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--- Your legislature at work 4 (with update - February 27)

Published by waner in WV legislature · 26/2/2015 17:00:00
Tags: legislature
Michael Erb is down in Charleston covering the legislature for the local "newspapers." For the most part, we get to read a great deal about what is on the Ogden agenda -- abortion, right-to-work, prevailing wage, and charter schools -- but not so much about other bills that may be just as important or, in some cases, demonstrate how truly reactionary the legislature has become. Via the Charleston newspapers, Charlie Pierce, and other sources, here are a few actions by the legislature that you may have missed.
 
Getting rid of non-discrimination ordinances

Gay WVU professor Daniel Brewster writes about it in yesterday's Huffington Post:

There has been great progress in many towns across the state of West Virginia, as well as institutions like West Virginia University and the State Board of Education in regard to inclusion. However, today, WV HB2881 was introduced by the House Government Organization Committee. The bill will invalidate all city and town policies across West Virginia that have implemented nondiscrimination ordinances and resolutions. The Bill will also invalidate policies like the ones held by institutions like West Virginia University that includes sexual orientation and gender identity in their nondiscrimination policy. The Bill would also affect the West Virginia State Board of Education who has surprisingly some of the strongest policies across the nation in protecting LGBT students against harassment and bullying. The HB 2881 is masked as an attempt to create more uniform protection for West Virginians and increase intrastate commerce.

According to a number of commenters at Huffington Post, a very similar bill is making the rounds of a number of state legislatures.  (ALEC and Koch-supported groups are pushing it.)

Here's more on the bill from the Gazette:

House Bill 2881, sponsored by Del. Lynn Arvon, R- Raleigh, was approved 16-8 by the House Government Organization committee on Wednesday. It will be the subject of a public hearing in the House chamber of the state Capitol at 8 a.m. on Friday.

The bill would strip away the ability of counties, municipalities and other political subdivisions to prohibit discrimination against a class of people not already protected by state law.

While lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender West Virginians can now marry in West Virginia, it is still legal to fire or evict a person based on sexual orientation or gender identity in the state. The West Virginia Human Rights Act does not mention sexual orientation or gender identity.
 
Criminalizing Obamacare

The Gazette reports:

In another salvo against the federal Affordable Care Act, some Republicans in West Virginia’s House of Delegates want to make it a crime for state and federal officials to enforce the health-care law.

Under the GOP-backed bill (HB2509), federal employees would face felony charges, while state workers would be arrested for a misdemeanor offense, if they try to administer any federal regulations under the Affordable Care Act. The legislation also declares the federal health-care law “invalid” in West Virginia.

The Gazette seems to think that the bill will not make it through committee. It's amazing to me that it was even put on the committee's agenda.

Another repressive and wasteful measure -- drug testing for welfare recipients

Hoppy Kercheval writes:

The West Virginia Legislature likely will pass a bill this session creating a drug testing program for welfare recipients. One version (HB 2021), which cleared the House Health and Resources Committee last week, requires drug testing for adults receiving TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) if they have a drug conviction or if there is a reasonable suspicion that the individual is on drugs.

If you research this topic, you will find that a lot of money is expended to catch very few offenders. From "What 7 States Discovered After Spending More Than $1 Million Drug Testing Welfare Recipients":

According to state data gathered by ThinkProgress, the seven states with existing programs — Arizona, Kansas, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and Utah — are spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to ferret out very few drug users. The statistics show that applicants actually test positive at a lower rate than the drug use of the general population. The national drug use rate is 9.4 percent. In these states, however, the rate of positive drug tests to total welfare applicants ranges from 0.002 percent to 8.3 percent, but all except one have a rate below 1 percent. Meanwhile, they’ve collectively spent nearly $1 million on the effort, and millions more may have to be spent in coming years.
 
 
Getting rid of needless regulation
 
From the Gazette:

A Republican state lawmaker who owns a heating, ventilation and cooling business in the Eastern Panhandle is pushing a bill that would repeal all state laws that regulate HVAC technicians.

Delegate Eric Householder, R-Berkeley, sponsored the repeal bill and voted for it at a House of Delegates committee meeting last week.

Isn't this a conflict of interest? Local delegate Shawn Fluharty pointed out the obvious:

“Just looking at the bill, it doesn’t pass the smell test,” Fluharty said. “To have somebody to come in here and try to repeal a law about public safety, while they’re going to benefit from the repeal, I think that’s an injustice. We shouldn’t be here for personal gain and put personal profit over the people.”
 
The Gazette notes that Householder was offended by Fluharty's comments.


Add all of this to the right-to-work, prevailing wage, anti-abortion, charter schools, and elimination of permits for concealed weapons legislation -- that's quite a bit of damage and they don't finish until March 14.


Updates (February 27)

on non-discrimination ordinances

The senate majority leader told the AP that they would not take up the bill:

 There's "no way" the West Virginia Senate will consider a proposal to erase local ordinances that protect gay and transgender people from housing and employment discrimination, the second-ranking senator said Thursday.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch Carmichael made the remarks Thursday, a day after a panel in the House of Delegates approved the bill.

The House of Delegates were scheduled to have hearings on the bill this morning, however. 


on repealing regulations on HVAC technicians

This morning's Charleston Gazette reports that an ethics complaint has been filed against Delegate Eric Household who sponsored the bill that would eliminate all regulation of HVAC technicians:

A union worker has filed an ethics complaint against Delegate Eric Householder, R-Berkeley, alleging that Householder’s heating, cooling and ventilation business stands to profit from legislation the GOP lawmaker is pushing through the West Virginia House of Delegates.

Householder’s bill, which does away with all state laws that regulate HVAC technicians, would allow him to gain financially because he could pay lower wages to his workers, according to the complaint filed this week with the state Ethics Commission.

The complaint was filed by Steve Hancock who belongs to the Sheet Metal Workers union in Wheeling.  


-- Reporting on Kasich's visit

Published by waner in Wheeling newspapers · 23/2/2015 11:06:00
Tags: IntelligencerKasich
I think they left something out

Friday's Intelligencer report on Kasich's visit to West Virginia focused on the Ohio governor's campaign for a federal balanced budget amendment. The amendment was not the only thing that Kasich talked about, however. Here's a report from the Charleston Gazette:

Surrounded by Republican legislators who are pushing for West Virginia to pass a “right-to-work” law, Ohio’s Republican governor said last week that a similar move was not necessary in his state.

There is no indication that businesses are staying away from Ohio just because it has not passed a right-to-work law, Gov. John Kasich said. “No, we don’t see that in our state, I don’t have any evidence of it,” Kasich said.

Kasich provided an example:

Kasich said that when a huge energy construction project was considering coming to Ohio, they met with the state Building and Construction Trades Council, which coordinates local unions, to “assure them that that project would be done on time; it would be done in a manner that everybody would be proud of.”

Kasich is certainly no friend of unions - he went after the public sector unions a couple of years ago. In light of that, I think his comments about right-to-work laws are very newsworthy and that's probably the reason why the Charleston Gazette put it on their front page. Here, it doesn't fit their agenda and so it's not even worth a mention. And that's another reason why I call them "newspapers."


--- Another twisted editorial

Published by waner in Wheeling Intelligencer · 21/2/2015 12:13:00
Tags: IntelligencerObamaterrorism
The local editorials about President Obama and his administration usually have similar characteristics: lots of name-calling, twisted logic, and little or no evidence. Friday morning's editorial is all of these and more.
The editorial is in reaction to the President's op-ed piece in Tuesday's Los Angeles Times in which Obama discusses "Our fight against violent extremism." (Obama's op-ed was seen by most news sources as a preview of his address to the White House Summit on Countering Violent Extremism.)

President Obama made a number of points and if you've read his op-ed or saw any of the non-Fox news reports summarizing it, you may have been surprised (then again, if you're a regular reader, you probably weren't surprised) at the description found in yesterday's editorial which criticized the entire op-ed based on just one paragraph (which makes up only 5% of the op-ed). Here's the Obama paragraph:

More broadly, groups like al Qaeda and ISIL exploit the anger that festers when people feel that injustice and corruption leave them with no chance of improving their lives. The world has to offer today's youth something better.

And here is how the editorial begins:

Jobs for Jihadists? Will that be President Barack Obama's new strategy for battling Islamic terrorists? It is a real possibility, in view of Obama's thinking.

Yet Obama apparently believes resources and attention should be diverted from that to provide feel-good programs targeting young Muslims.

"A real possibility"? Is there even the slightest evidence that this is his solution? Of course not. Ignoring Obama's discussion of the causes of terrorism and his sentiment that the world needs to look for solutions (it was, after all a summit on countering violent extremism) the editorial beats this straw man to its nasty end:

What slogans will he devise? "Cash for Kalashnikovs"? "Reform, Not Rockets"? "Just Say No to Beheadings"?

And if this wasn't enough, the editorial concludes by invoking, for its own ends, the memory of Kayla Mueller:

An American who dedicated her life to helping people in the Middle East, especially children, was in the news recently.

Her name was Kayla Mueller.

How pathetic.


--- From around the Web: fossil fuels

Published by waner in fossil fuels · 19/2/2015 09:40:00
Tags: Keystonewaterclimate
Frackcheckwv has two good posts on fossil fuels

A sample from an article on what's currently happening in the oil and gas industries by Duane Nichols:

The fight is tough elsewhere, except in the Marcellus, where the natives are considered “passive” by drillers and the governments with “eyes wide shut” do all that they can to export whatever is saleable.
 
 And Nichols uses the recent train derailment as a starting point in "Clean Water and Dirty Fossil Fuels Do Not Mix."

 Here he is talking about Senator Manchin and the Keystone Pipeline:

Just like all the great tricksters of the past and the present, he and his ilk will frame the debate as the safest of two options, while omitting the third (and ONLY SAFE) option: leave the tar sands in the ground.


Climate change and the military

Our local "newspapers" dismiss the risks to our defenses posed by climate change as mere posturing by the president. Jeff Goodell examines climate change from the military's perspective and then explains why we should be concerned in "The Pentagon & Climate Change: How Deniers Put National Security at Risk" in Rolling Stone:

The leaders of our armed forces know what's coming next – but deniers in Congress are ignoring the warnings.


It continues to get warmer

Think Progress summarizes the latest findings on global warming in "Hottest 12 Months On Record Globally Thanks To Warm January, Reports NASA." 

In January, the planet continued the warming trend that made 2014 the hottest calendar year on record. NASA reports that last month was the second-hottest January on record (after 2007), while the Japan Meteorological Agency ranked it the hottest.


--- WV last in Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index

Published by waner in state of the state · 19/2/2015 08:16:00
Tags: WV
Six years in a row at #50

For the sixth straight year West Virginia finished 50th in the annual Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index released today. According to USA Today:

The 2014 rankings, released Thursday, are based on over 176,000 phone interviews with people in all 50 states. The Index measures how people feel about and experience their daily lives, and looks at their health across five categories: purpose, social, financial, community and physical.

Alaska came in at #1 followed by Hawaii, South Dakota, Wyoming and Montana. Battling WV for last were Kentucky, Indiana, Ohio and Mississippi.

Gallup's explanation of the their index can be found here.




--- Kasich coming to West Virginia!

Published by waner in Ryan Ferns · 17/2/2015 10:12:00
Tags: KasichFerns
From this morning's Intelligencer:

Ohio Gov. John Kasich will visit West Virginia on Thursday as he continues to push for a balanced budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution - and, some speculate, gauge support for a 2016 presidential bid.

Kasich's stop in Charleston comes at the invitation of state Sen. Ryan Ferns, R-Ohio, who hopes West Virginia will join the call for a constitutional convention to propose a federal balanced budget amendment.
 
This is probably how it happened.

Kasich aide: Telephone call for you.

Governor Kasich:  Tell them I'm busy contemplating a run for president.

Aide:  But its Ryan, sir.

Kasich:  Why didn't you say so in the first place?  Of course, put him on.

Ryan Ferns:  Governor, I'd like to personally invite you to a private strategy session with our legislative leaders and then we can have a press conference afterwards.

Kasich:  Excellent. Can I depend on you to get the word out - you know I may be running for president?

Ferns:  Don't worry, sir. Ogden newspapers cover everything I say and do!


--- McKinley and Manchin on Obama's "Authorization for the Use of Military Force"

Published by waner in WV politics · 16/2/2015 17:01:00
Tags: ManchinMcKinleyIsis
Late last week the Obama Administration asked for Congress to authorize a continued fight against ISIL although the document does not allow for “enduring offensive ground combat operations.” As a follow-up, the Charleston Gazette polled our congressional delegation and most of them would not say how they would vote on the authorization. However, Senator Manchin and Representative McKinley, for quite different reasons, said that they would vote against it.

McKinley said that he would be against the authorization because it doesn't go far enough: “I think our military knows what they need to do there, and I don’t think it’s right for government to stipulate how we’re going to combat this war." On the other hand, Manchin is against the authorization because it goes too far:

“We’ve already given 6,600 American lives trying to liberate and help that part of the world; we’ve spent about 2- to 3-trillion dollars,” Manchin said. “Under no circumstances do I believe us getting engaged in a ground war over there is going to change that part of the world. Hasn’t done it yet, and I don’t think it will.

“When you put American troops in there, it’s like throwing gasoline on the fire.”
 
While our local "newspapers" carried the original AP story, they have not yet followed-up on it. They have never met a war they didn't like and probably agree with McKinley's position -- it will be interesting to see how they handle a Manchin vote against authorization given their general unwillingness to criticize the Senator.

While I don't often agree with him, Joe Manchin has always struck me as the consummate politician -- he always seems to know what will play in West Virginia. I think one exception to that generalization is our further involvement in Mideast wars -- something, I believe, a majority of West Virginian's support and something that Manchin has consistently opposed. Maybe Joe knows something I don't know.


--- Teach For America coming to WV?

Published by waner in education · 14/2/2015 16:46:00
Tags: educationcertification
Miners and construction trade unions aren't the only workers the Republican-led WV legislature is going after. Teacher unions appear to be next in line as the legislature considers charter schools and alternate teacher certification bills. Our local "newspapers" seem especially interested in charter schools;  they've published one news report and three editorials/columns this month alone. While bills to allow charter schools in the state have gotten the most coverage, the alternate teacher certification bill would also affect teachers in that it would allow those without education degrees to teach in WV:

CHARLESTON (AP) - West Virginia House lawmakers have approved a bill opening up teacher certification to more people without education degrees.

The push is aimed at allowing programs like Teach For America to start up in the state.

On Tuesday, the Republican-led House of Delegates voted 60-35 in favor of the reform.

Bill proponents said the option would be essential to fill hundreds of teaching vacancies across the state.
Opponents said formal education training prepares teachers for situations they otherwise may not be able to handle.

Some delegates who voted "no" said it'd be more productive to focus on getting raises for teachers, so their pay is more competitive.

The bill now moves to the Senate for consideration.

Would these Teach For America do a good job? Diarist Hillbilly Fairy over at Daily Kos writes:

They haven't studied pedagogy, educational psychology, learned how to make lesson plans, deal with difficult students, etc. Compared to a real teacher who spends at least 4 years in college studying these topics as well as his or her teaching concentration, TFA recruits get 5 weeks of training.

Does WV suffer from a teacher shortage?  No.  If good teachers are leaving because of low salary, why not just pay them what the the state/district would pay Teach For America in additional salary.  (According to the diarist, it's $9000 in Cleveland.)  If it may cost more for untrained teachers, why bother in the first place?  Here's a hint:

This move will only weaken the teachers' union with the threat of hiring non-teachers to fill teacher positions.

The diarist makes a number of additional points - it's worth a look.


--- Your legislature at work 3

Published by waner in WV legislature · 14/2/2015 10:23:00
Tags: wvlegislatureabortioncoalFerns
Miner Safety

Ken Ward, Jr. from the Charleston Gazette describes the free rein given the West Virginia Coal Association in creating legislation:

The proposal, which is making its way through the House (HB 2566) and the Senate (SB 357), would give coal operators a shield against citizen lawsuits over Clean Water Act violations and a long-sought change in the state’s pollution limit for aluminum.

The bill also would remove several longstanding safety protections for West Virginia’s coal miners. It would eliminate a labor-industry panel that reviews underground diesel equipment to ensure that miners are safe from toxic fumes. It would push back, from 500 feet to 1,500 feet, the maximum distances work areas can be from tracks that miners might have to use to escape in an emergency. It would remove language that ensures workers are kept in safe locations during potentially dangerous moves of mining equipment from one work area to another.

Chris Hamilton, who is vice president of the association argues that he would never be in favor of legislation that would “lessen protections for our miners.”

Yeah, right. Cecil Roberts, who is president of the United Mine Workers union, disagrees:

“As long as miners continue to die in West Virginia’s mines,” he said last week, “we need to be looking for ways to strengthen health and safety protections — not gut them.”

I didn't see much about this in our local "newspapers."

Abortion

On the other hand, the locals do cover the various anti-abortion bills. From Thursday's Intelligencer:

A bill banning abortions past 20 weeks of pregnancy was approved Wednesday by the House of Delegates and will now be taken up by the Senate.

The Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act would prohibit abortions past 20 weeks of pregnancy, the time in which advocates of the ban say a fetus can feel pain. After nearly two hours of debate on the House floor, delegates voted 87-12 to pass the bill.

Kaili Joy Gray responds:

West Virginia’s legislature sure is focused on fixing the state’s biggest problems. Like the problem of women having abortions after 20 weeks, which happened all of six times in 2011, and is a constitutionally protected right? Yeah, the state is totally going to fix that.

On Wednesday, the House of Delegates passed a bill, HB 2568, that would ban abortions at 20 weeks because, well, they just think that sounds like a good idea. At 20 weeks, according to the legislators, fetuses can feel pain. According to actual doctors, however, that is completely wrong. The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists sent a letter to West Virginia’s legislature, spelling it out for them, with science and medical facts and everything:

The statement “substantial medical evidence recognizes that an unborn child is capable of experiencing pain by not later than 20 weeks after fertilization” is not accurate.

But what do a bunch of obstetricians and gynecologists know about babies and lady parts and pregnancy anyway, huh?

Senator Ryan Ferns

And then there is Ryan Ferns. State senator Ferns certainly gets a lot of publicity in our local newspapers. Wednesday's edition told us (with a picture of him) "Sen. Ryan Ferns of Wheeling Continues Vaccine Bill Push in Legislature:"

Sen. Ryan Ferns, R-Ohio, said Tuesday his bill had been laid over, meaning a vote had been taken to stop debate on the measure until a later time. He said talk is expected to resume this week.

Just reading the local "newspapers" might give you the impression that Ferns has been very pro-active, especially for a freshman state senator. That's not the impression you get if you read the Charleston papers or, for that matter, google him with "WV legislature."  His bill has received scant attention in Charleston and, for that matter, in any WV media other than Wheeling where it has gotten plenty of coverage. I've spent some time trying to find out more about what happened to and what is the future of  Fern's bill. I can't find any mention of it or, for that matter Ryan Ferns. My hunch is the Ferns, like most freshman senators is relatively insignificant in the scheme of things. For whatever reason, however, someone up here likes him and he getting a lot more publicity than he probably deserves.


--- A WV poll on right-to-work laws

Published by waner in right-to-work law · 10/2/2015 19:57:49
Tags: righttoworkIntelligencer

There’s a new poll of West Virginia’s registered voters by Mark Blankenship Enterprises that says that over 66% of WV’s registered voters support the creation of a right-to-work law in West Virginia. Although I haven’t seen a reference to it in either of our local "newspapers," the poll’s results have gotten wide coverage in WV media.

The majority of online media that I have seen take the poll at face value despite the fact that the poll was commissioned by Americans for Prosperity – West Virginia, the Koch brothers political influence group.  Spokesperson for the poll is Wendy McCuskey, who is state director of AFP West Virginia.  (McCuskey and her Koch group, if you remember, got in trouble prior to the last election when they sent mailers to registered WV voters questioning whether they were actually registered.) Additionally, McCuskey’s background (her previous job was president of the West Virginia Chapter of the Associated Builders and Contractors) also ought to have been mentioned by the media so that their viewers/readers would have the necessary information to decide whether this was indeed an unbiased poll of what West Virginian’s think about right-to-work laws.

The poll may be correct that a majority of West Virginians support right-to-work. Still, I find it appalling that the state’s media do not raise any questions regarding the fact that an avowed anti-union organization sponsored and disseminated the poll.  

I’m sure we will soon read the results of the poll in our local "newspapers" although I’m sure it will not question its credibility.



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