significant changes to the law regulating election financing.” We don’t know if the intent of the bill is to increase disclosure and transparency in this area, however if that is the goal we understand enough of the provisions to know this isn’t what it does. For example, the bill would require less disclosure for spending on independent expenditures by raising the thresholds that trigger reporting and disclosure of contributors to groups making these expenditures. The bill also reduces the burden of collecting and reporting occupation and employer information about contributors.
In addition to weakening some of our current disclosure requirements, the bill also creates new loopholes and worsens existing ones that make it possible for groups that spend money on political ads to hide the identity of their donors, while also creating new ones. Watch for an alert from us later this week if SB 539 starts moving.
Public Testimony Against HB 2002, Parental Notification for Abortion Access
By Valerie Woody
This morning advocates from around the state spoke in the House of Delegates chamber, before that body’s Judiciary Committee members, in what was at many points extremely emotional and compelling testimony. House Bill 2002 seeks to impose additional and unnecessary requirements on minors seeking an abortion without their parent’s knowledge or consent to the procedure.
Current state law requires minors to obtain consent from their parents, and 92% of those that had abortions last year did so—of a total 48 adolescent patients. Those that did not were able to receive a waiver from a doctor who, acting in their professional capacity, determined that the minor was able to understand all the risks and potential outcomes of the procedure and was mature enough to consent to the procedure without a guardian.
In these extremely rare cases, these young women typically are victims of sexual assault, rape, and incest. Often at the hands of their own parents. Today the House Judiciary Committee heard testimony from several sexual assault and rape survivors who as adolescents, would have or did receive abortions without parental consent, as notifying their parents would also mean notifying their abuser.
There were a handful of speakers in support of the bill, but the opponents of HB 2002 far outnumbered them. Through an extended session of the committee, concerned citizens spoke of their own experiences working for and with minor survivors of rape, describing the harm and trauma caused by unnecessary court proceedings, which passage of this bill would necessitate. One young girl, Oliva, spoke briefly and asked the committee to put the needs and safety of girls her age first and to oppose the bill.
Hot Off the Presses! Urgent Action Alert from our Partners at the WV Consumer Protection Alliance:
SB 216 Allows Vehicles That Can’t Pass State Inspections on Our Roads
“As Is” Bill Would Allow the Sale of Dangerous, Defective Lemons
When you buy a used car from a dealer, you expect it to be driveable. You also expect the dealer to disclose any problems with the vehicle since repairs could cost you thousands more. Proposed SB 216 changes that by allowing the sale of “as is” cars. The law would also permit the sale of used, defective vehicles if the defects are “disclosed”–even though most consumers don’t read the fine print–and the defects can be major ones that make the vehicle unsafe to drive.
You should know if you’re buying a lemon! Tell lawmakers to protect consumers & keep our roads safe! Reject SB 216!
Act quickly, and call your lawmakers now.