2010 Legislative Priorities


January 25, 2010


The League of Women Voters of West Virginia (LWVWV) has established the following issues as priorities for the 2010 legislative session. The League supports public campaign financing for all qualified candidates for the Supreme Court of Appeals in 2012, supports laws and regulations that ensure the protection of West Virginia’s water quality and supply now and in the future and supports adequate mental health care treatment. Susan Watkins, state president of the LWVWV, is encouraging the current session to follow through on the completion of these important priorities.

The League believes that the election process would be improved by minimizing the role of campaign contributions and offering candidates the option of running with public financing. In states where public financing has been in use, candidates find that voters view their running without accepting private contributions as a positive factor in assessing candidates. The Governor’s Commission on Judicial Reform recommended a pilot project offering public financing for one of the two open Supreme Court of Appeals seats in the 2012 election. While the League supports that recommendation, we would prefer that it include making it an option for all candidates for the Supreme Court of Appeals. Allowing the choice for all candidates would increase the likelihood of having enough candidates willing to participate to demonstrate the system’s appeal to voters.

West Virginia’s most precious resource is its water and we must protect it. What are some of the hazards to our waters? The drilling of gas wells in West Virginia’s Marcellus Shale formations and its use of fracturing the formations to access the gas have resulted in environmental hazards. Some remedies to these hazards include requiring synthetic liners for drilling pits, new construction standards for waste pits and water storage impoundments, public disclosure of the chemicals in the fracturing fluids, and safer disposal of the wastewater. It is also imperative that the legislature require the companies to report the amount of water they are withdrawing from the streams. The legislature should require a water quality standard for total dissolved solids. Such a standard might have prevented the environmental disaster in Dunkard Creek resulting in a thirty mile fish kill from an overrun of an alien golden algae.

Another concern is the disposal of sludge from separating coal from rocks. The sludge is the result of washing the coal with water and chemicals. It is disposed in impoundments and underground closed coal mines. The legislature should require that coal slurry be dried and disposed of in a safer way than current methods of disposal.

Mary Wilson, LWVUS President, has stated the need for universal health coverage that will make it possible for all Americans who cannot obtain coverage through traditional employer-sponsored plans to have access to needed care. Universal insurance coverage is a fundamental issue in this year’s debate and struggle for national health care reform. The LWVWV has set as one of its priorities the support of adequate Mental Health Care treatment coverage in all public and private health care plans. Because people with mental health and substance use disorders are more likely to be uninsured or underinsured than the national average it is critical that health care reform address this disparity. There are 209,000 uninsured in West Virginia today. Without health care reform, 37,480 will have lost coverage from January 2008 to December 2010.

The League of Women Voters encourages the 2010 Legislative Session to develop programs that will cover the areas of public campaign finance, protection of water quality and mental health care treatment.