West Virginia Update
LEGISLATIVE PRIORITIES FOR 2014 ANNOUNCED
The League of Women Voters of West Virginia has adopted the following issues as its legislative priorities for the 2014 session of the West Virginia Legislature.
In keeping with its goal of encouraging active and informed participation by citizens in their government, the League will continue to monitor election laws and oppose restrictive voter ID measures. The League also supports a permanent funding source for the Supreme Court of Appeals Public Campaign Financing Program. Our members will be following the Legislature on these and other issues during the 2014 session.
COALITIONS WE HAVE JOINED
The League is made up of citizen lobbyists but we do not have any paid lobbyists in Charleston. One of the ways we can be effective is for individual members to respond to League Action Alerts by contacting their individual legislators. Action Alerts from the state board will be sent from time to time as legislation progresses. Another way for the League to be effective is to join coalitions which share some of the same goals.
Our Children, Our Future
The board agreed to join the wide-ranging campaign to fight child poverty initiated by WV Healthy Kids and Families Coalition. Some of the legislative priorities for the coalition include: preserving funding for Family Resource Networks; implementing a multi-year plan to expand In Home Family Education programs; providing 30 minutes of physical activity/day in school; and tackling substance misuse and abuse and creating a Future Fund. All these aim to help children and their families break the cycle of poverty. Susan Watkins (email@example.com) may be contacted regarding Our Children, Our Future.
West Virginia Future Fund – West Virginia is currently facing a natural gas boom similar to that of the coal industry in the last century. As envisioned, the Future Fund would be created from a portion of natural resources severance taxes and set aside for the future. It would provide a permanent source of wealth for West Virginia after the minerals are depleted. The League supports this concept, together with the coalition Our Children, Our Future. How does this affect child poverty? History shows that some of the poorest counties in the state are those from which the greatest natural wealth has been taken. The Future Fund will ensure that children of today and tomorrow will have a lasting benefit from resource extraction. More information may be found at www.wvfuturefund.org/.
Citizens Action for Real Enforcement (CARE)
We have joined with a coalition of organizations that is demanding accountability for West Virginia’s enforcement of the Surface Mining and Reclamation Act. The group has filed a formal administrative law petition with the federal Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement alleging widespread problems with enforcement of the Surface Mine Control and Reclamation Act and the WV’s Department of Environmental Protection’s demanding federal intervention. The Office of Surface Mining dismissed 14 allegations but determined that five needed further investigation. You may contact Conni Lewis (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Helen Gibbins (email@example.com) about CARE.
Besides belonging to coalitions, the League cooperates with several groups to respond to selected Action Alerts in these areas:
A LIBRARY STUDY IS COMING
The League has undertaken a study of public library funding in West Virginia, to be completed in October. The task is complex. Our state has 97 public library systems, which are organized at various levels, with little uniformity. They function under a patchwork of governing and funding, from state, county and municipal taxes, and local non-tax sources.
The courts in West Virginia have struck down laws mandating that boards of education in certain counties give some of their funding to their local libraries. Further, the Court challenged the Legislature to come up with a statewide system of local funding of public libraries. What this system of funding might look like is still up in the air. During the 2013 Legislative session, two bills seeking to deal with this situation were introduced but not approved.
The League of Women Voters hopes that in studying this issue, we can reach a position to enable us to lobby the Legislature as it develops its legislation on library funding.
The study, when ready this spring, will be sent to all members via email with a due date of October 15 for responses. Local Leagues will hold meetings for study, discussion, and consensus. Other members around the state may also participate by reading the study material and answering the questions. Ultimately it is the job of the Board of Directors to assemble and collate all the answers, and then to determine whether a League consensus has been reached. Questions may be addressed to Carolyn Watson firstname.lastname@example.org or Betty Barrett EandBBarrett@comcast.net.
NATIONAL LEAGUE NEWS
Leagues around the country are participating in a new Agriculture Study/Consensus. The topics items for study include Economic Health of the Agriculture Sector, Animal Management, Research and Development, Food Safety and Food Labeling. The study materials are comprehensive and interesting, available at http://www.lwv.org/search/content/agriculture%20background%20papers
STATE COUNCIL TO BE HELD IN MAY
The biennial State Council of local League will meet with the Board of Directors on May 3, 2014 in Fairmont. A budget for 2014-15 will be adopted and plans for the year made. Each local Leagues is permitted (and encouraged) to send delegates. In addition any League member may attend as a visitor. For details, please contact Nancy Novak.
Nancy Novak, President
League of Women Voters of West Virginia