Thursday, March 09, 2006

48 Hours Remaining in Last Regular Legislative Session Under Ruling Party's Reign

In just over 48 hours, the 2006 regular session of the West Virginia Legislature will come to an end. While many political observers are marking the retirements of both House Speaker Bob Kiss, D-Raleigh, and House Minority Leader Charles Trump, R-Morgan, history will record the final fall of the gavel at midnight Saturday as the end of an era of 74 years of one-party rule.

At this hour, only three major bills of statewide significance remain alive: the budget bill; HB 4048, the eminent domain bill; and SB 205, the sex offender bill. The budget bill is obvious. The other two bills' fates are very uncertain. Earlier this year, the House of Delegates passed HB 4048 and created very strong protections for private property owners against eminent domain abuse. The Senate has watered down HB 4048 and should yield to the House version. SB 205 was completely rewritten and passed by the Senate last week and is now languishing in the House of Delegates.

After the Senate adopted a Republican substitute for SB 205, the Governor sprung into action and has been working feverishly to either defeat this bill or gut it, enact it, and claim the women and children of West Virginia have been adequately protected from sexual predators when they really will not. Earlier this year, when legislation similar to SB 205 as passed by the Senate was submitted for review, the estimated fiscal impact was only a few million dollars per year, according to Delegate Patrick Lane, R-Kanawha. Less than two days after the bill passed the Senate, this estimate ballooned to over $90 million and then to $162 million by last weekend. Earlier today, Will Stewart and Gary Abernathy reported on a Democratic strategy memo that calls for the gutting or defeat of SB 205 for purely partisan reasons--namely that Governor Joe's empty shell has been replaced with real substance thanks to a concerted effort by Senate Republicans.

Many, many other bills that should have been acted upon were ignored or rejected by the Ruling Party. Members of the Ruling Party overwhelmingly opposed any further reductions or elimination of the food tax; amending the state constitution to protect the definition of marriage; and closing a loophole in our state's law requiring unemancipated minors to notify their parents prior to having an abortion that makes the current law meaningless. Then, 18 of the 21 Democratic state senators introduced a bill to increase the personal exemptions from the state income tax and then voted against the bill when Republican senators endorsed the bill and brought it to a vote. A plan to give school teachers a 3% pay raise was blocked in the Senate after the Governor and the WVEA intervened to remove from the agenda of the Senate Education Committee a WVFT plan that has previously garnered the support of almost al senators.

On November 7, I predict West Virginia voters will take the opportunity presented and elect Republican majorities to both houses of the Legislature. 74 years of one-party rule have wrecked our economy as the rest of the country leaves us in the dust. With their votes in favor of same-sex marriage, keeping the food tax, and keeping child rapists and molesters eligible for probation with no mandatory prison sentences, the Ruling Party has shown that when the time for choosing comes, their actions seem far more at home in San Francisco or Massachusetts than in West Virginia.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

House Kills Parental Notification Bill

The House of Delegates voted 62-37 against discharging SB 519 from committee, effectively killing this bill. SB 519 would reform the law requiring parental notification before a minor may have an abortion and close a critical loophole in the law that allows waivers of this law with no judicial oversight.

While 50 of the 68 House Democrats carried a West Virginians for Life endorsement in 2004, only 5 of them kept their word on this bill, one of the most popular pieces of legislation on the pro-life agenda. All 32 Republicans and the following 5 Democrats voted for discharge:

  • Eustace Frederick, D-Mercer
  • Tom Louisos, D-Fayette
  • Tim Miley, D-Harrison
  • Sally Susman, D-Raleigh
  • Ken Tucker, D-Marshall

Monday, March 06, 2006

House Showdown Over Parental Notification for Minors' Abortions Tomorrow

Tomorrow, the House of Delegates will vote on discharging SB 519, closing a loophole in the state's law requiring parental notification before a minor has an abortion, from the House Judiciary Committee. The Beckley Register-Herald reports that in anticipation of this vote, West Virginians for Life has announced that any vote against discharge will forfeit a delegate's endorsement in this year's elections.

After a string of recent legislative successes, West Virginians for Life, the state's largest nonpartisan, grassroots, pro-life organization, has been stonewalled in the House of Delegates on closing the loophole in the parental notification law. The loophole in question allows a doctor other than the abortionist to issue a "physician waiver" of the parental notification requirement upon the doctor's judgment the minor can make the decision for herself, with no oversight or review. SB 519 proposes to follow the model of almost every other state with a parental involvement law and require a court to conduct a confidential hearing and rule on whether to issue the waiver.

House Democrats have apparently been unable to bring any abortion bills to a vote due to jockeying between the major factions of their caucus over party leadership following the retirement of Speaker Bob Kiss. While pro-abortion delegates are a minority even in that caucus, they are apparently trying to use the contest for their support to suppress action on pro-life bills this year.

SB 519 is the second bill the Senate has had to spring into action and pass after the House originally agreed to act first and then dropped the ball. Also on Wednesday, the Senate rewrote and passed SB 205, the sex offender bill, after its House counterpart, HB 4039, also ran aground in the lower body.

The Senate voted 29-5 on Wednesday to suspend the constitutional rule requiring the bill to be read on 3 separate days and then voted 32-2 to pass SB 519, after the House of Delegates balked and failed to pass HB 4411, the House version of the bill, after a prior agreement among legislative leaders to originate the bill in the House. Senators Dan Foster, D-Kanawha, Charles Lanham, R-Mason, Brooks McCabe, D-Kanawha, Bill Sharpe, D-Lewis, and John Yoder, R-Jefferson, voted against the rules suspension and Senators Foster and McCabe voted against passing the bill.

Dems Hopeless

The Onion almost crossed the line from satire to reality with this one. Enjoy!