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We are now halfway through the 2018 legislative session. Soon cut-off days will be reached when bills can no longer be introduced (thankfully) and then ‘crossover day’ when bills have to be voted out of their house of origin or die. As these kick-in, its full speed ahead into the maelstrom of late evening committee meetings, early morning public hearings, and longer and longer floor sessions. Remember the snowball we mentioned? The one that keeps gaining momentum as it rolls down the hill getting bigger and bigger? It’s now well on its way…
We Won’t Blink
Constant vigilance is required to monitor the legislative process. Every day we check the morning list of bills introduced to find out what fights we have coming up next.
One thing that helps us get through this is YOU! All of you that make the calls, send the e-mails, and send in your financial support for our efforts on your behalf. Please take a minute and make a contribution or renew your membership. Of course the old, tried and true post office method still works when you send a check to 1500 Dixie Street, Charleston, WV 25311. We sincerely thank everyone who pitches in to keep up the fight!
Constitutional Amendment on Abortion Halfway to Ballot
We’ve been telling you about HB 4012, which would ban Medicaid insurance coverage for abortion. This bill was the subject of a public hearing held by the House Judiciary Committee on Monday, and was met with overwhelming opposition. The same day, the Senate Judiciary Committee advanced a resolution for a proposed constitutional amendment (SJR 12) that is even more radical than HB 4012.
Here’s an excerpt from the resolution: “Nothing in this Constitution secures or protects a right to abortion or requires the funding of an abortion. The people retain the right through their elected state representatives and state senators to enact, amend, or repeal statutes regarding abortion, inlcuding but not limited to, circumstances of pregnancy resulting from rape or incest, or when necessary to save the life of the mother.”
The Senate passed SJR12 over to the House on Friday with three Democrats voting with the majority – Senators Unger, Prezioso, and Woelfel. If all the Dems had stuck together, the Resolution would have failed. Since all changes to our state constitution must be approved by the voters, this effort is an admitted tactic by Republicans to get their base out to vote in November. This is a desperate attempt to hold off the historical losses in seats usually experienced in mid-term elections by the party in power. If voters approve, it will be the only part of our state constitution to actually take away someone’s rights. As part of the ‘Health Not Politics’ coalition, we oppose using our state’s constitution for taking away individuals rights. For current actions on this issue see this coalition page.
Teachers’ Pay Raise vs. PEIA
The House took up the teachers’ pay bill (SB267) sent from the Senate this week and immediately doubled the first year’s increase to 2% but took a 1% annual increase off the far end for an overall 5% increase over 4 years. In a Thursday press conference, the governor said teachers “should be happy” with the 1% and his request for the PEIA board to put a 12 month moratorium on the scheduled increases in premiums, copays and other charges. Del. Shaun Fluharty (D-Ohio) had a memorial quote from the floor debate on this issue saying he was tired of the 1% proposing 1% pay raises for public employees. Teachers and service personnel voted this week on whether to give their leadership the authority to call for a walkout if negotiations with lawmakers go south. Read the Gazette editorial here. Stay tuned, this could get wild!
Paycheck Deception Bill Slinks Out of Senate
The Senate passed this attack on public employee unions as they try to mollify teachers and other state workers with pitiful pay raises. SB 335, which sponsors call “the Paycheck Protection Act,” passed out of the Senate on a party-line vote on Friday and now goes to the House. It will force union members to refile payroll deduction paperwork every year to allow union dues to be deducted. This unnecessary paperwork is aimed at cutting off finances for organized labor at a time when they are under assault from all directions. Contact your Delegates and tell them to file SB 335 in the trash.
Correctional Officers Getting Bigger Pay Bump?
Friday state corrections officers were in the halls talking with lawmakers about their horrible pay. Our state has had an on-going crisis in its jails keeping officers from leaving as soon as they’re trained. New trainees leave to work in other states (often in the first six months) where they can make $5-10 thousand more right away. So many vacancies exist in guarding our jails that the governor recently called in the state police and National Guard to fill in. This is truly a public safety issue. Hopefully, we’ll see their bill (HB 4142) pass the House on Monday and move to the Senate. WV correctional officers shouldn’t have to rely on SNAP benefits to feed their families even if they would qualify under proposed work requirements.
All Things Environmental
If you’re not on the WV Environmental Council’s mailing list, get on it! They have a great team assembled this year to cover the myriad of attacks on our air, water and land and they need both your attention and your support. WV-CAG works closely with their ‘Green Team’ at the Capitol along with some of their other member organizations such as the WV Rivers Coalition and Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition (OVEC). Our environment is under constant attack by the pollution lobby and we must be informed, vigilant, and active to counter these threats. Keep those calls and letter coming in!