Caputo urges veto of mine bill

March 4, 2015 by Whitney Burdette

Delegate Mike Caputo, D-Marion, has asked Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin to veto the Coal Jobs and Safety Act of 2015.
Caputo, who works with the UMWA, has been a very vocal opponent of the bill, giving several firey speeches on the House floor against the bill. Despite his opposition, Senate Bill 357 passed both chambers and is now being considered by the governor.
Caputo wrote to Tomblin Wednesday, asking him to veto the legislation.
Here’s what he had to say:

Download (PDF, 253KB)


Tomblin spokesman Chris Stadelman said the governor evaluates each bill carefully before making a final decision. He has five days to sign or veto the legislation.

Charter schools & Common Core updates

March 2, 2015 by joelebert

Today is supposed to be the day that the charter schools bill will be voted on. It has been delayed for several days, in part because I’m hearing the entire Republican block is not in full support of the current version of the bill.

Prior to the beginning of today’s floor session, Sen. David Nohe, R-Wood, told me he can’t officially support the bill right now. He said he understands there is an amendment being worked out by Sen. Bob Plymale, D-Wayne, which would allow him to support the bill.

The Senate is expected to actually vote on the charter schools bill today at 5 p.m.

The other thing I’ve been hearing is that both Sen. Donna Boley, R-Pleasants, and Nohe are holding out on the bill because Boley is frustrated with what may happen with Common Core.

According to Sen. Daniel Hall, R-Wyoming, who told me yesterday that there weren’t enough votes to pass the Common Core repeal bill, he will not support the legislation. Hall said wouldn’t support it in “a million years” because he has been hearing from school officials in his district who are opposed to it. Without Hall’s support – and if all Democrats stick together, as is expected – then the bill would likely die.

I’ve also been told by other sources that Hall is not the only Republican against the Common Core bill. This naturally frustrates Boley because she has been pushing the issue for years. The bill, which was discussed in a morning education meeting, has been referred to a subcommittee so the committee can continue discussing other matters.

Democrats have also been telling me they’re going to make speeches calling for a vote on charter schools today – they’re hoping to kill the bill. We shall see what happens.

Howell comments on controversial HB 2881

February 27, 2015 by Whitney Burdette

UPDATE:

Members of the House Government Organization Committee on Friday afternoon voted to suspend HB 2881 indefinitely, effectively killing the bill.

ORIGINAL POST:

Delegate Gary Howell, R-Mineral, and chairman of the House Government Organization Committee, said he’s really not all that surprised House Bill 2881 has gotten a lot of attention.

“LGB community supported hate groups, people who hate Christians and hate Christian values … some of the members received death threats,” Howell said. “They have skewed what this bill does. There are parts of the code that actually allows to give special preference to KKK and other hate groups. What this bill does is makes it uniform across the state so its up to the Legislature to make those changes. What you end up having is yes, there would be removal of some anti-discrimination laws but would also prevent others, including age discrimination laws, from being implemented in cities.”

After the bill, called the West Virginia Intrastate Commerce Improvement Act, was moved from committee and to the full House, some members of the committee received an email labeling the Legislature as “enemies of humanity.”

“The West Virginia House has wilfully (sic) violated human rights and must be considered a terrorist group,” the email reads.

“We kill all terrorists.”

Howell said he supports the concept of an Employment and Housing Nondiscrimination bill, similar to ones Democrats have tried and failed to advance in recent years. But he said such policies should be at the behest of the Legislature, not individual municipalities.

“You shouldn’t have a hodge-podge,” he said. “I do agree the title is misleading at best,  but it is good for businesses to have a uniform set of laws across the state so they know.”

Howell said he believes no one should face discrimination, but he doesn’t think protections should be granted to one group over another.

“I support the concept of nondiscrimination against anybody,” he said. “I sometimes wonder why we need to put special classes of people. We basically should come in and say don’t discriminate against anyone, period. There shouldn’t be discrimination. I don’t think anyone should have a special place. Everyone should be protected equally.”

Howell said there should be a law banning discrimination in regards to housing.

“You shouldn’t say this group is different so we’ll make sure they’re protected but this other group won’t be protected,” he said. “No person should be discriminated against period.”

Although the bill has drawn national attention and emotional testimony from witnesses, it may not see a vote in the House.

“It came out to the floor and they decided because they wanted to make sure everybody was heard, it was recommitted to committee,” Howell said. “If we do get to it, it probably wouldn’t be until Sunday. If we don’t get to it Sunday, it would be dead.”

“We have a pretty full schedule right now.”

Follow along: Coverage of WV public hearing on nondiscrimination ordinances

February 26, 2015 by Brad McElhinny

Follow along for coverage of the 8 a.m. Friday public hearing on “The West Virginia Intrastate Commerce Improvement Act,” which would prohibit any local nondiscrimination ordinances stricter than state law. West Virginia doesn’t include gay and transgender housing and employment protections.

Live Blog WV public hearing on nondiscrimination ordinances
 

Arvon issues statement on commerce bill

February 26, 2015 by Whitney Burdette

Yesterday, the House Government Organization Committee approved House Bill 2881, known as the West Virginia Intrastate Commerce Improvement Act. I wrote about it here.

LGBT activists and others are concerned because the bill nullifies local nondiscrimination ordinances that don’t comport with state law. Currently, LGBT is the only class of people not protected in regards to fair housing or employment. The housing portion of state law does not include an age protection in an effort to provide  seniors-only housing. The same is true at the federal level.

Although LGBT groups are upset, Delegate Lynne Arvon, R-Raleigh, who sponsored the bill, says language of the bill doesn’t discriminate against those residents.

She issued the following statement today:

The West Virginia Intrastate Commerce Improvement Act (H.B. 2881) aids citizens and businesses throughout the State of West Virginia by bringing uniformity and predictability to nondiscrimination laws and obligations throughout the state.  Further, the legislation does not contain language that in anyway demonstrates discrimination against any individual or class of people.  This legislation is merely an opportunity to bring uniformity across the State of West Virginia, so that citizens and businesses are not subject to arbitrary ordinances that vary from municipality to municipality.

Members of my community brought this concern to me and requested that I bring this forward to be examined at the state-level.  Let me be clear, I embrace the opinions and views of all West Virginians, and unlike those that are waging obscene attacks and threats of violence against me and my colleagues, I will be unwavering in my respect for all beliefs regardless if we agree or not.

A public hearing on the legislation is scheduled for 8 a.m. Friday.

Gov. Tomblin issues first vetoes of session

February 24, 2015 by joelebert
GOVERNOR TOMBLIN VETOES HB2201 AND SB335, CITING TECHNICAL ERRORS
 CHARLESTON, W.Va. (February 24, 2014) – Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin today vetoed House Bill 2201 related to certain net metering and interconnection rules and standards: 

“Due to a number of technical issues in the bill, I am unable to sign House Bill 2201 into law. I encourage the Legislature to re-examine this piece of legislation and correct the technical issues outlined in my veto message. I look forward to reviewing its changes in final form.”

Gov. Tomblin today also vetoed SB335, creating access to Opioid Antagonists Act:

“During my State of the State address this January, I stressed the importance of providing opioid antagonists to our state’s first responders and families facing drug abuse as we work to decrease the negative effects of drug abuse in our state. I’m grateful for the overwhelming bipartisan support this legislation has received in both houses; however as a result of several technical issues in this bill, I must veto Senate Bill 335.

These errors can be easily fixed, and I urge the Legislature to return this critical piece of legislation to my desk for final review.”

Senate Judiciary to take up significant bills today

February 24, 2015 by joelebert

The Senate Judiciary Committee just posted its agenda for the day and they are taking up three of their top priorities today.

On the agenda are SB 423, the aboveground storage tank act; SB 411, the asbestos bill; and SB 541, which will make some serious changes to the state’s election laws.

The three bills are among the top 11 bills Republicans are seeking to send through the Judiciary Committee before next week’s crossover day. Here is a list I obtained from Sen. Mitch Carmichael yesterday.

This indicates what the Senate’s main priorities will be for the next week:

  1. Asbestos Reform – SB 411
  2. Tank Bill Reform – SB 423
  3. Consumer Credit Act – SB 542
  4. Campaign Finance Act – SB 541
  5. Constitutional Carry – SB 347 (passed Judiciary yesterday)
  6. Learned Intermediary – 377
  7. Franchise bill – SB 453
  8. Right to Work – 307
  9. Outside counsel bill – SB 291
  10. Insurance information – SB 248
  11. Hunting – SB 278

Carmichael told me yesterday that right to work will not actually be happening, in either chamber. But today I’m hearing from a Democratic source that it will be advanced. We shall see what happens in the coming days.

Gun rights group announces heroes, goats of SB 347

February 24, 2015 by joelebert

Gun advocates kept a very close eye on yesterday’s Senate Judiciary Committee meeting. There were representatives from the National Rifle Association, the Citizens Defense League and the National Association for Gun Rights, a group which made countless robocalls to senators on the Judiciary Committee last week. One of the two NAGR reps filmed the entire committee meeting on a video camera.

Last night, the West Virginia Citizens Defense League sent out an email to its members.

Here it is:

Constitutional Carry on the Move! 
Today, SB347, after extensive argument, passed the Senate Judiciary Committee.  Many members were listening, jaws agape, to the committee debate.  Some of the highlights:Villains:

Rodney Miller, President of the Sheriff’s association argued extensively against the free exercise of your rights, citing sheriff’s slush funds, training, and of course, officer safety.  He could not answer, however, how contacts with the public would be any different, because law-enforcement presumes everyone to be armed until proven otherwise.  He then went on to allege that in the recent self-defense shooting in Pinch, WV, had the pharmacist not had training, he would have probably killed everyone.  He further alleged that, of people carrying guns, only those who get permits are law abiding, and that anyone who wishes to carry without a permit must be a criminal.  Sheriff Miller also admitted that Sheriff’s departments harass people legally open carrying.

I’d say the anti-gunner that took the cake would be Sheriff Brady (ironically coincidental name, no relation to Sara Brady, I’m sure) from Randolph County.  Sheriff Brady insulted all West Virginians, claiming that his parents taught him responsibility that your parents did not teach you, or alternately, you do not teach your children.  He of course argued about officer safety and money too, but his commentary about how his parents were great, and well, the rest of you shouldn’t carry guns because your parents don’t teach responsiblity… well… Yeah.  I’ll let you decide how you feel about that.

Heroes:

We had some liberty-minded Senators really step up to the plate today, too.

Senator Leonhart (R-Monongalia) stepped up three separate times (that I counted) in defense of your rights.

Senator Karnes (R-Upshur) did likewise, and (sort of) jokingly indicated that ragingly anti-gun Mayor or Charleston, Danny Jones’ influence might not be that strong with the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Senator Ed Gaunch (R-Kanawha) several times left Sheriff Brady and the Sheriff’s Association President Rodney Miller at a loss for answers to basic logical questions.  When asked what training was required for open carry (there is no requirement) and how putting a coat over a handgun makes a difference, Miller could not provide a rational response.

Senator Ryan Ferns (R-Ohio) set up NRA-ILA lobbyist Dan Carey with a couple of great questions, which Dan hit out of the park.

NRA-ILA lobbyist Dan Carey was present at the meeting, and did an outstanding job of arguing in favor of Constitutional Carry.  Dan faced some rather underhanded questions during the debate, and stood strong with class.

Delegate Josh Nelson (R-Boone) came across the building from the House of Delegates and provided a personal and relevant story in support of the right to bear arms.  He also stood up well to questions, which sounded to me more like a  hostile cross-examination at a trial than a Senate hearing.  Delegate Nelson kept his cool and responded logically and in great form.

Net result:  Despite the objections of the Sheriff’s Association,  SB347 passed the Senate Judiciary Committee in great shape. 

At the end of the email the CDL encourages the newsletter recipients to contact their senator to encourage them to support Senate Bill 347. The newsletter also further encourages gun advocates.

“When you have done that, contact your county Sheriff’s office, and ask if the Sherriff’s association truly represents their views on liberty.  If so, you might start spreading the word that you need a new Sheriff.  Also, consider a non-answer as a “yes, the Sheriff’s Association represents me and my anti-gun views.”

Republicans advancing medical weed, campaign contributions changes, consumer protection rollback, end of racing subsidy

February 23, 2015 by joelebert

Today is the 41st day of the Legislature and that means it’s the last day for bill introduction in the Senate. Tomorrow will be the last day to introduce bills in the House.

A quick look at some of the more interesting bills set to be introduced in the Senate today.

Senate Bill 541 – Relating to regulation and control of elections

This one is a whopper. The bill is being sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Mitch Carmichael and it co-sponsored by Craig Blair and Daniel Hall.

This is a 48-page bill and it includes a lot of changes to campaign contributions and reporting. It’s going to take some time to see what the heck this bill does but I’ll likely be looking into it more today or tomorrow. It appears that it will remove some current caps on campaign contributions. It also appears to place some limitations on donations to candidates from state parties.

Senate Bill 542 – Reforming provisions of Consumer Credit and Protection Act relating to debt collections

Sponsored by Daniel Hall, co-sponsored by Mitch Carmichael, Mike Hall, Ed Gaunch and Charlie Trump, this bill would do a number of things. One element would allow debt collectors to call people between 8 a.m. and 9 p.m. The bill would further allow the debt to collector to contact anyone to find out the debtor’s contact information.

This is a complicated bill and there are several other aspects to it so I’ll be getting more info on this later.

Senate Bill 546 – Creating Compassionate Use Act for Medical Cannabis

Sponsored by Mitch Carmichael, this bill would allow registered qualifying patients and designated caregivers to possess six ounces of usable marijuana, 12 mature marijuana plants and 12 seedlings. All plants and seedlings must be “kept in an enclosed, locked facility, unless they are being transported to a permissible location.”

Any patients and caregivers are required to obtain registration cards.

The 47-page bill includes an explanation of the use of medical marihuana – which is how it is spelled in the legislation – in the country today. It also includes a section outlining where marijuana would not be allowed such as on school grounds or in any correctional facility. It also prohibits the use of marijuana by anyone that does not “have a serious or debilitating medical condition.”

Senate Bill 547 – Creating WV Greyhound Racing Cessation Program

Sponsored by Ron Stollings and co-sponsored by Daniel Hall, the purpose of the bill is to transfer $37.5 million into the West Virginia Greyhound Racing Cessation Fund. According to the legislation, “the Legislature finds it is in the best interest of the State of West Virginia and the West Virginia greyhound racing entities to cease greyhound racing in West Virginia and to compensate the West Virginia greyhound racing entities for their investment in West Virginia greyhound racing.”

The greyhound buyout would not be an immediate payment though. It would come over a three year period, which allows the state to break it up into three $12.5 million payments.

This bill comes after a study by New Jersey-based Spectrum Gaming Group, found that taxpayer-funded subsidies and injuries to greyhounds have increased in recent years, despite declines in attendance and revenue. The Spectrum study found several areas of concern, including the revelation that Kansas residents received more in purse awards from the Wheeling Island Casino and Racetrack, in terms of greyhound races, than the amount awarded to West Virginians.

“Our review of purse awards shows that for every dollar awarded to West Virginia resident greyhound owners, nearly two dollars are awarded to greyhound owners who live out of state,” the report said.

Senate Bill 553 – Establishing English as official state language

Sponsored by Dave Sypolt, the bill requires all official business to be conducted in English.

If made into law, West Virginia would join 31 other states, including Virginia and Kentucky, that designate English as the the official language. According to U.S. English Inc, which describes itself as “the nation’s oldest, largest citizens’ action group dedicated to preserving the unifying role of the English language in the United States,” the last state to make English its official language was Oklahoma in 2010.

There are a host of other noteworthy bills but there isn’t much time to delve into those this morning.

Such bills include one that would allow bear hunting with outfitters (SB 569); another that would require legislative approval for Medicaid expansion (SB 567). A bill beings sponsored by Daniel Hall and Jeff Kessler pertains to racetrack video lottery and table games (SB 563) and one by Dave Sypolt would establish procedures for body mass index screening in schools (SB 544).

One final, and most likely very important bill is SB 548. Sponsored by Sen. Craig Blair, co-sponsored by Robert Karnes and Kent Leonhardt, the bill would change the procedure for filling U.S. Senator vacancies. In light of the idea that current West Virginia U.S. Senator Joe Manchin might step down to come back to serve as governor this will probably be an important one to follow.

Business, energy lobbyists spend big

February 23, 2015 by Whitney Burdette

The West Virginia Ethics Committee on Monday released its lobbyist spending report for the last quarter of 2014.

Although dozens of lobbyists reported spending nothing between September and December, 29 reported expenditures of $1,000 or more. Of those, 14 are associated with the energy sector.

Ronald Hayhurst, who lobbies on behalf of the Royalty Owners Association, and the Coal Association’s Chris Hamilton spent the most of lobbyists associated with energy. According to the report, Hayhurst spent $9,250 while Hamilton spent $8,816.56. Hayhurst’s total is second only to that of Rebecca Randolph of the Manufacturer’s Association. She spent $9,987.62

Coal Association President Bill Raney spent $2,004.75 in the last quarter.

Money was spent in the oil and natural gas sector, as well. According to the report, more than $4,200 was spent by lobbyists for the Independent Oil and Gas Association, although one lobbyist, Marc Harman, also works for other entities. Corky DeMarco, director of the West Virginia Oil and Natural Gas Association, spent $1,175.68.

Other organizations spending $1,000 or more include the West Virginia Chamber of Commerce, West Virginia Racing Association, AARP, Norfolk Southern and West Virginia Association for Justice.

On the flip side, 13 lobbyists registered through the end of 2014 spent less than $100. John Canfield, a lobbyist for State Farm who didn’t register for 2015, spent $12.50. Kasey Russel who lobbied on behalf of Connecting Communities, spent $15. She also isn’t registered for 2015.

West Virginia Chamber of Commerce President Steve Roberts spent $13.14, but Tom Boggs and Brian Dayton from the Chamber spent $1,255.06 and $1,623.40, respectively.

For more information about lobbyists, visit the Ethics Commission webiste.