Friday, February 24, 2006

House Dems Hand GOP Another Issue: Staton Pronounces Bill to Close Abortion Parental Notification Loophole "Dead"

Reversing course from the last three years, the House of Delegates will not act on this year's top priority bill for West Virginians for Life.

House Majority Leader Rick Staton, D-WyomingHouse Majority Leader Rick Staton, D-Wyoming, today said the votes do not exist in the House to pass HB 4411. HB 4411 would close a gaping loophole in the state law requiring notification of at least one parent of an unemancipated minor who seeks an abortion prior to the procedure.

Under current law, a second doctor can interview a minor and issue a "physician waiver" that completely waives the parental notification requirement. Most states with parental notification or consent laws require a waiver to be granted by a court after a closed hearing in which a judge interviews an unemancipated minor to determine whether a waiver should be granted and to protect the minor from any abuse she may be suffering. HB 4411 would require parental notification waivers to be granted by a family court judge.

There may still be some hope of keeping this legislation alive via SB 120, the Senate version of this legislation. SB 120 has 19 sponsors, including the chairmen of both committees to which it has been referred.

In recent years, over 80% of House members and 94% of senators have voted for pro-life bills on the West Virginians for Life legislative agenda. This year, however, the Ruling Party has veered to the far left, rejecting bills to curb abortion, protect the traditional definition of marriage, reduce taxes, and many other important priorities of the mainstream of West Virginia.

I am sure Delegate Staton takes great pride in defeating this bill. He has long been a supporter of unfettered abortion on demand, along with such House leaders as Judiciary Committee Chairman Jon Amores, D-Kanawha, Legislative Rule-Making Review Committee Chair Virginia Mahan, D-Summers, Constitutional Revision Committee (which, by the way, has not had a meeting since January 2005) Vice Chair Carrie Webster, D-Kanawha, and Finance Committee Vice Chairman John Doyle, D-Jefferson.

Unions Pay Homeless People to Man Picket Lines; Union Members All Have Good Jobs, Too Busy to Picket

Several weeks ago, national media outlets reported of a growing phenomenon of labor unions that, thanks to their success in providing their members steady, good-paying jobs, there are few members available to man picket lines around various construction jobs. To solve this problem, unions began hiring homeless people to man the picket lines.

This practice has arrived in West Virginia courtesy of the Mid-Atlantic Regional Council of Carpenters and their desire to unionize the construction of a new office for a Charleston doctor. The source of this news is no less than the Charleston Gazette, which revealed this story today only because they ran a picture of the pickets yesterday, identifying them erroneously as union members.

The Gazette reports that the Carpenters union pays each homeless picket $8 per hour, but without health insurance or other benefits unions believe should be provided by every employer to its employees. The Gazette reported:

“We’re helping them get on their feet,” he said. “It just doesn’t make sense for us to get people off the jobs who are already working when we can help the community.”

The men signed contracts prohibiting them from speaking with the press, Harmon said.

Unlike carpenters and other craftsman, there are no local standards for banner holders, said Scott Brewer, service representative for the council’s Charleston local.

“[Eight dollars an hour] is well above minimum wage. It’s not a hard job. I believe we’re setting a good standard for banner holders,” said Brewer, who did not hire the men and did not know where they came from. “I would guess they are making more money than they have been.”

So, the Carpenters union protests the use of a non-union construction company to build a new doctor's office, yet they seem to have found such an abundance of work for their working members that they only people they could find to man picket lines are homeless people. Conveniently enough, even at just $8 per hour without benefits, these workers have been forced to sign confidentiality agreements.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Senate Dems Lie and Deceive: Introduce Income Tax Cut to Generate Favorable Headlines, Have No Intent of Actually Enacting It

In the face of growing cries for tax relief from overtaxed West Virginians, 18 Democratic state senators--including Senate Finance Committee Chairman Walt Helmick, D-Pocahontas--and Senator Karen Facemeyer, R-Jackson, introduced yesterday SB 674, dramatically raising the state income tax exemption for every taxpayer to $25,000 for a married couple and $12,500 for singles.

Given West Virginia's status as one of a handful of states that levies its state income tax upon people below the poverty level, one would think this bill is welcome news. In fact it is not: it is a bag of lies and deceit intended only to fool the constituents of these senators into believing their senators now support tax relief. Even though the Finance Committee chairman is a cosponsor, I predict this bill will not be acted upon.

For years, as part of an overall strategy of reducing West Virginia's excessive tax burden (we rank 3rd in state taxes per dollar of per capita income), Republican legislators have proposed both raising the personal exemption (now $2,000 times the number of exemptions one claims on his or her federal tax return) and the $10,000 low earned income exclusion. We have proposed eliminating the food tax, eliminating the business franchise tax, reducing personal income tax rates, reducing the corporate income tax rate, and many others.

Just as they have no intent of passing any of the joint resolutions proposing a constitutional amendment protecting the definition of marriage as being between a man and a woman, members of the Ruling Party have no intent to pass their own bill that would seem to satisfy a desire for which the people have been clamoring. Whether it's protecting marriage, reducing taxes, protecting private property rights, protecting children from sexual predators, or virtually any other important priority of the people of West Virginia, the Ruling Party has grown so arrogant in its 80 years of power that they feel immune from any need to represent their constituents.

This November, West Virginians will have the chance to elect a new majority to the Legislature that represents our values and our concerns. We will reduce the excessive tax burden that hampers working families and keeps businesses from locating in West Virginia. We will defend the basic institutions of society and protect from the assault of activist judges the traditional definition of marriage as the union of a man and a woman that has prevailed for 6,000 years. We will enact tough, mandatory prison sentences for pedophiles who prey upon young children.

On November 8, 2006, it will be morning again in West Virginia.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Legislative Dems: No to Abolishing the Food Tax, Yes to Same-Sex Marriage, No to Reforming Eminent Domain, Yes to 67% Legislator Pay Raise

That's today's news from the Legislature.

The House of Delegates rejected a motion to discharge the bill abolishing the food tax from the Finance Committee, allowing Chairman Harold Michael, D-Hardy, to sit on the bill and kill it. Delegate Tom Louisos, D-Fayette, was the only Democrat to join 30 of the Republicans. House Finance Committee Chairman Harold Michael, D-Hardy, has no plans to place this bill on his committee's agenda. As the deadline for all bills to pass their house of origin is March 1, committee action must be completed by February 27 unless the necessary 4/5 vote to suspend the constitutional rule requiring bills to be read on 3 separate days is obtained.

A reliable source from within the state Senate says Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Jeff Kessler, D-Marshall, plans to sit on SJR 12, the Marriage Protection Amendment, and obstruct its passage. This comes on the same day that Will Stewart revealed that HJR 106 sponsor Delegate John Pino, D-Fayette, admitted that his resolution was a sham and that he had no real intent of ever getting the thing passed and sent to the voters. Your Democratic legislators in West Virginia now want a future state Supreme Court to have an open door to force upon this state same-sex marriage just as their counterparts in Massachusetts did two years ago. If Pino's name sounds familiar on this site, that's because I recently wrote about his proposal to tax bottled water.

But Jeff Kessler is not using just SJR 12 as a seat cushion.

  • SB 85, by Senator Don Caruth, R-Mercer, simplifying the concealed handgun license reciprocity process, was introduced on the first day of the session but has yet to be placed on the committee's agenda. Chairman Kessler was endorsed in 2004 by the NRA, yet he has not permitted this very important bill for gun owners to see the light of day. Sitting on a bill like this should cost him his "A+" rating and NRA endorsement in 2008. Of the states that have a CHL reciprocity law or otherwise recognize any licenses issued by other states, West Virginia ranks last in the number of other states whose licenses are currently honored: 2, KY and VA.
  • SB 205, the Governor's empty shell of a bill to toughen the state's sex offender laws, was also introduced at the beginning of the session, but has yet to receive a hearing in committee.
  • SB 276, the Protect Our Children Act, sponsored by Senator Clark Barnes, R-Randolph, and 15 other senators, would truly toughen the state's sex offender laws. This bill was introduced on January 25.

Although HB 4048, the eminent domain reform bill, has not made it to the Senate Judiciary Committee yet, this bill seems a likely candidate for supplementing Kessler's seat cushion. HB 4048 was referred to the Senate Economic Development Committee, followed by the Government Organization Committee, then the Judiciary Committee. The House passed HB 4048 early in the session with strong bipartisan support, providing private property owners virtually unlimited protection from the use of eminent domain to force them to sell their property to any other private owner, even in cases of "economic development," "urban renewal," or the oft-abused "blight abatement."

If you think a desire to avoid controversial issues in an election year is driving all this inaction, please take a seat before reading further. Today, Senate leaders announced they would push forward with SB 421, raising legislators' annual salaries from $15,000 to $20,000 this year and $25,000 in 2008. I personally have no problems with this bill; indeed, the sponsors of this bill are numerous on both sides of the aisle. While some (like Delegate Joe C. Ferrell, D-Logan, who has yet to attend a single House session this year) are not deserving, many legislators work long hours during sessions and serve their constituents on a year-round basis when the Legislature is not in session and they're not being paid.

However, how stupid are the leaders of the Ruling Party to put this bill on the agenda at the same time they say "we have no money" to eliminate the food tax or cut any other taxes; don't want to ruffle any feathers by passing a constitutional amendment forever banning same-sex marriage; and seems to have neither the time nor the desire to tackle the many other problems facing our state?

I almost feel like calling some of my friends on the other side of the aisle and warning them of the future that awaits them this summer and fall given the current course of events. Did none of these people watch the 2004 state Supreme Court race? Did they not see how one of the state's most enduring political figures was reduced to a maniacal tirade two months before the election that sealed his defeat to a first-time candidate for office? Do they not think these actions today--and the House vote last week against the Marriage Protection Amendment--will be the subject of numerous TV ads, direct mail pieces, and other advertising. Warren McGraw was driven to his Labor Day Meltdown after being exposed over the Tony Arbaugh case--in which he let a serial child molester who got probation in a plea deal and then violated probation get another chance and participate in a program that could have ultimately had him employed as a janitor in a school. But most legislators now face same-sex marriage, no action on the food tax, and a massive legislator pay raise as issues in their races.