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Wednesday, March 2nd, is the 50th day of our 60 Day legislative session. All bills must pass out of their house of origin by Wednesday or they’re considered dead for this year. That being said, when leadership has a bill they really want to keep alive there are ways to amend them into other legislation that survived Crossover. In short, nothing is really dead until the very end, although most of the casualties of Crossover Day stay dead, thank goodness.
Of note: Two terrible House bills that failed to make it out of committee before Sunday’s deadline, include HB 4011, the so-called “Anti-Stereotyping Act”, and HB 4394, which would have let reckless corporations off the hook for negligent actions that result is serious injuries or death of their employees. Fortunately, the “deliberate intent” bill (HB 4394) never made it on to the agenda in House Judiciary. The Committee did take up HB 4011, but the bill raised so many questions they ultimately made the decision to turn it into a study resolution. This happened as the Senate advanced a narrowly focused bill (SB 704) that would require teachers to allow “any parent, grandparent, or guardian to inspect instructional materials and books in the classroom that are available for students to read.” As the Charleston Gazette-Mail reported, unlike HB 4011, the Senate bill wouldn’t require blanket online posting of instructional materials. SB 704 is on 1st reading today, so stay tuned.
Theme of this Session: Overreach
Articles in the Charleston Gazette-Mail this week spoke to what we feel is the theme of this particular session: Overreach.
Rick Wilson nailed it in his “Some want it all” op-ed outlining the excessive attacks this year on workers, the unemployed, education, taxes, and those experiencing homelessness.
Even conservative pundit and talk show host, Hoppy Kercheval, calls out the Republican supermajority in his piece entitled, “WV GOP no longer about limited Government” where he outlines how far afield they have drifted from their roots. With the power to pass anything they can think up, he states, “[J]ust because they can pass something does not mean they should.” He IDs several bills mucking around in what should be local issues for school boards, hospitals and local governments that the party of “more local control” is pushing.
Part of the problem as I see it is that, since leadership at the top of both Senate and House has changed hands in recent years, new committee chairs have also been assigned. Some in this new crop of chairs have let their supermajority status lead to overreach through so many of those ‘mushroom’ bills I wrote about last week.
Miner’s Safety Getting the Axe?
An excellent new example came from the House Government Organization Committee, which on Thursday, originated another ‘mushroom’ bill to gut the enforcement of the Office of Miners Health, Safety and Training. There is a public hearing on HB 4840 TONIGHT, Monday, Feb. 28, at 6:00 pm. Watch it live if you get to this before it starts. This bill was popped up and pushed through the committee with discussion squelched and now heads to the floor for passage on Wednesday unless derailed. Call Speaker Handshaw and ask him to ‘park it’ by moving it from the Special Calendar (active calendar) to the House Calendar (inactive calendar). Also call your Delegates to reject this if it’s voted on.
On this 50th anniversary of the Buffalo Creek Disaster, this bill is an affront to the hard-working people of West Virginia, and to all of our families and friends who live and work in the coal communities.
My Body My Choice, Your Body My Choice
This overreach has also taken the form of further restrictions on abortion access in West Virginia. The House has already passed a bill (HB 4004) virtually identical to a bill under review by the U.S. Supreme Court, which bans abortions after 15 weeks. Not to be outdone, the Senate is moving forward with yet another abortion ban, one that reproductive health advocates say is incredibly broad, “interfering in a wide range of decisions that many people face over the course of their pregnancy — even when confronted with a prenatal diagnosis certain to lead to an early, painful death, parents would be stripped of their ability to choose the least painful outcome for themselves and their families.” Learn more and take action here.
House Bill Stigmatizes the Homeless, Punishes Those Helping Our Struggling Neighbors
This morning the House house held a public hearing on HB 4753 that punishes and stigmatizes people experiencing homelessness. More here from the WV Council of Churches:
While the “care and feeding” of the homeless section of the bill was removed and the distance from schools and licensed daycare centers was reduced from 1,500 feet to 1,000 feet (thank you for your emails and calls!), the bill still prohibits “the establishment of a homeless encampment within one thousand feet of a public or private elementary or secondary school, or a licensed child care center.”
The West Virginia Council of Churches remains opposed to the bill for the following reasons:
1. The proposed bill will not remedy the issue for which it is purported to be written (unruly behavior), rendering the bill totally unnecessary and in fact, would block potential additional housing for the homeless. There are also already laws on the books prohibiting unruly behavior that apply to everyone.
2. This bill stigmatizes the homeless and understates the complexity of homelessness. The homeless in our state cover a wide range of individuals and circumstances including veterans, persons escaping domestic violence, the daughter or son caught in the web of addiction; the mentally ill; and the person who loses their housing for economic reasons or because of a natural disaster. The one thing that all persons who are homeless have in common is that they are our sisters and brothers.
3. Homelessness is an issue that can be addressed by local communities instead of imposing a statewide one size fits all solution.
4. HB 4753 is an infringement on the first amendment rights of people of faith who, in practicing their faith, seek to minister to the homeless by providing shelter. Many of the state’s congregations are located near schools and some may even house licensed child care centers in their buildings.
The Council would support a study resolution that would allow the State to learn more about the issues of homelessness and come up with viable solutions that would enjoy a broad base of support.
Please contact the following members of the House of Delegates:
Delegate Roger Hanshaw, House Speaker
firstname.lastname@example.org – (304) 340-3210
Delegate Moore Capito
email@example.com – (304) 340-3252
Delegate Doug Skaff
firstname.lastname@example.org – (304) 340-3240
Delegate Larry Pack
email@example.com – (304) 340-3181
Or find your delegate by clicking here.