What more could go wrong?

By Kevin Fooce - Contributing Columnist

HB 2615 Small Business Capital Act is a type of financing for small businesses that has really started to take off over the last 10 years.

It can help create and expand small business in our state. The law does have areas of concern, such as limiting investments of $10,000 per individual. While this can reduce the risk for the investor, it will make it much more costly to provide the services needed for larger startups. The bill is a no brainer for helping our business and was supported by both Democrats and Republicans.

HB 3019 requires the English language be used for virtually all state business. Great idea, but why do this when they will not require workers on state, taxpayer funded construction projects to be American Citizens or legal workers?

HB 4228 UBER Bill : Thanks to the outpouring of support by the people of West Virginia and utter disbelief when our legislators voted this down last year, it came back and they passed it this year. The voters had to prove they would seek vengeance on the legislators if they did not pass it this year. Although it may not be a huge employer for our state, it has the capacity to help many of our disabled and elderly citizens who no longer drive but need to get to the store or doctor. We can thank the citizens for forcing this one to pass.

HB 4014 removal of Common Core is a Del. Jim Butler-sponsored bill. We all agree on the need for standards that will benefit our students and state, but this uses the same standards that were created just last year as a base to accomplish this. This duplicity proves the original requirements showed merit.

But this bill also creates a panel of four people consisting of two for English and two for math who will be chosen by the speaker of the House and Senate president. They will then go through the current set of standards created by the state Board of Education last year and remove, edit or add anything they feel is needed.

It will then become law without anyone else’s input. They get the final say.

Just two people will then have the sole power to write into these standards anything they wish. The law does not specify the length of time they will remain on this board. Are they there for life or until the next speaker of the House or president of the Senate comes along? What if they write something our politicians do not like? There is no removal process. What happens if these two leadership positions change, and we get a new set of people wishing to impose their will on these standards?

The leadership has changed several times in the last 10 years. This bill still requires testing but will require the state Board of Education in creating the new assessment system. It’s complicated and will cost a lot of tax dollars to develop this program.

HB 4640 Home school tax credit: This bill allows a tax credit of 50 percent of what it costs a public school to educate a child. This will create an additional huge hole in our state budget. We have several thousand homeschoolers in our state who now use school-based assets. This bill could cost the state in excess of $10 million over 10 years. Should we not allow a tax credit for people sending their child to private schools or people who have no child at all if this is allowed to stand? This creates a slippery slope. The reason we pay tax for free public schools, after all, is to benefit society as a whole.

HB 4006 Right to Work can prevent anyone from paying fees for representation in employment matters, training benefits, safety, referrals, etc., to a labor organization while still requiring the organization to represent and provide benefits to said person. Labor organizations work for retired workers’ pension and health care benefits and fight the import dumping which has closed many manufacturing plants in our country. “Right to Work” still passed with much opposition and public outcry.

HB 4005, the repeal of prevailing wage, passed with all Democrats voting against it and the governor’s veto. It drastically cuts wages for construction workers on state-funded building projects. This bill reduces the wages of between 600 and 800 Mason County workers and their families. It negatively affects local businesses by reducing income for local families to spend.

According to estimates, this will cost our county over $12 million in lost wages during a single year. An amendment to the bill was blocked which would require U.S. citizenship before being employed on state funded projects. All of local delegates and senators voted in favor of this bill.

HB 4352, selling W.Va. state hospitals (Lakin hospital) was moved to study. It may be worth noting this was talked about during the past year several times by the majority party in the statehouse. We fear it will be back next year.

The Speaker of the House requested state agencies to recommend ways to reduce budgets for this upcoming year. Several ideas have been passed around, including the closing of our county’s only state park, Tu-Endie-Wei. Several majority leaders are talking about cutting other items such as fairs and festivals, Meals on Wheels, food banks etc. We must keep an eye on these types of cuts.

Another concern of mine is the “Fix our WV Roads” project. Sen. Daniel Hall said in an article with Government Technology, “Our state Road Department does not have the capacity or ability to fix our roads even with an unlimited budget.” This concerns me because I believe our workers do have the ability. They just need proper management and funding.

One of the largest tax increases in our state history has recently been labeled a “reduction in taxes.” HB 2704 may decrease part of your sales tax, but it is going to add a lot of other services that are not taxed now. It is a bad bill all around. With hope it will get killed and not simply tabled to come back next year.

Speaking of bad bills, HB 2960 will allow parents to exempt students from emergency drills at school. What happens when a child does not know what to do in a real emergency situation? You can imagine who sponsored this bill and voted in favor.

I plan to write another summary at the end of this session. What more could go wrong?

By Kevin Fooce

Contributing Columnist