The second full week of session had several highlights. As of Friday, 1,551 bills had been introduced by both chambers, our governor held his belated ‘State of the State’ address, and a public hearing on ending the nuclear power ban in WV was held.
“This has been the year of Babydog, hasn’t it?” chortled the governor at the wrapup of his “absolutely” hyperbolic State of the State. As he uttered these words, vice-governor Babydog was being led down the center aisle. Then the poor pooch had her hiney offered up to the cameras as a response to Beth Midler and all WV critics to give it a smooch. This was the State of the State highlight reported on CNN, Fox, and even in the Guardian. How em-bare-assing!
I remember the days when folks felt safe to gather at the Empty Glass to watch the governor and pick a favorite word like ‘jobs’ or ‘coal’ and the one who picked the word he said the most won the kitty. To commemorate those days (and keep from going bonkers in quarantine) I downloaded the Governor’s speech, pasted it into Word, and did some random word searches to find some of the words he used the most (and least) I would submit that what he didn’t say speaks louder than his actual utterances.
Governor’s State of the State Word Search:
Strange Bedfellows on Both Sides at Nukes Public Hearing
I don’t have many firsts after lobbying at the Legislature for 25 years, but Friday’s public hearing brought me a two-fer. First, I drafted testimony in defense of a bill I worked to get passed in the previous century (the current law restricting the building of nuclear power plants in WV), and then got to watch on video as someone (Thanks, Hannah!) read my testimony (since I’m still recovering from a recent skirmish with COVID and in quarantine). News headlines picked up the mixed bag of testimony as WV CAG and WV Coal Association found themselves on the same side and the Climate Alliance, State Chamber and Business Council on the other.
The fate of SB 4 (the repeal bill moving) will likely be sealed by the time you read this as it’s up for passage in the House today (Monday). SB 4 eliminates any restrictions and preconditions now in code (our original language passed in 1996) to siting and operating a commercial nuclear power plant in WV. Promoters say this will show WV is ‘Open for Business’ with an ‘all of the above and below’ energy plan. Opponents say that the reasoning behind the original law is still valid. Nukes are still too dangerous and expensive. And the climate crisis can’t wait for the 10-year-long planning, development and rollout cycle it will take to actually produce electrons by splitting atoms in these ‘next gen’ cutesy mini nukes. Unfortunately, the hearing video may not have been archived online, but we’ve gathered several written testimonies on our webstite here.
Health Care for All Coalition Making Headway
As mentioned, there are way too many bills to follow all of them, and many of the ones that are moving this year are exceptionally bad. One exception is a couple of the health care bills we’re supporting as part of the Health Care for All WV coalition. See Eve’s article for good news on them.
Discrimination in Religious Garb
Meanwhile HB 4015, the title of which contains the words ‘Religious Freedom” (who could be against that?), is setting up the freedom to discriminate against whomever just so long as it’s in alignment with “sincerely held religious beliefs.” See details in Gazette-Mail coverage here.Contact your House member to let them know your thoughts….
Thought Police Bill Targets Schools
SB 498 seeks to delineate which concepts aren’t acceptable to be expressed in our schools. It says educators “may not provide instruction in, require instruction in, make part of a course, or require a statement or affirmation by any employee of the following concepts:” It then lists a long line of ‘no-no’s’ and ends with a very open ended invitation that anyone “aggrieved” from being exposed to such outlawed ‘concepts’ should sue the teachers, schools and whomever offended them and collect damages. This is a basic rewrite of the anti-Critical Race Theory bill but leaving out the CRT words. It will lead to a witch hunt in our schools where freedom of thought and expression should be uplifted, not litigated! The real purpose of this bill is to bury the truth. Contact members of the Senate Education Committee. Tell them you want to let teachers teach, and teach history honestly, and for lawmakers to focus on fixing the real problems of the state!
When It Pours
A added touch of micromanagement for our schools is SB 246 which passed the Senate this week and is basically an unfunded mandate on when, where, and how many water bottle filling stations (with purified water no less) shall be built into new schools and upgraded into old school renovations. Sigh…
Blame the Unemployed
Two early Senate bills (SB 2 and SB 3) are being labeled as ‘an attack on workers’ by the WV Center on Budget and Policy. They basically limit the amount of time WV workers are eligible to receive unemployment while imposing more requirements on workers who find themselves out of work. Since unemployment in WV is at historic lows, we’d have to agree with this assessment. So far not a lot of movement here, but there’s still plenty of time left in the session for these bad bills to make a run for the Governor’s desk.
We link to a number of useful media outlets and non-profit pages in our updates.
The WV Center on Budget and Policy is the resource on fiscal issues, while West Virginians for Affordable Health Care and our Health Care for All WV coalition are your go-to sources on health care policy.
Black By God is a strong voice on racial justice issues that centers the voices of Black West Virginians. Fairness WV advocates on behalf of the LGBTQ community, WV FREE and Planned Parenthood for reproductive justice. The ACLU of WV covers so much ground it’s hard to list it all! (I know I’ve left groups out. That is the downside of making lists. Mea culpa!)