As we head into the second full week of the 2022 legislative session, I’m going to provide a quick status update on these issues, hopefully without duplicating too much of what Gary has already covered.
Courts/Access to Justice – As we’ve mentioned previously, big changes are coming to West Virginia’s judicial system. This past week marked the 12th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United v. FEC. The Court’s ruling continues to threaten our democracy, and free and fair elections. The surge of dark money in our judicial elections could upend judicial independence. We are at a critical juncture that presents both challenges and opportunities in regards to reforms that strengthen our democracy, and bring greater trust, accountability, and transparency to the judiciary. The way to protect our courts from undue influence is to adopt strong anti-bias rules and get big money out of our elections. Read more here.
Health Care – Building on past successes capping insulin copays and adding adult dental coverage to Medicaid, the WV Health Care for All coalition has a new agenda that they will be working to pass to ensure that all West Virginians have access to quality, comprehensive affordable health care. On Thursday, the House Health and Human Resources Committee passed a bill that would lower the cost of insulin and live saving equipment, such as insulin pumps and glucose monitors that many diabetics rely on and that can help them live healthier, longer lives. That evening, the coalition hosted an advocacy training that will cover the basics on how to contact and build relationships with your representatives, and what you can do to support the 2022 agenda. See Eve’s article for more details.
Racial Justice and Non-Discrimination – Last Friday, advocates held a virtual day of activities to stand up for reproductive rights and LBGTQ equality. Meanwhile, the list of bills attacking often discriminated against and marginalized communities continues to grow. This includes two House bills that would establish a means to recall municipal and county ordinances. If passed this could be used to overturn local fairness ordinances already in place and deter other local governments from taking action to protect their residents from discrimination.
Update: NEW DATE –
This coming Friday, January 28th, Advocates for the CROWN Act will host a Bring Your Crown CROWN Act Rally February 11th at 1 PM in the inner circle at the State Capitol. There will be music, food trucks and giveaways. Save the date, and come out to show your support!
Reproductive Justice/Bodily Autonomy – On December 1, the nation watched as the US Supreme Court heard oral arguments in a case that directly challenges Roe v. Wade, the precedent setting case that has protected reproductive freedom for millions of Americans for nearly 50 years. If the Court overturns Roe, half the states in the U.S. are poised to ban abortion entirely including West Virginia.
Ultra-conservative legislators are chomping at the bit to impose further restrictions on abortion access in West Virginia, and they aren’t waiting for the Supreme Court to rule. On the second day of the session members of the House of Delegates started moving a bill that would ban abortions at 15 weeks, just like a Mississippi law under review by the Court. The bill (HB 4004), would prohibit abortions after 15 weeks of gestation, well below viability and the line set forth by Roe v. Wade. HB 4004 and HB 4005, which imposes invasive, cruel, unnecessary requirements regarding disposal of fetal tissue, have both passed through the House Health committee and are pending in the House Judiciary Committee. See Eve’s article for the latest on the fight to protect abortion rights and access in the Mountain State.
Tax and Budget – As Gary said, the WV Center on Budget and Policy is the resource on all things tax and budget. Listen to their in-depth analysis of the budget here.
Voting Rights & Democracy – The ongoing threats to our freedom to vote make it critical that Congress set national standards to ensure that all Americans have equal access to the ballot ahead of the 2022 elections. Passing the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act are our best opportunity to respond to these threats to our democracy, further voter protections, strengthen election integrity, reign in dark money, and end partisan and racial gerrymandering. Shamefully, with the help of Senator Joe Manchin, Republicans in the U.S. Senate have once again blocked legislation to protect the right to vote.
It’s hard to find the right words for this moment. To say we are disappointed and angry is an understatement. However, despite the vote, the fight to protect and strengthen our democracy continues.
Water Quality Standards – In addition to defending water quality standards to adequately protect human health, the WV Rivers Coalition has identified three other clean water policy priorities that will be up for a vote this legislative session. Read more here and sign up for their water policy updates.
BREAKING: The Water Quality Standards rule will be before the Senate Judiciary Committee TOMORROW, January 25. You can take action here to let them know that clean, safe drinking water is essential for all West Virginians, and tell them to remove loopholes for polluting industries to put even more toxins in our drinking water sources.