Mushroom Session

This session reminds me of an old saying “I feel like a mushroom because they keep me in the dark and feed me BS.” This is appropriate in so many ways as committees are sprouting (originating) lots of bills and short circuiting the normal process for introducing bills. Instead, bills are sprouting like mushrooms, out of the dark of the committee’s back rooms (often written by industry lobbyists and conservate think tanks) and the public only gets notice when the committee agenda is posted, sometimes only minutes before the meeting begins. 

Probably the most stunning example of this happened this week when an oil & gas industry bill was passed out of the Senate’s Energy committee at the exact same time an identical bill was ‘originated’ and passed out of the House Energy committee! These bills, SB 650 & HB 4022, allow only one mineral owner of a multi-owner tract (think heirship with many co-owners) to lease and develop the oil & gas rights of all the owners without their permission. Big oil & gas has been after this piece of corporate welfare for years.

Another dumbing down of the legislative process are the (conservative cookie-cutter) bills full of twisted logic about anti-discrimination but really about anti Critical Race Theory and hamstringing teachers who want to have truthful discussions with their students about issues others deem as controversial. One of these (HB 4011) which was introduced one day, on the House Education  Committee agendas and passed out the next. This ramrodding of bills shows total disrespect for the legislative process and is a power play by insiders who can call the shots. To heck with debate and deliberation we know what we want and we’re going to push it through.

The third example was the mushroom bill that bloomed and passed out of the House Health committee at one meeting last week which would force our biggest state agency, Dept. of Health and Human Services to split into two separate agencies by July! This is something that needs to be researched, discussed and planned for, if it happens at all. Too many West Viginians depend on the services of this Department to take an axe and chop it in two so quickly!

Crossover Day Marks a Turning Point

As this overview by Mountain State Spotlight points out, this week will see tremendous activity to move bills before the Sunday Feb 27th deadline to get bills out of committee and allow three separate readings on the floor. Bills that have not passed out of their house of origin by ‘Crossover Day’ on March 2nd are considered dead. We would not be surprised to see late Friday evening, Saturday morning or even Sunday evening committee meetings to move priority bills.

Health Care Bills Need Some Help

This year’s insulin copay reduction bill passed the House (HB 4252) but is still needing action in the Senate Health committee. Contact Charman Mike Maroney and ask him to run the bill! Also send notes to Health committee members to pass it! Take Action here: 

The Medicaid Buy-In bill was introduced in the Senate today (SB 688) with Majority Leader Tom Takubo as lead sponsor but got two tough committee references (Banking & Insurance and Finance) and may not have time to make much progress this year. We’ll see.

‘Deliberate Intent’ Worker Protections Getting the Axe from Big Timber

On Thursday, injured workers (and deceased workers survivors) testified before the House Judiciary Committee on the need to keep liability laws intact, and reject HB 4394, which has already passed the Banking and Insurance Committee. Notably, recently resigned Supreme Court Justice, Evan Jenkins, surprised that committee by showing up in support of the bill representing Allegheny Wood Products, which is pushing the legislation. Ethics be damned! The Senate’s version is single referenced to Judiciary. Reckless corporations shouldn’t be allowed to pad their profits at the expense of their workers lives and limbs. Email your legislators and tell them to reject SB 252/HB 4394 at Special focus should be made on the Senate!

Tank Bill Passes House

The hardworking lobby team at the WV Environmental Council posted this update on the very bad bill to exempt even more tanks from inspection. See their full update here.

“Aboveground Storage Tank Act, HB 2598 – Modifying the inspection requirements and the definition of an above ground storage tank

Last Action: Passed the House and referred to Senate Energy, Industry and Mining on 2/16/22

Summary: Thanks to the 22 delegates who voted against this year’s tank bill in the House – a vote to protect our drinking water. The bill has been referred to the Senate Energy, Industry, and Mining Committee. Please contact your Senators and urge them to reject this year’s awful bill brought back every year by industry.”

Governor Packs Energy Authority with Fossil Fools

Re-established during the Manchin administration, the WV Public Energy Authority has lain dormant ever since he left the governor’s seat. No more! They’re rebooting with a new board and with broad authority to do some serious damage, as the Governor’s appointments are a who’s who of the fossil fuel industries. Their notice for Wednesday’s meeting is not encouraging. Agenda items include, “assisting in developing the next generation of coal plants” and “help coordinate the output of merchant plants with the capacity needs of regulated plants.” This will be one to watch long after the session is over.

Welcome, Carey Jo. Farewell, Katie. 

We’re sad to let you know that Katie’s last day at WV CAG was Jan. 31. Although she won’t be working directly with us, she’ll be supporting the movement in another capacity helping to get candidates elected who share our values and vision for an inclusive and thriving democracy. She’ll be missed here at Citizen Action. Fortunately she’s still here in WV, and I’m sure we’ll all continue to cross paths from time to time. (Good luck, Katie in your new position! 🙂 )

Later in this Update you’ll see an article by Carey Jo Grace, who has signed on to work with us. Carey Jo has been a strong partner in her former work with WV Healthy Kids & Families and we’re looking forward to her applying her expertise and organizing talents here at WVCAG. Please extend a big welcome to Carey Jo!

Your Contributions Important to ‘Life After Session’

This time of year we start joking about what life will be like after the craziness of the legislative session. This being an election year we’ll be transitioning to voter education, engagement, and all manner of support for getting better legislators behind the desks at the State Capitol. Your continued support and volunteering will be essential to getting this critical work done! Please take a minute to renew or become a supporting member of WV CAG! A big THANKS to all of YOU who have already done so!

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