Week of Weather & Disappointment
It’s hard to know whether to begin with federal or state issues in this week’s update since so much has been going on in both areas. In addition, winter has indeed arrived with black ice and power outages, too.
Let’s talk about DC issues first. As you’ll hear in detail later, Senator Manchin helped Republicans block passage of the Freedom to Vote Act by being only one of two Democrat senators to oppose a filibuster rule change in order to allow the bill to pass on a simple majority vote. What would Senator Byrd have done? According to this scholar, he amended the filibuster rules at least nine times to overcome political obstructions!
Meanwhile, Build Back Better (BBB), which has been on the back burner since Senator Manchin withheld his support, is likely to heat up again. We’re hearing talk about which parts may be lifted up for a quicker passage in time for the president’s State of Nation address. We’re looking for volunteers who want to participate in a ‘neighbor to neighbor’ state-wide canvass next month to promote passage of major parts of BBB. Contact us if interested. Stay tuned on this one.
In WV, our legislature is barreling ahead in a dozen directions and most of those are unfortunate.
Local Control, NOT!
HB 2091 & HB 2232 – These city and county ordinance recall bills, would allow 15% of “voters from the last election” to authorize a recall election on local ordinances. As the Charleston Gazette-Mail pointed out, it’s not clear whether the 15% threshold refers to eligible voters who were registered at the time of the last election, or if it referred only to people who cast a ballot in that election. Regardless, we oppose these measures, which would likely be used to try to undo local anti-discrimination efforts, but could also be used to target school bonds and other local revenues. These bills and the next one listed below got a scathing editorial from the conservative Wheeling Intelligencer, “This year, at least three bills that would wrestle control away from counties, cities and school boards and instead centralize it in Charleston have been introduced by Republican lawmakers.”
H.B. 4071, the “Parent and Student Health Rights Act,” would give everyone the freedumb to be exposed to COVID at school by ending mask requirements and restricting COVID-19 testing requirements and quarantines in schools. The bill (opposed by many school officials as taking away local control) passed the House Education Committee last week and now heads to the House Judiciary. Contact your Delegates on this committee with your directives.
March for Choice
Saturday supporters of abortion rights rallied at the state Capitol and marched to protest the slew of anti-choice bills being introduced (see Eve’s article for more details). The bill to ban abortions after 15-weeks had no movement last week, but a “reason ban” and “physicians only” bills were introduced. Take action with Planned Parenthood and WV-FREE who are leading the fight against these bills that would roll back access to abortioni in the Mountain State and harm West Virginians.
The “Yes Nukes” bill moved out of the Senate Economic Development committee. WV-CAG helped pass a conditional ban on commercial nuclear power in 1996. SB 4, with bipartisan sponsors, would reverse that. The bill says: “Be it enacted by the Legislature of West Virginia: Repeal of the article banning construction of nuclear power plants.” See the video of last Monday’s public forum on so-called ‘advanced’ nuclear power and decide for yourself.
Taxing the Budget
Republican leaders are proposing cuts to the state income tax supposedly based on our ‘enormous state budget surplus’. However, speakers at the WV Center on Budget and Policy’s annual Budget Breakfast showed how this game works – the Governor is the sole arbiter of tax revenue projections so all he has to do is lowball his ‘estimate’ of what the state will take in and voila, we have a ‘surplus’ when state revenue (boosted from massive federal COVID relief) rockets past it. The WVCBP is the resource for progressive fiscal policies. Check out their Budget Beat to stay informed!
Not to be outdone on tax cuts, the Democrats just unveiled a plan to cut the sales tax. No bother that the so-called budget surplus is in all likelihood a one-time bump. Yes, it’s an election year and both parties will be throwing bones to voters.
Last week we mentioned the hurry-up special session where both Republicans and Democrats fell over themselves to pass unprecedented grants and tax breaks to lure in a steel plant to Mason Co. New reporting by Mountain State Spotlight questions the validity of the WVU studies that painted such a rosy picture of the plant’s economic impact.
By the way, Mountain State Spotlight and Black By God are both totally independent WV news outlets supported by readers. They are both great resources, so consider sending them a few bucks or become a monthly donor.
Taking it to the Bank
But which one? Our WV Treasurer Riley Moore is pushing a bill (SB 262) that would let him restrict state banking contracts with any bank or investment group that refuses to deal with coal or natural gas companies. Riley is riled up that the banking industry is wising up to the liabilities that come with financing fossil fools and wants permission to spank them. The most scary part of this bill is the liability waiver: “With respect to actions taken in compliance with this section, a public agency, public official, public employee, or member or employee of a financial institution is immune from liability.” This gives the Treasurer the authority to abuse state funds without responsibility for negligence or gross misconduct. A. James Manchin wishes he’d had that!