Watching the Winter Olympics on TV reminds me of the concept I have of the flow of the legislative session. Imagine it like a snowball that gets started rolling down the mountain and, as it goes on and on, it picks up more and more snow, getting bigger and bigger and going faster and faster until, at the end, it crashes into a tree and stops dead at midnight on March 12th.
Until then the “Bad Idea Factory” grinds on. So far the House has 1,286 bills in the hopper, over a hundred more than this time last week. I won’t be surprised if they top 1,500 by their cutoff tomorrow (Tuesday, February 15th) when no more can be introduced by regular process. Thankfully the vast majority of them will not make it to the Governor’s desk.
This week had several notable events and bills moving, some new and some updates on movement.
Press Conference Highlights Benefits of Medicaid Buy-In
A Thursday press conference at the Capitol highlighted HB 3001, the Medicaid Buy-In bill. Speakers included the bill’s Republican lead sponsor, Delegate Evan Worrell, Delegate Barbara Fleischauer, Kelly Allen from the WV Center on Budget and Policy, Jessie Ice from West Virginians for Affordable Health Care, and one of our own Health Care for All organizers, Jude Stephens. See the video of the event here and below. Unfortunately, conversations later that day with Delegate Matthew Rohrbach, chair of the House Health Committee, revealed a reluctance on his part to put the bill on his committee’s agenda, which could kill it through his neglect.
Call Chairman Rohrbach’s office (304) 340-3221, and leave him a message to support low income workers’ efforts to move up the income ladder by running the Medicaid Buy-In bill!
AND, Take Action here to Help Create a Medicaid Buy-In for Working West Virginians.
“Blame the Unemployed” Bills Pass Senate
SB 2 & SB 3 passed the Senate last week on mostly party-line votes. SB 2 cuts the number of weeks available for unemployment benefits in half from 26 to 12. SB 3 quadruples the number of weekly job applications needed to continue receiving benefits. This appears to be another one of those out-of-state, conservative think tank, cookie cutter bills, which blames and punishes workers for being out of work. The fight now goes to the House Finance Committee. Contact committee members to stop this war on workers. Also see this WV Center on Budget and Policy post on this “Attack on Workers.”
Deliberate Intent Bills Harm Workers, Too
Our allies at the WV Consumer Protection Alliance gave us a heads up on two companion bills, SB 252 & HB 4394, that roll back access to justice for workers and others harmed as a result of a person or company’s negligence and failure to fix a known hazard in the workplace. The timber industry is demanding that West Virginia totally eliminate its deliberate intent law. The proposed bill is so bad that families would be left powerless even in catastrophic cases like Upper Big Branch. The House bill is rumored to be on the Banking and Insurance agenda for Wednesday. Take action on the Alliance’s Facebook page or directly here.
Income Taxes, Again?
Taxes are how we, as a society, fund the things we want and need like libraries, police and fire protection, and civil government at all levels. Last year, we saw the Governor propose a total elimination of the personal income tax. This year the House is taking the lead, but according to the WV Center on Budget and Policy, “HB 4007 – this year’s attempt to cut the personal income tax – would overwhelmingly benefit the wealthiest West Virginians while leading to major revenue losses that would further undermine desperately needed investments in public services.” This terrible bill passed the House last week and is now in the Senate. Contact your Senators and tell them to keep state revenue stable until all the federal stimulus is played out and things settle down.
Phil Kabler’s Weekly Update – Worth at least 99 Cents
If you’re not an online subscriber to the Charleston Gazette-Mail you should go out and find their Sunday paper if only to read Phil Kabler’s Statehouse Beat. The G/M’s new crop of young reporters are also doing an excellent job of keeping up with environmental, health, economic, and civil justice issues coming out of this crazy legislative session. They’re now running an online subscription special for only 99 cents for the first month. That will get you through the rest of the legislative session, give it a try…
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