Legislative update for week of Jan. 24 – Jan. 29
I’m writing this on Friday, Jan. 29 and we are 16 days into the legislative session. We have 19 committees in the House of Delegates, and hundreds of bills are working their way through the process.
I am on the Finance Committee, the Roads and Transportation Committee, and I am the vice chairman of the Political Subdivisions Committee. By the end of the 60-day session, there will have been around 2,000 bills introduced, and we will pass around 200 of them. I usually update you on the ones that pass, that are high profile, or of special interest to our area.
On Wednesday, Jan. 27, we passed legislation to be more responsible with your money. House Bill 4005 repeals the prevailing hourly wage requirements for state funded projects. This will help ensure that taxpayer money goes further to complete needed projects, like road repair jobs, repairs to buildings owned by the city or county, or building community playgrounds for kids etc. I also believe that it will make it easier for local businesses to compete for work in our community, and to hire local workers, because jobs can be bid based on skill and experience rather than artificially inflated government mandated figures. We debated this issue on the House floor for over two hours and that debate may continue. I voted yes for the reasons stated above.
House Bill 4007 passed easily; it requires by law that any West Virginia Attorney General follow a procedure that is open and transparent when hiring attorneys for special cases. This will help ensure that anyone hired does not have a conflict of interest. I voted yes.
We also passed a bill HB 2130 to enhance the penalty for assault or battery on law enforcement officers, and HB 2800 which protects law enforcement officer’s personal information. With recent violent attacks on police officers I thought that these were important measures. I voted yes.
Of local interest, I was just informed that a bill known as Sarah Nott’s Law, HB2826 has been placed on the Judiciary Committee agenda for Monday, Feb. 1. I introduced this bill at the request of Sarah’s parents as a result of a tragic car crash that took her life. The crash occurred in the Gallipolis Ferry area on Route 2.
If passed, the law would, in some instances, require the Department of Highways to clearly mark “no parking” areas on the state right-of-way where a dangerous situation exists. I think the bill has a very good chance to pass, but many things can happen to derail it at any point. Remember, to become law, with very few exceptions, a bill has to pass at least one committee in the chamber in which it originates; in this case the House of Delegates. Then it will have to pass a vote of the entire body in the House chamber. It would then go to a committee in the state Senate, and then to the Senate chamber for passage. If all of that occurs we need the governor’s signature and it becomes law.
This has been an unimaginable hardship on this family. Please help me pray for them and that some good may come from their loss.
I have been very happy to have many “pages” from the schools in our community. Pages are students who visit us at the Capitol to help us during the floor session in the House Chambers; they get to experience part of the legislative process. I have had many more than any other delegate, and all of them have been wonderful kids. The page directors have been very complimentary of them. I have been told that they have all the applicants they can handle for this session. I will make sure to get applications to the schools again next year. Home-school students are also welcome to participate.
Legislative update for week of Jan. 31 – Feb. 5:
Of local interest in the West Virginia State Legislature this week is that House Bill 2826, “Sarah Nott’s” law passed out of the House Judiciary Committee on Monday, Feb. 1. I introduced this bill at the request of Sarah’s parents following a terrible car crash that caused her death. The bill relates to marking “No Parking” zones in areas that block motorist’s view when pulling out of certain driveways. I have had a lot of local support for this bill, including a letter from Mason County Sheriff Greg Powers that helped move the bill in committee. Barring complications the bill will now come to the House floor for a vote before going to the state Senate for consideration.
Other legislation that passed the House of Delegates this week was administrative in nature including moving money around to pay immediate expenses of the state, and a few to make adjustments to some professional boards.
The big issue of the week was passage of SB 1, “The Workplace Freedom Act”; this is an important positive change to help attract good paying jobs to West Virginia, and our region in particular. The bill originated in, and passed, the Senate before coming to the House. It now goes to the governor to be signed or vetoed. He is expected to veto it; his veto can be overridden by a simple majority.
Legislation of this type has also been commonly called “Right to Work” and it allows people to work without having to pay union dues, or fees, as a condition of employment. I have lived, and researched this issue and I recognize the history of unions, and the serious problems in the work environment that they have led the way to help correct. As a result, we have regulations and government agencies to make sure that working environments are safe.
This legislation includes assurances that workers can still form unions, join unions and collectively bargain.
The bill does not require the union to represent non-members. At least two rulings from the US Supreme Court, Consolidate vs. NLRB 305 US 197 and Retail v Dry Lion 396 US 17, confirm that fact.
Legislation of this type has proven to be positive in other states; 25 currently have right to work laws. Michigan and Indiana recently increased jobs, including union jobs. Indiana was able to attract a major car manufacturer and in Michigan, Vincent Vernuccio, of the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, said in an interview on The State Journal Decision Makers interview dated 1-24-16 that, since 2012 when Michigan adopted Right to Work that state’s unemployment dropped by 10 percent … presently at 5 percent.
In West Virginia, those results would mean many more jobs, giving people the ability to provide for their families. The tax base would increase and allow us to build roads, care for senior citizens and veterans, work on solving the drug problem, provide pay raises to under paid state employees, and all the rest. From 1990 to 2014, employment in right to work states grew at more than twice the rate compared to non-right to work states. Additionally, I personally know people who have gone to Southern “right to work” states to find jobs and grow their businesses.
We have an opportunity to get West Virginia “on the list” when businesses are considering where to locate or expand. Currently, we are simply overlooked. I know this is true also because I have heard it myself. Of course, no business is going to make such a public statement because they do not want the backlash.
New business means opportunities for everyone to do better. This is real economic development and it means that people will be able to provide for their families. It also means that our kids will have the option to stay in West Virginia and make a good living.
We simply cannot continue to do the same things and expect different results. Everyone realizes this is not going to happen overnight, but we can and will do much better; this is absolutely a positive change for West Virginia. I voted yes for all of the reason stated above.
We in the House have had a lot of great help from students in the 14th District. They are always very polite and smart; the directors of the Page Program often tell me how great they are.
I realize that I cannot make everyone happy all of the time but I make decisions that evidence shows will be best for all West Virginians. Please pray for me, and for my fellow legislators, as we work our way through a difficult time.
Editor’s note: All elected officials, as well as concerned citizens, are encouraged and invited to submit editorial pieces to the Point Pleasant Register for publication consideration. Submissions can be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org or dropped off at the Register office located at 200 Main Street.