by Gary Zuckett
Monday was the 34th day of the 60 day session and President’s day, but at the Capitol it looked like Labor Day with hundreds of union workers packing the halls and a noon rally that filled the front steps of the capitol all the way down to the boulevard along the river. They were there to protest the multiple attacks on the working class being waged by the new legislative leadership.
Then an oil tanker train made it all the way from North Dakota before derailing along the Kanawha River only hours after we all testified at the public hearing in support of the bill removing the “Category A” (drinking water use protection) exemption for the river. Is this another warning to pay attention to water quality? The snow also derailed lots of events like the Environmental Council’s awards dinner on Wednesday evening, although E-Day at the Capitol took place but with far fewer folks than usual. Friday morning’s temperature was minus eighteen degrees when getting into the car to make the 9AM committee meeting on Category A – Burrrrrrr!!
Both the House and the Senate had planned to work right through the weekend but another blast of winter weather sent them all home until Sunday evening when only one committee, Senate Judiciary, is scheduled to meet.
Monday and Tuesday (February 23 and 24) are the last days to introduce bills in the Senate and House respectively. As of now 1,420 bills are in committees of both houses. The first week of March, the majority of these will be dead and only the select few which have passed their house of origin will remain viable. This “Crossover Day” is anticipated by all for it clears out the weeds and makes our bill tracking lists considerably smaller. Let’s look at some that are moving.
The bill to repeal the current Prevailing Wage law, SB 361, has passed the Senate but has instead been amended to refine how wages for state projects are calculated and made to apply only to contracts over $500,000. Labor and many local West Virginia contractors are still opposed to this bill which is now single referenced to the House Government Organization committee.
Right to Work (RTW) (for less) is a more drastic attack on unions, which would prevent them from collecting even the administrative part of member dues from all the workers they represent in a union shop. It undercuts the very financial base of the labor movement. An expert from the Economic Policy Institute, Ross Eisenbrey, came in from DC this week to meet with legislators with statistics that debunked conservative myths on RTW. His cited studies that RTW would result in $1500 lower average wages in our state if passed. Ted Boettner also had an excellent Op-Ed in this week’s Daily Mail citing conservative’s favorite free-market guru: “The principle aim of right-to-work laws is to diminish the ability of workers to collectively bargain freely without the interference of government. This is precisely why Milton Friedman, the godfather of “free market economics,” adamantly opposed right-to-work laws.” SB 337 is in Senate Judiciary with Chairman Trump as one of the sponsors.
Thursday’s public hearing on HB 2021 was attended by several of our West Virginians United coalition partners who all testified against this wasteful, punitive bill that would require all applicants for State or Federal assistance to pee in a cup. It was noted in the Daily Mail article that at the hearing, not one person or group got up to testify for the bill. No clamor by even Tea Party types that we should be doing this. I testified that this bill was a “good way to flush taxpayer’s money down the toilet” since other states have tried this and found only a miniscule (fraction under 1%) number of applicants testing positive, but costs are in the multi-millions of dollars. Ironically, in committee the bill was amended in such a way that it now opens up the possibility that former felons (who test clean) would now be eligible for assistance – although we don’t think that was the intent of the delegate offering the language. Sometimes unintended consequences turn out OK.
On Thursday, SB 516 was debated for over an hour in the Senate Health Committee but the committee took no action. It would allow APRNs (Advanced Practice Registered Nurses) to move to an autonomous practice after five years working under a doctor’s signature. Presently, this is a permanent (not 5 year) requirement that hinders health access especially in rural areas without enough doctors. Organized medicine is resisting this bill to keep control in the hands of the doctors. The vote will be close so contact members of the Senate Health Committee and urge them to approve SB 516 without weakening amendments. Wednesday, February 25, is Unity Day when nurses will fill the Capitol. For more information contact Nancy Tyler, Healthcare Consultant, (304) 552-4730 firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Senate has passed SB 30, a bill to loosen up the total ban on consumption of raw milk. It would allow folks to buy shares in a cow in order to receive the white stuff unprocessed. The law at present makes criminals out of folks who prefer the freshest milk they can get. If it passes into law, partners of these new cow co-ops will have to sign a statement that they know the potential hazards of consuming raw milk. Here’s one for food freedom!
About a decade and a half after the enabling legislation passed, our new Agriculture Commissioner has introduced rules to begin the process of growing industrial hemp in West Virginia. The Agricultural Hemp rules are in the House (HB 2311) and Senate (SB 221) Judiciary Committees. We are also hearing that this year’s bill on Medical Marijuana will be introduced on Monday (SB 546) as the “Compassionate Use Act for Medicinal Cannabis” with bi-partisan sponsorship. Keep up with developments on both on the WV-NORMAL site.
HB 2855, introduced by Delegates John Overington, Marty Gearheart, Steve Westfall, Rupie Phillips, Geoff Foster, Eric Householder, Saira Blair, Ron Walters and Michael Moffatt, calls for a person convicted of first degree murder to face the death penalty in certain circumstances (From the Daily Mail Capitol Notebook blog). If any of these are your delegates, call them at home or at the Capitol and ask them to work on fixing what’s broken and not what isn’t.
Neither rain nor snow nor sub –zero temps will keep your hearty WV-CAG lobby team from making their rounds at the Capitol, resisting the radical right and their “model” ALEC bills. We won’t let them take us back to a fantasy age of trickle down, free-markets and no restrictions on how badly bosses can treat workers, women and the environment – without a fight! We can’t promise a lot of victories this year, but we can promise to put up the best fight we’ve got in us and to work hard with our allies for social, economic and environmental justice.
As we slug it out, it really keeps our spirits up to see the membership renewals and contributions coming in daily. Thanks to all who have already sent their’s in, and thanks in advance to those doing it now.
Contributions are an essential way you can be a part of the action, but remember, we still need to keep those phone calls and letters coming in to lawmakers! We have been hearing that they are surprised at the volume of communications opposing their imagined “mandate” by the voters to turn us into Wisconsin or North Carolina – Keep ‘um coming!
by Emmett Pepper
by Ian Maclachlan
The constitution has been a shield, protecting the people and their human rights for over two centuries. But now it is under attack. ALEC and a number of other radical conservative groups have been pushing for a constitutional convention supposedly to create a amendment limiting the federal government’s spending. However, some have said that this is no more than a play by the big money lobbying groups to change the constitution in their favor. Once a convention has been convened nothing is off the table – not even The Bill of Rights – the only regulation being that 38 of the states ratify the change. This poses a serious threat to the United States, as our whole government is based on this one document.
The West Virginia Legislature has become one of the states on the frontline in the war on our rights. Our legislature has introduced three concurrent resolutions, SCR 13, SCR 21, and HCR 47, all of them asking congress to convene a constitutional convention. SCR 21 passed out of Interstate Cooperation Committee this week and is now in Senate Judiciary. Contact Judiciary members and let them know this is not the way to amend our Constitution!
These resolutions can move extremely quickly, as unlike bills and other types of resolutions they don’t need to go through any committees or even need three readings on three consecutive days. On top of all that the governor has no veto power over resolutions.
If any one of these three resolutions were to pass, West Virginia will become the 26th state to pass such legislation. the conservative groups only need another 10-14 (Depending on who is counting,) states to sign off on a convention, before Congress must convene one.
by Jessica Steinrueck
A few weeks ago I wrote about the twenty week abortion ban bill (House Bill 2568), which unfortunately passed the House and then flew through the Senate Judiciary Committee on February 19th. This week I am writing about another bill that attacks women’s medical care: Senate Bill 236.
Senate Bill 236 does not ban abortions; rather it cuts off the means by which many women are able to have them. SB 236 prohibits insurance coverage of elected abortion care. “Elected abortions” leave for very few exceptions, and even these exceptions have major asterixis: If a woman would not live without this abortion she can be covered, but not if she would take her own life. If rape was the cause of the pregnancy she would be covered, but only if the rape is reported within 48 hours of the incident. If incest was the cause of the pregnancy she would be covered, but only if she is a minor and the incident and assaulter were reported to a valid law-enforcement agency prior to the abortion, and so on.
The phrase “elected abortion” evokes an image of recreation and choice, which is misleading and false. I have yet to hear of a woman choosing to have an abortion when she does not feel that it is absolutely necessary. There are so many rape incidents where it is simply not an option to report the incident within 48 hours. The same goes for incest. This bill aims to cut off medical support to a woman when she most needs it. An all male legislative committee is no place to decide the scope of women’s health care.
The Senate Banking and Insurance Committee is scheduled to run the bill this coming Monday at 2pm, in room 208-W. Citizens opposing the bill will meet at 1:45pm at the upper rotunda of the Capitol to walk to the meeting together.
WVFREE has also put together an action alert the Chairman and the Committee urging the Chairman and members of the Committee them to VOTE NO on Senate Bill 236.
Just a quick update to let you know that SB 352, which was the subject of our Action Alert earlier today, was pulled from the Senate Judiciary Committee agenda this evening. Calls and emails are still needed to urge committee members to support the bill. Thanks!