Week Three Heats Things Up

The 2019 WV Legislature now has 1,119 bills on its plate and is starting to get a heartburn that Tums won’t cure. The first three bills described below are a major source of the legislative indigestion. They cover foster care, education, and yet again, the courts. This tends to happen when one political party has control of all three branches of government – there is no reason to compromise so there is little reasoning going into major legislation. Rather, ideology prevails. That being said, there does seem to be more openness to move smaller bi-partisan bills that have had difficulty with former leadership in the House. We’ll see if this keeps up through the heartburn coming up just now.

Foster Care Privatization

Tuesday morning’s public hearing on HB 2010 saw two folks from the managed care industry and two others speak in support of turning over our state’s foster care kids to a for-profit entity to make money. The rest, over a dozen (including WV CAG, NASW-WV, and Our Children, Our Future) testified in opposition to the proposal. Most recently, the DHHR who is behind this privatization push, declared that they had the authority to move forward without the blessing of this legislation. OCOF has an action alert out asking folks to call the Governor’s office (304-558-2000) to ask him to veto if it makes it to his desk, and to tell DHHR to stand down on this issue. The bill passed out of three committees this past week and should come up for a vote on the House floor on Thursday and then be sent over to the Senate.

Teacher’s Raise Contains Poison Pills

Acting like school-yard bullies, the Senate Education Committee originated an omnibus bill on Thursday never seen by the minority members, contradicted themselves explaining it without even proper documentation, and then passed it on a party-line vote on Friday evening. This bill would set up charter schools, punish teacher walk-outs, set up a student voucher system, and include “paycheck deception” – a gambit to starve the major teachers unions of member dues. As of Saturday morning this “greased” legislation still doesn’t even seem to have a bill number, besides what was on Friday’s agenda: “Originating Bill 1-Comprehensive Education Reform.”  It’s ironic that this happened the same week as the successful Los Angeles teachers strike, a result of labor actions across the nation put into motion by the West Virginia strike last year at this time. Contact your Senators, and tell them to pass a “clean” teacher’s pay bill and vote no on this attack on our public schools and personnel.

This sets up a dynamic where this “poison pill bill” and the above-mentioned foster care bill are both up for floor votes on the same day this week. We’re hearing of several actions being planned for both of these bills during the upcoming week. Stay tuned.

Intermediate Courts = Unnecessary Government

It’s funny how conservatives are so against “big government” – except when they’re for it! Example:  intermediate courts. This boondoggle is being pushed by big business interests as a way to delay having to pay out settlements when they lose liability cases. HB 2366 & SB 266 have the name of the wealthiest man in West Virginia on it, Governor Jim Justice, whose businesses seem to be in the courts quite a lot. The WV Association for Justice, which represents injured citizens are calling it a concession to big business. We call it a waste of taxpayer dollars. Contact members of both House and Senate Judiciary committees and tell them not to waste their time and our tax money on intermediate courts.

Banking on Medical Cannabis

HB 2538 is a fix for the dicey world of financing medical cannabis, which is legal in West Virginia, but illegal for federally chartered banks to service. The fix? Let a state-chartered credit union handle the money. This bill is in House Banking and Insurance, with that committee’s chair signed on as a sponsor.  However, Chair Eric Nelson (R-Kanawha) hasn’t yet placed it on his committee’s agenda. Call Chairman Nelson at 304-340-3192, and ask him to run the bill.

What’s a PPA?

Not PTAs or EPAs. PPAs are Power Purchase Agreements that would allow solar installers to put an installation on your roof and then sell you the power over the next 20 years without you having to take out a big installation loan. This is especially good for schools, non-profits, and churches, as this type of “third party” transaction also allows for the capture of federal tax credits that these organizations don’t usually have access to. There are PPA-friendly bills getting ready to launch in both the House and Senate with bi-partisan support. Watch here for more info when the bill gets introduced.

Water protections Back In

Your calls to Senate Energy, Industry, & Mining (EIM) Committee members turned the tide on the pollution lobby’s attempt to gut DEP’s water protection rules (SB 167). After the Rule Making Review Committee removed the DEP recommended water quality standards, EIM quietly put them back in this week, and passed the rules bill out to Senate Judiciary. We’re still watching to make sure they stay in. Keep up those calls for sane lawmaking!

Keep up the Calling and Support

Just like your calls to lawmakers, your member renewals and donations make a big difference! A BIG thanks to all of you who are supporting the lobby team’s efforts with renewed 2019 memberships and/or making a tax-deductible financial contribution for the education of policymakers. Of course, good old paper checks sent to 1500 Dixie Street, Charleston, WV 25311 work just fine. Thanks in advance for your support!

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