It’s Over, for Now
The 2021 legislative session is now history, albeit a rather dark page as far as sessions go. We had some wins which, as Julie noted, can be counted on one hand. As with any session, killing off terrible bills took up a major chunk of everyone’s effort and there were successes on that front also.
Right up front we want to thank all of you who took time to weigh in and took actions in response to our (and other’s) Action Alerts! Your voice carries weight with those who need your vote at the ballot box so keep it up! Stay active now in the federal fight!
Before we get into the dumpster fire that was the 2021 Session, we want to emphasize the need for everyone to continue their advocacy. We suggest making a pivot to the vast potential good that our new administration is working up for our state and nation. West Virginians have a critical role in how big and bold this 21st century New Deal roles out.
Conservatives opposed the original New Deal too calling it, guess what? Socialism! Conservatives opposed Medicaid and Medicare too passed during president Johnson’s Great Society efforts. Again the cry of Socialism was thrown up as a roadblock. Their opposition essentially derailed Johnson from completing the third part of his New Society – providing a ‘middle care’ program, a public health plan for everyone else not covered by the first two.
Right now, president Biden needs EVERY vote in his party’s caucus to rebuild a country and economy devastated by Covid and decades of unfettered toxic capitalism. Our Senior Senator from WV, agreed to be one of the most conservative of the Dems, is our assignment. Senator Manchin needs to hear from all of us, early and often. He came through for us and the nation earlier with his vote for the American Rescue Plan.
Start out sending him a Thank You, then call back the next day to ask for his support of election protection in the For The People Act; then call back the next day on the Infrastructure effort called the American Jobs Plan; the day after that call him on supporting the evolved infrastructure to rebuild the Care Economy = the American Families Plan! Then call in for the THRIVE agenda that would create 50,000 jobs in WV, clean up the mess left by centuries of extractive industry and usher in a clean energy economy. Take a break over the weekend and start over next Monday
Isn’t it refreshing to be making so many calls FOR economic progress, justice, democracy and the planet? Joe Manchin’s DC number is 202-224-3954; put him in your phone’s contacts and speed dial him every day. He needs to hear from YOU as a concerned constituent. Be sure the Fat Cat conservatives are getting folks to call in opposition to everything. Be sure to mention the name of your county of residence so they’ll know you’re not calling from California or New York ☺. You can make a huge difference in this effort by helping Senator Manchin do the right thing.
Below is a dive into the good, bad and just plain ugly of the session. Remember you can look up a bill’s technical wording and final passage roll calls on the legislative web page: https://www.wvlegislature.gov and click on bill status. A topical list of bills we followed (good and bad) is on our blog here.
Some Good Legislative Wrap-Up Articles from our local media outlets
Mountain State Spotlight https://mountainstatespotlight.org/2021/04/11/the-west-virginia-legislative-session-is-over-heres-some-of-what-passed-and-what-didnt/ (Bills that passed covered here: HB 2694, SB 334, SB 542, HB 3293, HB 2982, HB 2266, HB 2382, HB 2918 and SB 387. The article also mentions the demise of HB 3300, HB 2598, HB 2174, HB 3307 and SB 565.)
Charleston Gazette Mail https://www.wvgazettemail.com/news/legislative_session/legislature-passes-2021-broadband-bill-with-stern-words-from-lawmaker-about-industry-maneuvering/article_e580e4df-0325-5f72-9bce-04d23fd45769.html (Covers HB 2002, HB 2694, HB 2500, SB 303, HB 2581, HB 2025, SB 718, SB 492 and HB 2667)
You can practically count all the good bills that passed on one hand. These include:
- HB 2266 – Expands Medicaid coverage for postpartum new moms to one year!
- HB 2094 – Restorative justice for juveniles – recognizes the positive impact restorative justice can have for our kids and our communities by ensuring that this process will be an option in any juvenile case if all parties agree.
- HB 2927 – Caregivers as Candidates – would help political candidates with caregiving responsibilities run for office by adding caregiving expenses to the list of allowable campaign expenses.
- HB 3310 – Energy Freedom bill authorizing power purchase agreements (PPAs) which enables ‘third party contracts’ for solar installations on homes, businesses, churches & non-profits where the owners just sign an agreement to buy the energy produced on their roof instead of going thousands of dollars into debt to buy the equipment.
- HB 2667 – Creating a cost savings program for state buildings through energy efficiency.
However, defeating bad bills is also a victory. Bills we were glad to see expire include:
- HB 3300 – Personal income tax elimination/phase out – over 5,000 of your contacts to lawmakers, tracked by WV Center on Budget, helped tank this terrible bill!
- HB 2598 – Shrinking the Aboveground Storage Tank Act, which would have exempted hundreds of tanks owned and operated by the oil and gas industry that are closest to water intakes. Again, WV Rivers Coalition and WV E-Council tracked thousands of your comments to legislators – well done!
- SB 565 – WV’s very own voter suppression bill – would have eliminated the most popular days of early voting, gutted automatic voter registration, and started the process of removing non-voters from rolls after two years (instead of four). The House Judiciary did not take up after a public hearing where so many of you testified!
- SB 569 – Restricting damages used for medical monitoring – House rejected 62-38. On the last day of the session a motion to reconsider the bill and recall it from the Senate was also rejected.
- HB 2257 – Drug War Extension – Would have added up to 10 years of post-parole supervision for people with drug offenses after they completed their underlying sentence. Violations would result in additional incarceration of up to 10 years. The bill was not taken up by the Senate Judiciary Committee citing lack of time at the end of session.
- SB 303 – Labor and Consumer Marketing Regulatory Limitation Act. Would have stripped local governments of their ability to pass laws concerning the environment, employment and workers’ rights issues, public health and beyond.
- Bad Gun Bills – Various bills allowing concealed guns in public schools, on college campuses, and in and on the grounds of the Capitol, including SB 246, SB 570, HB 2364, HB 3022.
Bad bills that underwent significant changes addressing concerns from advocates:
- HB 2017 – The Senate turned what started as a 400-page rewrite of the state’s criminal code was turned into a two-page bill that asks the West Virginia Sentencing Commission to review the House version as part of its work reviewing state sentencing guidelines.
- HB 2363 – so-called “Best Interests of the Child Protection Act of 2021” – The Senate Judiciary Committee amended the bill to actually preserve the best interests of children in custody disputes while addressing some concerns shared by advocates for the original House version.
Other bad bills that passed in the final days of the session include a bill that requires doctors to give medically incorrect information to patients seeking abortion care (HB 2982).
Bad Ones Already Signed into Law
- Allowing polluters to discharge more toxic chemicals into our water (HB 2382),
- Creating an unnecessary intermediate court of appeals (SB 275),
- Expanding charter schools (HB 2012),
- Establishing a voucher program for students who are home schooled or attend private school (HB 2013),
- Reducing contractor licensing and licensure of various skilled trades (HB 2006 & HB 2008)
- Transgender athlete ban (HB 3293)
- Establishing license application process for needle exchange programs (SB 334)
- Drug screening of applicants for cash assistance/TANF (SB 387)
Wrapping it up and Counting on You!
We’re still picking up the pieces from the chaos of the session but already turning our focus to the awesome potential benefits of the Biden administration’s next proposals. As we mentioned at the beginning, your input into this in the next 60 to 90 days is critical to pushing our country to Build Back Bolder.
The For the People Act will roll back many states’ new attempts at voter suppression. The THRIVE agenda will create tens of thousands of new jobs in WV by helping us ‘Build Back Better’ and greener. Your green energy by the way of new and renewed member donations will give us the springboard to jump into these exciting campaigns! Thank you in advance for your support.