West Virginia

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West Virginia Voters May Strip Abortion Rights from Constitution

 

“Nothing in this Constitution secures or protects a right to abortion or requires the funding of abortion.”

This November, that is the language that West Virginia voters will decide whether to place in the state’s constitution.

 

Nationally, there has been a lot of attention on the future of abortion rights due the departure of Justice Anthony Kennedy from the Supreme Court. Some observers fear that with a more conservative justice on the court, cases could be brought that will further limit abortion or even overturn the case that made it legal throughout the U.S.

 

This battle over abortion is also being fought at the state level, however. In 1993, the West Virginia Supreme Court ruled that the state constitution protected a woman’s right to an abortion. The court also held that the constitution mandated that the state fund abortion the same way it does other health services. That means that West Virginia’s Medicaid system pays for abortions.

 

If this constitutional amendment passes, abortion will not be outlawed in West Virginia. What it does mean is that legislators would face fewer limitations in what types of regulations they place on abortion. They would be bound only by federal law, not the state Supreme Court decision. They could decide, for instance, to stop state funding of abortions.

 

In the event of a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that overturns Roe v. Wade and returns the decision-making authority over abortion’s legality to the states, this constitutional amendment would then open the door to a state ban on abortion. Without state constitutional protection of the practice, legislators would be free to do as they wished on this issue if there is no federal abortion right.

 

Do you think the West Virginia Constitution should protect abortion rights? Or does the state constitution go too far in requiring taxpayer funding of abortions?

 

“Sore Loser” Law Keeps Blankenship off West Virginia Ballot

 

Coal magnate Don Blankenship’s words and actions focused national attention on West Virginia during his race for U.S. senator. Thanks to a state law, however, he will not be able to take his unique style into the general election. That has led some to call for changing how the state treats losing primary candidates who want to run for general election.

 

Blankenship may have lost the Republican primary for U.S. senator, but he still wants to run for office. The Constitution Party wants to give him their nomination. The only thing standing in their way is West Virginia’s “sore loser” law that prohibits candidates who have lost in a primary election from running an independent or third-party candidacy in the general election.

 

Forty-five other states have similar laws. These ensure that candidates can choose only one path to be on the general election ballot – a major-party nomination or an independent or third-party candidacy. They cannot try their luck in the Republican or Democratic primary and then run on a smaller party ticket in the general election.

 

Blankenship, who finished third in the state’s Republican primary, is aware that the state law blocks his path to a Constitution Party nomination. He has said he would challenge the law in court, seeking to invalidate it so he can challenge the two major-party nominees in November.

 

Supporters of “sore loser” laws say they are necessary to prevent losing candidates from circumventing the primary process to get on the ballot. They contend this could lead to numerous losing candidates cluttering up the ballot, confusing voters. Opponents of these laws say that voters should have the ultimate choice as to whom they elect, regardless of whether someone lost a major party’s nomination. They also point out that primary voters tend to reflect the party’s base and may choose more extreme nominees, so sore loser laws may keep more moderate candidates off the ballot.

 

Do you think that states should bar candidates who lost their party’s primaries from running in the general election as third-party or independent candidates?

 

Right-to-Work an Issue in West Virginia Campaign

 

It has been two years since legislators enacted legislation that made West Virginia a right-to-work state. Unions and their supporters are now striking back, hoping to make support for overturning this law a winning issue this election year.

 

In 2016, then-Governor Earl Ray Tomblin, a Democrat, vetoed legislation that would end the requirement that individuals join a union or pay a fee to a union as a condition of employment. This bill passed the Republican-controlled legislature, and these lawmakers overturned Gov. Tomblin’s veto. After a year-long court battle, West Virginia’s right to work law went into effect in 2017.

 

Unions and their political supporters fought hard to defeat the law, but were unsuccessful. They now see this year’s state elections as a way to put candidates in office who will overturn it.

 

They have already had some success. In the May primary election, one of the Republican senators who fought hardest for this law lost his primary. He was beaten by a state delegate who opposed the 2017 law and received support from the state teachers’ union.

 

Support for overturning the right to work law also features heavily in the campaign of Richard Ojeda, who is a Democrat running for the U.S. House of Representatives in the state’s Third Congressional District. According to him, “Right-to-work needs to go…If we take back the state of West Virginia, we will be the first state to overturn right-to-work.”

 

Those opposing right-to-work in West Virginia say that the law hurts workers’ ability to bargain for higher wages and better benefits. Supporters of the law contend that it will help attract businesses and new jobs to West Virginia.

 

Do you support right-to-work laws?

 

West Virginia Bets on Sports Wagering

 

Many Americans bet on sports, but only one state allows legal, widespread sports gambling – Nevada. The Supreme Court recently invalidated a federal law that restricts sports betting. West Virginia is poised to take advantage.

 

That state’s legislature passed a bill this year that would legalize wagering on sports events if the Supreme Court overturned the federal ban. Some casinos in that state were already making plans to offer this type of betting if the court issued a favorable decision. Now that the court has ruled, casino operators say that they can begin allowing such games within three months of a court ruling.

 

Prior to the court’s decision, federal law only allowed sports betting in Nevada, Delaware, Montana, and Oregon. A 1992 federal law banned states from authorizing these games except in the four states whose laws already allowed such wagering. Of these four, only Nevada has an active sports betting scene, with casinos in that state offering a variety of propositions from which gamblers can choose. Delaware casinos offered a limited opportunity for gamblers to bet on football games.

 

 

 

In recent years, many states have expanded gambling. As they have done so, they are looking for new avenues to attract customers. Sports betting is something that lawmakers in a number of states have talked about doing, but they had been stymied by federal law.

 

At issue before the Supreme Court was a law in New Jersey that attempted to legalize sports gambling. In 2011, voters approved the law by referendum, and then-Governor Chris Christie began implementation even though he knew the federal government would push back. Lower federal courts have ruled that the New Jersey law violated the federal law that bans states from authorizing sports betting.

 

During arguments before the high court last year, lawyers representing New Jersey seem to have found a receptive audience from a majority of the justices. These justices seemed skeptical that it was proper for the federal government to place such a restriction on state governments. They also worried about this ban violating federalism, since gambling regulations are traditionally a state area of regulation.

 

The major sports leagues support the federal gambling ban. In the past, they have worked together to thwart efforts by states to weaken the prohibition. Now that the Supreme Court has overturned the federal law, however, there will likely be a number of states that will legalize sports betting. West Virginia is already poised to allow casinos to offers such wagers.

 

Do you think that sports betting should be legal in more states? Or will expanding sports betting harm consumers and hurt the integrity of sports?

State Employee Pay Raise Hits West Virginia Budget

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Teachers in West Virginia Struck for nine days – the longest teaches’ strike in state history – and won a 5% pay increase. Then it was up to legislators to find money in the budget to fund the pay hike for not only teachers but all state employees. They did so, but other areas of the budget felt the hit.

 

Gov. Justice signed legislation that provided teachers with their 5% pay increase on March 6. Then a few days later legislators passed a state budget that included a 5% pay increase for all state employees. The salary increases cost $111 million. Other items demanded by teachers, such as concessions on health insurance increases, cost an additional $43 million.

 

To help offset the pay raises for state employees, legislators took the following budget actions:

  • A $46 million increase as requested by Gov. Justice for the Division of Commerce and the Department of Tourism will not be funded
  • $18 million in deferred maintenance projects will not be completed
  • $12 million transfer to the roads fund from the general fund will not happen
  • $13.5 million to shore up the state’s workers’ compensation fund will not be provided

 

The budget also calls for cuts to the Medicaid program, but it is likely that the governor will find a way to make that money up from elsewhere.

 

With the governor signing the budget, it puts the pay raise issue to rest for the time being. However, there is concern over whether revenue projects are correct. If revenue is less than anticipated, it will cause problems in the coming fiscal year.

 

Do you support West Virginia state employees receiving a 5% pay raise? Or do you think that legislators had to cut too much from the state’s other budget priorities to fund this pay hike?

 

 

West Virginia Senate Bill 2006

 

Check out this key bill voted on by elected officials in West Virginia, check-in to the VoteSpotter app to see how your legislators voted, and comment below to share what you think!

 

West Virginia Bill 2006, Expand Penalties for Violation of the Whistleblower Act: Passed 98 to 0 in the state House on February 15, 2017. 

 

To increase maximum fines for employers from $500 to $5000, and in the case of public employers, to create a process to remove a person from public office if they are found to have violated protections in state law for "whistle blowers."

 

Comment below to share what you think of West Virginia Senate Bill 2006!

 

 

West Virginia Senate Bill 172

 

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Senate Bill 172, Replace Salary for Water Development Authority Board Members With Per Diem: Passed 96 to 3 in the state Senate on April 30, 2017.

 

To eliminate the salary for appointed board members of the Water Development Authority and to instead provide them with a $131 per day per diem for meeting attendance, or $186 for those members who live more than 50 miles away from the meeting location.

 

Comment below to share what you think of West Virginia Senate Bill 172!

 

 

West Virginia Senate Bill 169

 

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Senate Bill 169, Withdraw Obsolete Program Relating to Veterans Exposed to Agent Orange: Passed 33 to 0 in the state Senate on February 15, 2017.

 

To repeal obsolete state laws that previously provided assistance to Korea and Vietnam veterans exposed to certain chemical defoliants and which are now managed by the federal government.

 

Comment below to share what you think of West Virginia Senate Bill 169!

 

 

West Virginia Senate Bill 174

 

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Senate Bill 174, Exempt Home Movers From Certain Regulations: Passed 29 to 3 in the state Senate on February 17, 2017.

 

To exempt the transportation of household goods from the jurisdiction of the Public Service Commission.

 

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West Virginia House Bill 2099

 

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Senate Bill 2099, Make Leaving the Scene of a Car Crash Involving Death or Injury a Felony.: Passed 96 to 0 in the state House on 17 February, 2017.

 

To make leaving the scene of a car crash crash involving death or personal injury a felony, commonly referred to as "Erin's Law."

 

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West Virginia Senate Bill 176

 

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Senate Bill 176, Withdraw mandates for screening of certain diseases: Passed 33 to 0 in the state Senate on February 15, 2017

 

To repeal state laws mandating detection of tuberculosis, high blood pressure and diabetes.

 

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West Virginia Senate Bill 215

 

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Senate Bill 215, Expand county commission authority over sewer and water rates: Passed 32 to 1 in the state Senate on February 20, 2017

 

To give county commissions the sole discretion and authority to amend the proposed rates, fees, and charges proposed by water and sewer districts, rather than simply approve or reject the proposed rates.

 

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West Virginia Senate Bill 233

 

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Senate Bill 233, Allow electronic surveillance in child care centers: Passed 32 to 0 in the state Senate on February 17, 2017

 

To exclude from protection under the state wiretapping and electronic surveillance act any oral communications uttered in a child care center so long as there are written notices posted informing persons that their communications are subject to being intercepted.

 

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West Virginia Senate Bill 237

 

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Senate Bill 237, Repeal obsolete tax regulations: Passed 33 to 0 in the state Senate on February 15, 2017

 

To repeal certain tax related rules and regulations which are no longer authorized or are obsolete

 

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West Virginia Senate Bill 170: Repeal the obsolete state hemophilia program

 

Check out this key bill passed by elected officials in West Virginia, check-in to the VoteSpotter app to see how your legislators voted, and comment below to share what you think!

 

Senate Bill 170, Repeal the obsolete state hemophilia program: Passed 33 to 0 in the state Senate on February 15, 2017

 

To remove obsolete sections of state law relating to non-functioning medical programs.

 

Comment below to share what you think of West Virginia Senate Bill 170!

 

West Virginia House Bill 2303: Increase littering fines

 

 

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West Virginia House Bill 2303, Increase littering fines: Passed 95 to 3 in the state House on February 20, 2017

 

To increase the fines and community service hours for littering.

 

Comment below to share what you think of West Virginia House Bill 2303!

 

Tax Increases Coming to West Virginia?

 

 

If Governor Jim Justice gets his way, West Virginians may be paying higher taxes and fees. In his budget proposal, the governor has asked legislators to approvea variety of tax increases as a way to eliminate the gap between revenue and desired spending.

 

In early February, the governor proposed tax and fee increases that included:

  • Increasing the sales tax from 6% to 6.5%
  • Imposing the sales tax on a variety of services that are currently untaxed
  • Levying a .2% gross receipts tax, which a business would pay regardless of its profitability
  • Increasing the beer tax
  • Raising the DMV license fee by $20

 

Gov. Justice also proposed raising the gasoline tax by 10 cents a gallon to pay for new infrastructure projects. That would bring the state gasoline tax to 43.2 cents a gallon.

 

Later in the month, he revised his proposal in a few significant ways:

  • Increasing the gasoline tax by 4.5 cents a gallon as opposed to 10 cents
  • Charging out-of-state motorists increased tolls when they use West Virginia toll roads
  • Imposing a 1-cent-per-ounce tax on sugar-sweetened drinks

 

Do you think these tax increases are the best way to deal with the state’s budget situation? Are you willing to pay higher gasoline prices to pay for state infrastructure projects?

 

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