The WV Legislature’s Motto- Our Job Won’t Be Done Until We’re #50

The running joke in WV for as long as I have lived was “At least we’re not Kentucky.” That joke is soon going no longer going to work as the WV legislature is in session, and man has it been a total wingnut shitshow. First up, right to work:

The West Virginia State House narrowly passed a right-to-work bill on Thursday, setting the state up to become the country’s 26th that doesn’t require employees to pay dues to their unions — a measure that has hobbled organized labor elsewhere.

The bill had been fast-tracked through the legislature’s two-month session, passing through committee hearings, floor debate, and final votes in a span of three weeks — amid protest rallies and furious lobbying by unions and their allies — in order to leave enough time for the legislature to override an anticipated veto by Democratic Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin. It passed by a vote of 54-46.

The passage of the Establishing West Virginia Workplace Freedom Act comes two years after Republicans took back the state House for the first time since 1928, and days after the state’s Supreme Court handed control of the evenly divided Senate to Republicans as well. The bill’s main sponsor is Republican Senate President Bill Cole, who has declared a run to replace Tomblin.

The way they took over the Senate was super special:

Senator Daniel Hall has left the Democratic Party, flipping the West Virginia Legislature entirely into the hands of the GOP, according to a source in the state’s Republican Party office.

The party affiliation change comes after a deadlock in the state Senate where Republicans and Democrats each had 17 members as a result of Tuesday’s election.

Why would he switch? Here’s the payoff:

Sen. Daniel J. Hall, R-Wyoming, is resigning from the WV Legislature to accept a job as a state liaison with the National Rifle Association, according to a news release from the WV Senate.

A guy is elected as a Democrat, switches to Republican, and then they jam through Right to Work. WHEEE. Up next on our new legislatures agenda is concealed carry:

For a second straight year, West Virginia lawmakers have taken up a bill to allow people to carry concealed handguns without obtaining permits.

House Judiciary Committee members took up the bill (HB 4145) Wednesday morning, shortly after an early public hearing where proponents called the current $100 fee for five-year conceal-carry permits an unreasonable tax on their right to bear arms, while others said allowing people to carry guns without training or background checks endangers police and public safety.

This, of course, means that we now have no way of knowing who is packing heat and whether or not they know what they are doing with it:

The West Virginia Sheriff’s Association is opposed to the legislation, but Executive Director Rodney Miller said realistically he believed it would win approval. Miller and his organizations have raised questions about the measure since it first appeared at the Capitol last year. He said since then changes have been made which make it at least more acceptable to law enforcement.

“We feel it would be more productive if we were able to limit the permitless carry to West Virginia residents,” said Miller on Metronews Talkline. “Historically, a lot of the problems for law enforcement officers across the state are drug traffickers that come into the state.”

Supporters balk at the cost of a permit and the training now required to carry a firearm concealed. Groups supporting the bill call the permits a “tax on a Constitutional right.”

“If they want to take out the fees, so be it. It’s more about the training,” said Miller. “We believe the training is paramount. Someone really needs to know what happens on the business end of that gun. It’s not a piece of jewelry and it’s not an adornment. We agree with the NRA and their training presets.”

However, doing away with the permit means doing away with the training requirement as well. The bill, as written, would allow anyone over the age of 21 to carry a concealed firearm or deadly weapon without a permit. There would still be a requirement of a permit for those between the ages of 18 and 21.

Meanwhile, we are facing large budget shortfalls, including a large gap in the Public Employee’s Insurance Agency (PEIA), in large part due to dwindling tax collection from coal and natural gas, but our intrepid legislature has a plan to deal with that. They want to pull an Indiana and kill our small but vibrant tourism industry:

The same day a pro-business coalition was announced to oppose a bill that claims to “restore” religious freedom in West Virginia, the House Judiciary Committee approved the bill.

The 16-9 vote wasn’t strictly along party lines. Republicans J.B. McCuskey of Kanawha County and Ryan Weld of Brooke voted against it. Democrats Justin Marcum of Mingo County and Steven Shaffer of Preston voted for it.

The West Virginia Religious Freedom Restoration Act has resulted in fierce opposition from civil rights advocates over the last several days.

Businesses and organizations that spoke out against the bill as part of the pro-business coalition, Opportunity West Virginia, include the West Virginia Cable Telecommunications Association, AT&T, Embassy Suites, Charleston Marriott Town Center, and Generation West Virginia.

“This movement reinforces the business community’s commitment to West Virginia and its people,” Jill Rice, spokeswoman for Opportunity West Virginia, said in a statement. “At the end of the day, legislation that would result in discrimination against individuals from any background sends a message that our state is not open for business.”

The bill codifies a legal process for determining whether a person’s religious beliefs are being violated, and whether a “compelling interest” of the state overrides their concerns. Because those who think their beliefs are being violated could argue in court that local nondiscrimination ordinances, among other civil rights laws, violate their religious beliefs, civil rights advocates fear that the law could be used to discriminate against the LGBT population, among other historically-discriminated against groups.

In the House Judiciary Committee meeting Wednesday, lawmakers heard from Dr. Derek Harman, a Logan physician who worried parents would attempt to refuse to vaccinate their children; Kellie Fiedorek, an attorney for the conservative Alliance Defending Freedom who told lawmakers the law has not been used to justify any criminal behavior, as some have feared; and Andrew Schneider, executive director of the LGBT rights group Fairness West Virginia.

In an interview, Schneider said, “I often hear about businesses not wanting to serve the LGBT population.”

“What they’re dreaming of are countries like Iran and Saudi Arabia which legalize discrimination in the way they are trying to emulate with this bill,” he said. “I don’t think those are countries we want to emulate.”

While some have argued the law is not an effort to target civil rights, an amendment by Delegate Barbara Fleischauer, D-Monongalia, that would have clarified the law could not be construed to permit discrimination based on sexual orientation was ruled not germane to the bill by the committee chairman, Delegate John Shott, R- Mercer.

There was some good news for the state, and that is that WVU was just granted R1 status, meaning it is in the top tier of academic institutions in the nation. But don’t celebrate too much, our legislature’s work isn’t done:

State lawmakers who’ve previously pushed for repealing West Virginia’s math and English language arts K-12 education standards have filed another bill to do so, this one with House Education Committee Chairman Paul Espinosa and House Majority Leader Daryl Cowles as co-sponsors.

House Bill 4014, which Espinosa called a “starting point” that could see changes, currently would mandate that the state revert back to its pre-Common Core standards next school year and would require statewide standardized tests next school year to be aligned to those old standards. The state currently uses Common Core-aligned Smarter Balanced tests.

There have been all sorts of shenanigans with the Board of Education for the past several years involving Manchin’s wife, some clown named Linger who basically inserted a bunch of climate change denialism, and so on, so who knows what the hell is going to happen with this.

And while they have been doing all of this, our legislature has been acting like the Politburo, demanding extreme secrecy and denying accountability and transparency. This is just a special example of the kind of people we are dealing with:

In the middle of Wednesday morning’s meeting of the House Judiciary Committee, Delegate John Shott, the chairman, made an announcement.

The committee had just passed its first bill of the morning, and was about to begin discussion of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, one of the most controversial bills of the session.

Video and photography is not permitted, Shott told the room, except by credentialed members of the media. Anyone else who wanted to photograph or record the public meeting, for whatever reason, was out of luck.

It was not the first time Shott, R-Mercer, has made the announcement. He made similar announcements last week before public hearings in the House chamber on the religious freedom bill and a right-to-work bill.

“It’s just always been a rule, I’ve heard it repeated numerous times,” Shott said. “For as long as I know.”

Others, with long histories in the House, said otherwise.

The 29 pages of written rules for the House of Delegates do not ban photography by anyone.

Delegate Tim Miley, D-Harrison, a Judiciary chairman prior to Shott, said he could remember no such prohibition. Joe Altizer, the longtime chief counsel for the committee and current minority counsel, also said he could remember no ban on photography.

So basically, for the first time in a long time, Republicans are running the state, and they are working hard to do to the state what George Bush did to the country. And this being West Virginia, it will be like this for a long, long time.

48 replies
  1. 1

    “you’ll never take us alive!”
    -New Mexico Legislature, where they meet for 30 days to limit the damage that can be done in even years

  2. 2
    Baud says:

    Our Job Won’t Be Done Until We’re #50

    It’s a competitive race. Good luck.

  3. 3
    Mike in NC says:

    So, Governor Earl Ray. Not a serial killer?

  4. 4
    NotMax says:

    Reversing progress is Job 1.

  5. 5
    NobodySpecial says:

    You act surprised.

  6. 6
    Tom Q says:

    I’d be interested to know how many miners voted Republican for “tribal” reasons, and never imagined something like this being done to them.

  7. 7
    dr. bloor says:

    West By God Virginia, indeed.

  8. 8
    Ella in New Mexico says:

    The WV Legislature’s Motto- Our Job Won’t Be Done Until We’re #50

    @PhoenixRising: Yep.

    Sadly, no matter what WV does, New Mexico stubbornly refuses to relenquish #50. But you’re welcome to try for #49.

  9. 9
    dr. bloor says:

    @Tom Q: I’d feel better if there was a realistic chance that (a) they’ll exhibit an awareness of what’s being done to them, and (b) figure out who’s doing it. Chances of (a) are slim, of (b), nonexistent.

  10. 10
    amk says:

    pretty long post for cole.

  11. 11
    Miss Bianca says:

    I am so, so sorry to hear it. Not surprised, but sorry. This is what the RWNJs would love to do in Colorado. Fortunately, there are enough pot-smoking hippies (make that pot-smoking lefty-libertarians) in our electorate that it hasn’t happened yet, but the threat is always imminent…

  12. 12
    amk says:

    according to seiu chief/spokesperson/whatev, 2/3rd of their union members think donald dreck is teh awesome. so, there is that.

  13. 13
    beltane says:

    In 20 years time or less, all 50 states will be vying for that coveted #50 slot. Considering it’s a presidential election year, I’m feeling awfully shitty about this country’s future.

  14. 14
    WereBear says:

    This sucks and blows.

  15. 15
    greennotGreen says:

    The governor of Michigan had bottled water trucked in for state employees in Flint. The legislature in Tennessee has bottled water for its members trucked in…from Flint. And apparently the West Virginia legislature is using the same vendor.

  16. 16
    Mike J says:

    Martin Shkreli ‏@MartinShkreli 11h11 hours ago
    Hard to accept that these imbeciles represent the people in our government.

  17. 17
  18. 18
    Kay says:

    By the 2017-18 school year, the bill also would require the state Board of Education to develop and adopt new or revised standards and have statewide tests aligned to them. The bill wouldn’t bar the state school board from adopting standards that “may coincidentally align with a Common Core State Standard.”
    At a roughly hour-long public hearing on the bill Thursday morning, teachers union presidents and officials from the state Higher Education Policy Commission and West Virginia University were among those who spoke in opposition. Angie Summers, of WV Against Common Core, and others spoke in favor of the bill, but there were again little to no criticisms of specific standards — part of the public Common Core debate that is continually lacking despite education officials’ requests for what exactly people are opposed to

    This is mostly a ruse in GOP states. Ohio did the same thing. They make a big show about “repealing” the standards, but standard-setting is hard and GOP lawmakers are not particularly interested in public schools, so the “new” standards will be “coincidentally” exactly like the Common Core standards :)

    Once they seat The Committee the real public school people will quietly run the show and they won’t re-invent the wheel because they’re 5 years into this and they did all the work to put the standards in in schools.

    My youngest is a 7th grader and he’s been following the CC standards for 3 years. Time flies, and all. No going back.

  19. 19
    HinTN says:

    You got a long way to go to catch up with our idiots in Nashville. “At least we’re not Kentucky” has recently been very shortsighted.

  20. 20
    A Ghost To Most says:

    @Miss Bianca:
    You talking ’bout me?

    Lots of things to fix here in CO, but in watching the outright craziness just beyond the borders (and further) I have stayed in state since 2013. Folks is nuts out there.

    Sorry about WV, John. It is so beautiful in so many places; it’s a shame the lunatics are running the asylum.

  21. 21
    Tom Q says:

    @dr. bloor: That is the problem. Plenty of them will find some way to blame it on Obama.

    I look on all this with sadness. I was born in WV, over 60 years ago, when they were a Dem bastion, and for even a long time after that they voted Democratic because they knew who was on their economic side. It’s tragic that the creeping “blame your black neighbor or the snooty college guy” ethos has overtaken them.

  22. 22
    Adam L Silverman says:

    Its always Kanawha County…
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1gDKAkcrywo

  23. 23
    BlueDWarrior says:

    The fact their ideology doesn’t shower their adherents with capital or resources like manna falling from heaven is not germane to anything. So long as the correct people get it stuck to, then they will accept what we figure are awful socio-economic conditions.

    Honestly I don’t know what will make the fever break short of every offending population moving to a separate country and letting the recalcitrant populations (which are almost entirely white) just have whatever wonderland they think they deserve.

  24. 24

    And Republicans are so fucking hot to repeal the 17th Amendment. ‘Cause, well, hell, anybody can see that taking the election of U.S. senators out of the hands of voters and putting it into the hands of state legislatures would make things soooo much better. Any-fucking-body who thinks that state legislators have any business choosing U.S. senators needs to take a good, long look at West Virginia. Or Virginia. Or Pennsylvania. Or Michigan. Or Wisconsin Or–but you get the drift…

  25. 25
    pseudonymous in nc says:

    @Smedley Darlington Prunebanks (formerly Mumphrey, et al.):

    Republicans are so fucking hot to repeal the 17th Amendment.

    Repeal the 17th amendment as a part of a package deal abolishing the Senate altogether and taking federal House redistricting out of the hands of state legislatures. Actually, make it part of a package deal abolishing states as governmental entities, because the US might have invented that system, but it’s really done a fucking bad job of maintaining it compared to every other developed federal nation on the planet.

  26. 26
    redshirt says:

    We’re blessed to live in interesting times, I guess.

    I mean, imagine growing up the child of a rice farmer in China circa 600 CE. You’re going to be a rice farmer too and that’s cool, that’s what you do.

    Pretty boring, right?

  27. 27
    Miss Bianca says:

    @A Ghost To Most:

    Hey, I’m talkin’ ’bout me, too. : )

    And we are a Right-to-Work state – which considering how many UMW workers we had, once upon a time, makes as little sense as WV going Right-to-Work – but somehow…even with our reactionary sheriffs and our Teabaggers trying to take over school districts…I still feel like we got a chance to claw things back from the right-wingers every once in a while. From what JC is describing, West Virginia is just starting down that hellride slope…don’t envy him or anyone sane in that state right now.

  28. 28
    Fake Irishman says:

    @Miss Bianca:

    Colorado is still a fair bargaining state. No rtw. And though it’s still purple, the long term prognosis looks fairly good.

  29. 29
    Steve from Antioch says:

    This, of course, means that we now have no way of knowing who is packing heat

    Whereas, previously, you may have known which law-abiding citizens were licensed to carry. Hmmm…

    And “small but vibrant tourism industry”? When I left WV – and that was a long time ago – there were already more people employed by tourism than in coal mines …

  30. 30
    Miss Bianca says:

    @Fake Irishman:

    My mistake…we are an “at-will employment” state. So, we’re number…well, not 50, anyway. : )

  31. 31
    Karen says:

    The Democratic party got the Presidency but forgot all about some of the states and the state government in the states and this is what happens when you don’t vote (2010 and 2014) .

    I don’t care if you’re pissed off at Hilary, I don’t care if you’re pissed off at Bernie, vote for whoever wins the primary. Whatever you hate about Hilary will be a millionfold with Trump or Cruz or even Rubio as President. I hope people finally grow up and realize that whatever you hate about any Democrat doesn’t matter. The GOP opponent will do shit like in WV. MI. IN. WI. ANY Democrat is better.

  32. 32
    p.a. says:

    West Virtucksippi.

  33. 33
    Karen says:

    @efgoldman: It seems that the WV is just a figurehead if he can be overruled all the time….

  34. 34
    A Ghost To Most says:

    @Miss Bianca:
    It did feel good throwing the RWNJs off the Jeffco school board,but they will be back. It never ends.

  35. 35
    Miss Bianca says:

    @A Ghost To Most:

    Like zombies, man, like zombies…you gotta drive the electoral stake thru’ their hearts…

    NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD SCHOOL BOARD CANDIDATES…

    They deny HISTORY…they deny FACTS…they deny LOGIC…and they are coming after YOUR CHILDREN…

  36. 36
    Fake Irishman says:

    @Miss Bianca: no prob. There’s a lot of legislation on the books screwing over workers and it’s tough to keep it all straight.

  37. 37
    seaboogie says:

    Wonder when the WV Repubs will make random tooth pulling mandatory – to make sure everyone has that jack-o-lantern hicksterish charm. Also, mandatory banjo lessons.

  38. 38
    Scamp Dog says:

    @BlueDWarrior: I think on a gut level, almost nobody on the right thinks that this is a wealthy country. When you believe that, everything’s a scramble for what limited resources are there. So the ones at the top want tax cuts (they don’t really have any good plans for creating more economic activity or see many growth opportunities to invest in) and the rest want (as you note) to see people they don’t like lose what they have.

    Sometimes I wonder if they’re right. With all the growth going to a limited fraction of the population, how much of it is real growth, and how much is the people at the top bidding up prices for things like Manhattan real estate or property on the California coast? I do realize that things like cell phones and computers keep improving, and cars keep getting safer, but is there anything else I’m missing? Where’s the actual growth in things that aren’t limited supply, relative-status items?

  39. 39
    Kryptik says:

    Jesus christ.

    I mean…it’s not unexpected at all, but it’s still wholly depressing to see my birth state descend to this amount of shit. WVU and my family really are the only thing left to personally attach me to West Virginia at this rate.

    @Scamp Dog:

    The unfortunate thing is that, at its core, this is still a country that mainly subsists on spite. Spite and hate are absurdly and dangerously motivational.

  40. 40
    jonas says:

    Welp, as the old saying goes, the common folk of West Virginia know what they want, and they deserve to get it good and hard. Look at Louisiana! They got rid of regulations, unions, the environment — all that anti-business bullshit — and times have never been better.

  41. 41
    Brutusettu says:

    why isn’t “right-to-work” in quotes or referred to so-called right-to-work? The phrase is a lie.

  42. 42

    @seaboogie:

    Hey, now, let’s not say anything bad about banjos.

  43. 43
    Aleta says:

    This is as depressing as quicksand.

  44. 44
    cintibud says:

    @Adam L Silverman: I just found out last year that a good buddy of mine missed an entire year of grade school due to that insanity. His Dad would drive him to school and try to sneak him in without being notice but most days that wasn’t possible and the threat of violence was real. His parents tried to home school him that year as much as possible with two working parents.

  45. 45
    cintibud says:

    Help! I’m in moderation and I don’t know why!

  46. 46
    cintibud says:

    Does using a different email address trigger moderation?

    ETA – apparently. Please release my comment, thanks

  47. 47
    Matt says:

    The bill, as written, would allow anyone over the age of 21 to carry a concealed firearm or deadly weapon without a permit.

    If it passes, that’ll put WV on the list of “states I’ll never visit again”, along with the SYG shitholes. Perhaps if more people publicly stated, “I’m not visiting your state because you’ve made it clear that pandering to the violent fantasies of your base is more important than public safety.”

  48. 48
    Paul in KY says:

    Welcome to the club, John!!! (high pitched yipping laughter, ala Deliverence)

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