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Remember finals week in school? Well this week at the Capitol is nothing like that. Bills packing hundreds of pages that very few legislators have read or studied will be given passing or failing grades based not so much on their merit as on perception and faith.
Yes, faith. As I write this on Easter Sunday (and the final day of Passover), faith, in a religious setting is a good and pious application. Faith, in a legislative setting, can really screw things up.
Faith in tax cuts has translated into a huge effort this session to kill off the state’s income tax (and either replace it with other more regressive taxes or just leave a big gaping hole in the state budget). There is no evidence that this gambit will ‘bring droves of new residents to live in WV’ or entice dozens of new companies to locate here.
In fact, our governor admitted that past tax breaks (by both parties) slashing taxes on corporations and such have had little to no effect bettering our state’s economy. Yet, here we are operating on misplaced faith that ‘if we cut it, they will come’. In fact the Governor has announced a special altar call on Easter Monday to make one more attempt to get the Senate, House, and Administration to all sing out of the same hymnal. (If you get this in time and live in Charleston, come outside the Culture Center at the Capitol Complex from 3:30 to 4:15 to show opposition when legislators come across to attend the Summit.)
If he is successful, what will come is not an immaculate transformation of WV into a paradise on earth, but a descent into a long period of severe austerity with cuts to education, enforcement of labor and environmental laws, all state services, public broadcasting, healthcare and just about everything our state tax dollars pay for.
We can still derail this tax cut and switch train but it will take all of us calling our senators and delegates daily until the session ends on Saturday. Find your list of local reps here with this handy resource from the WV Environmental Council. Tell them not to make massive tax cuts while we’re in the middle of a pandemic with our state economy being propped up by billions in federal funds. First, do no harm!
Timing is Everything
Looking at the last week of session some general deadlines appear. For a bill to adhere to the rules and be read on the floor on three separate daily floor sessions, they must get through the committee process by Wednesday. That being said, they will now start split (or two per day) floor sessions to speed things up for bills that leadership wants to make it to the finish line. Saturday can be hectic as the session extends to the stroke of midnight on April 10th. The legislative web page and its blog are still good venues to keep track of the quick movements of your favorite or most maligned bills.
A Few Bills of Merit
HB 2266, which gives new moms expanded Medicaid coverage up to one year postpartum, passed out of Senate Health and moved to Finance. Contact Senate Finance members, especially Chairman Tarr and ask them to pass the bill. Lives will be saved!
HB 3310, providing for Power Purchase Agreements, passed the House last week and is now single referenced to the Senate Judiciary. Chairman Trump was a lead sponsor of the Senate version so we’ll need calls/mail to Senate Judiciary Committee members to vote yes for Energy Freedom (It’s on the Committee’s agenda today)! This allows for third party installation contracts on solar for homes, churches, other non-profits, and small business applications and would create jobs in the emerging solar industry in WV.
Another good bill on the Senate Judiciary Committee agenda today is HB 2927, a bipartisan bill which would help candidates with caregiving responsibilities run for office by adding caregiving expenses to the list of lawful campaign expenditures. Thanks to WV NOW and other partners and allies for championing the effort.
A Bunch of Bills of Badness
HB2982, a bill forcing doctors to give women dangerous medical advice on medical abortions has passed to Senate Health Commitee and is in its last committee (Judiciary). See Planned Parenthood’s action alert .
On Friday, I testified at the public hearing on SB 569, gutting medical monitoring for citizens exposed to toxins by big corporations. Such monitoring in the Parkersburg area for residents exposed to C-8 (teflon byproduct) saved over 50 lives by early cancer detection. Medical monitoring saves lives! Contact members of the House Judiciary Committee and tell them – it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!
HB 2363, which mandates 50/50 custody when parents cannot agree, is still in the Senate Judiciary. Reach out to Senate Judiciary members with the message to let the judges decide in the best interests of the kids and vote NO!
SB 387 would extend a failed pilot that requires all TANF recipients to undergo drug screening at the cost of tens of millions of dollars to the state. Having already passed the Senate, it’s up for passage in the House on Wednesday so contact your delegate(s) and ask them not to waste your tax dollars on a testing program which doesn’t work.
Without going into the many differing kinds of legislative resolutions, I can pretty well say that most all this year (that’s not naming a bridge or declaring today cotton candy day) are terrible. Joint resolutions can be the ones most disturbing – they can place items on the ballot for voters to change our state constitution. At least two of these – HJR3 & SJR7 – will allow the legislature to cut county property taxes and basically give away county’s revenue needed for schools, fire and police, libraries etc. Here is a quick action from our allies at WV Center on Budget to make you voice heard in opposition to these two bad ones.
But the madness doesn’t stop there. Two resolutions up there two other power grabs that have passed the House are up for a vote by the full Senate on Wednesday. One of these, HJR 2, proposes to amend the state constitution to make it so that no court in the state could intervene to protect the right to fair hearing of a public official facing impeachment, no matter how frivolous the charge or constitutionally flawed the process. As Julie wrote in a recent op-ed in the Charleston Gazette-Mail, the disaster scenarios write themselves.
The other, HJR 1, would let the Legislature amend and reject the state Board of Education’s policies, which among other things, cover what students must learn, how they can be disciplined, what specifically is required to become a teacher, and how charter schools are regulated. In February, the Board voted unanimously to oppose the proposed amendment saying it would make education inconsistent and invite politics into the classroom.
Your Input Needed
Our WV United coalition has a committee addressing the best uses for the just passed federal aid coming in to local governments from the American Rescue Plan. They want to get info from folks on what they need locally and are contacting counties and cities to urge them to collect local input. The committee is asking for your input so take a few minutes and fill it out this short survey. While you’re at it, send a thank you to the only WV elected official in Washington who voted for this much needed relief.