The WV Legislature is back in session as of Wednesday, January 9th. This update is designed to prepare and educate you, and includes a special section about our DEI activities!
Get Involved at the Capitol
Jan 11: Women and Girls Day at the Legislature
Jan 15: OCOF Kids and Families Day
Mondays at 12pm during session: Legislative Action Team on WV Children and Families at in governor’s cabin room or treasurer’s conference room, look for info from Jim McKay
Citizen Lobbying Tuesdays during session: OCOF is hosting weekly community lobby days every Tuesday during the session – anyone working on an issue on the OCOF platform can come lobby their issues and get support. Good way to engage people who haven’t been to Capitol
Contact Carey Jo Grace or your local OCOF regional organizer to sign up for a lobby day
Fridays at 12pm during session, starting Jan 11: WV United “War Room” at new Healthy Kids & Families office (1636 Kanawha Boulevard – use back entrance to access Healthy Kids offices)
LEGISLATIVE PRIORITIES FOR 2019
The League of Women Voters of West Virginia:
- Supports maintaining West Virginia’s water standards to reflect EPA recommended human health criteria.
- Supports strengthening disclosure requirements for the sources of political campaign expenditures, including dark money.
- Supports establishment of an independent commission to draw up redistricting plans for representatives to the US House of Representatives and the WV Legislature.
- Supports measures that encourage investment in renewable energy and energy efficiency in West Virginia’s homes, businesses, and industries.
- Supports maintaining expanded Medicaid coverage for the hundreds of thousands of West Virginians who rely on it for health care.
Health Issues for the Legislature
By Betty Barrett
Medicaid is always a subject for discussion. Matching funds must come from the state, though most of the funds are federal. One of the League’s priorities for this session is maintaining Medicaid expansion that provides thousands of West Virginia’s citizens with health care. Medicaid is the health insurance for more than a third of West Virginians. Many recipients work at low-paying jobs. Others are too old, too ill or too young to be employed.
There is frequent discussion nationally of adding work requirements to eligibility criteria. This has been tried, proved to be unworkable, and led to many people being cut from Medicaid. For example, Arkansas added work requirements with difficult eligibility rules. After the first three months, more than 4,000 recipients lost coverage due to inability to meet work requirements or rules.
Medicaid expansion research has shown success in improving health. In the 2018 election, three state’s voters agreed to expand Medicaid, despite opposition from their state legislatures. Maine’s new governor has pledged to expand Medicaid, after resistance from the outgoing governor to a vote for expansion in 2016.
LWVWV will oppose legislation that reduces access to health care.
In past years several bills were introduced to allow parents more say in vaccinating their children, despite laws in effect for many years that have required specific vaccinations for entry to school. In other states, such relaxation of laws resulted in increased cases of such common children’s illnesses as measles, which can have serious effects on babies, pregnant women and other vulnerable groups. LWVWV would support maintaining high levels of vaccinations in order to prevent serious and widespread diseases.
Constant efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act at the federal level are of concern. After large increases in health insurance coverage under ACA, West Virginia’s uninsured rate increased from 5.3% to 6.3% from 2016 to 2017, according to the WV Center on Budget and Policy. Repeal would reduce health care to almost 800,000 West Virginians with pre-existing conditions.
The League of Women Voters believes in basic affordable health care that includes prevention of disease, primary care, acute care, long-term care and mental health care. All of this is available to some extent in ACA.
By Helen Gibbins
Protecting West Virginia’s waters
Protecting West Virginia’s waters is one of the League’s priorities. In 2018 the WV Triennial Review allowed stakeholders to submit their recommendations on WV’s water quality standards. Nearly 600 spoke up for protections of our waters. After reviewing the comments the WV DEP submitted a final rule that included an updated list of toxic and cancer-causing chemicals to be regulated in our waters. After considerable scientific studies the US EPA had designated the list as harmful to human health. But pressures from the WV Manufacturers Association led the the WV Legislative Rule-Making Review Committee to eliminate these new toxics from regulation in WV’s waters, a source for many of our people’s drinking water. Actually the EPA listed many more chemicals than the DEP included on its original list and many adjoining states included EPA’s entire list. The water quality standards will be brought to the legislature for its amendments or approval. The League urges the legislature to reinstate DEP’s original list of toxic chemicals that should be added to regulation. West Virginia must protect our drinking water sources using up-to-date science to determine the controls. Let your legislators know that protecting our waters from toxic chemicals is one of your top priorities. (Thanks to WV Rivers Coalition and the WV Water Policy Work Group for their leadership and the information on this issue and other water issues.)
Local Energy Efficiency Partnership (LEEP) Act
The League supports the LEEP program because energy efficiency should be a primary public policy. For several years the Local Energy Efficiency Partnership (LEEP) Act has been submitted to the legislature for its approval. LEEP would help local businesses secure financing for the up-front costs for improving their buildings’ energy efficiency. The funding mechanism would be through local governments (municipalities and counties). The LEEP authorizes local governments to impose a voluntary assessment on building owners (only when the building owner requests it) to repay the project’s costs. To ensure that the public is not responsible for the costs the LEEP Act requires a public hearing and many other safeguards. LEEP will produce jobs, help businesses secure financing for their improvements, and encourage businesses to stay in the state. (Thanks to Energy Efficiency West Virginia for its leadership and this information on energy efficiency.)
Solar Power Purchase Agreements (PPA’s)
The League supports solar power as a good alternative to fossil fuels. Allowing solar Power Purchase Agreements (PPA’s) in West Virginia is a step towards promoting the use of solar power. A PPA is a method to finance solar installations for both commercial businesses and tax-exempt entities like governments and nonprofits. PPA’s are legal in 26 states, but not yet in West Virginia. With PPA’s a tax-paying third party developer installs, owns, and operates a solar array on a customer’s property. The customer agrees to purchase electricity produced by the array at a fixed rate (typically lower than that of the local utility) for a specific time period, usually 15 years. Some of the benefits include installing solar with zero upfront costs, lower electric bills, locked in long-term affordable electricity rates, and stabilized monthly budget expenditures. (Thanks to Solar United Neighbors of West Virginia for its leadership and this information on funding solar installations.)
If you would like to receive the Fact Sheets on each of these issues, you may contact Helen Gibbins, firstname.lastname@example.org.
WV’s STATE PARKS
By Helen Gibbins
Last year a proposal to timber in state parks lost because many organizations and individuals worked to defeat the proposal. The “SOSParks” group continues to work this year to encourage the state to appropriate funds for the considerable infrastructure needs in the state parks.
A recent state parks report listed several possible sources of funds. SOSParks is reviewing the proposals and will make decisions and proposals for the funding. Here is some information from the report prepared by SOSParks.
“-Even with last year’s $60 million bond sale, the parks still need more money. The total maintenance backlog is likely $100 million or slightly higher, so $40+ millions in additional funds are needed.
“-Entry fees are still recommended in the report, despite the possible drawbacks of reduced access, overhead costs etc.
“-On the good side, the report did recommend that the legislature appropriate more money for parks. An additional excise tax is also an option.
“-Unfortunately, it also recommends that legislation be introduced to allow the DNR to sell park property and resources if needed to raise funds. This could indirectly reintroduce the idea of logging.
Alternative Funding Sources
“-New internet sales tax could bring in $21 million this year, and $42 million per year thereafter, according to a WV official. Federal estimates are higher. Even a small percentage of that revenue, dedicated to parks on an annual basis, would provide a lot of extra money.
“-The pipeline mitigation funds could contribute a bunch of money to the DNR, but there isn’t much information being made public about how the funds will be used or what (if any) restrictions may apply.”
The LWVWV will continue to be a part of SOSParks to ensure that WV’s wonderful parks will not deteriorate. Be ready for some Action Alerts.
Developing Legislation Watch
Delegate Rodney Pyle wants to change Social Security. From his petition:
We, the undersigned support the efforts of Delegate Rodney A. Pyles and others to:
- -strongly urge Congress to increase the death benefit under Social Security from $255 to $1000 (has not increased since 1935) as requested by House Concurrent Resolution 73 sponsored by Pyles.
- -Convince the West Virginia Legislature to increase the homestead exemption for senior citizens, 65 years of age and older, from $20,000 to $30,000 assessed value (has not been increased since 1985).
- -Convince the West Virginia Legislature to exclude Social Security income from the State income tax (House Bill 2417, sponsored by Pyles) and urge Congress to do so at the Federal level.
- -Urge the West Virginia Legislature to pass House Bill 2848, the Livable Home Tax Credit (co-sponsored by Pyles) to provide a tax credit to elderly and disabled persons who need to modify their homes.
Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI)
LWVMM Receives Award From The Morgantown Human Rights Commission
Congratulations to the League on receiving the Commission’s 2018 Human Rights Day Award for a local organization. The award was presented at the December 18th meeting of the Morgantown City Council, where Delegate Barbara Evans Fleischauer received the award for an individual. The League is a member organization of CCSJ.
The LWVUS League Update (December 20, 2018) reported in the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion section, “The LWV of Morgantown-Monongalia County is receiving the annual Human Rights Day group/organization award from the Morgantown Human Rights Commission. This awards program spotlights local residents and organizations that have provided outstanding leadership in the support and advocacy of human rights and have enabled the city to become a more inclusive community.”
Jonathan Rosenbaum, president of the League, said that the reception at the Aull Center after the presentation in Council chambers was “wonderful with excellent speakers.” Here are his comments from that event:
We are sincerely honored to receive this outstanding award from the Morgantown Human Rights Commission. The League has a long-standing position that all levels of government have the responsibility to provide equality of opportunity for education, employment and housing for all persons in the United States regardless of their race, color, gender, religion, national origin, age, sexual orientation or disability.
In 1974, at the National League Convention, the League opened up membership to men. According to the New York Times, President Lucy Wilson Benson of the National League said, “If we’re ready for the ERA, then we darn well ought to be ready for men.” Because of this I had the opportunity to serve 4 years as President of the Morgantown-Monongalia League. Currently, I am the President of the West Virginia State League. When several of us attended the most recent National Convention, a motion passed with overwhelming support that the Equal Rights Amendment be ratified and that it becomes a U.S. Constitutional Amendment. Every hand went up in support!
Obviously, I am very proud of our League for receiving this award, and all the volunteers of the League who have worked so hard over all these years to Defend Democracy and the rights of all humans.
The League takes action on positions that we have reached a consensus on through intensive studies. Most recently we asked people to vote “No” on Amendment 1. We have educated the public about the Affordable Care Act, had forums about county-wide planning, local and county government. We have worked successfully with City Planning on zoning code revisions relating to the extractive industry to protect the livability of our town, and educated the public on Green Jobs and Renewable Energy. We are a partner with Solar United. You can learn more about our history and what we do at morgantown.lwvwv.org.
We do not build barriers to becoming a member. If you live in the United States, and are not a citizen, you can become a voting member. If you are a student, and 16 years or older you can join our local League at low cost!
We were happy to learn that the Human Rights Commission is in the process of drafting a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Plan – DEI. You will be happy to learn that the League’s membership program is now focusing on DEI, which will involve creating an action plan. Maybe we will be comparing notes!
Once again, we graciously thank-you for tonight’s award to the League!
State Representative wanted: LWV Ruth Shur Fellows DEI program
We are currently looking for a representative for the League’s new Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion planning program:
Action Plan: The action plan will include a set of designed by LWVEF and additional goals designed by the state that will be customized to best reflect each state’s DEI needs. All goals will have corresponding inputs and measured outcomes that the states will track and report on.
- Agreement to meet with their Shur Fellow at least once a month.
- Agreement to participate in LWVEF-led webinars for all Shur Fellows and participating states once every three months.
- Agreement to share successes and challenges to enable other Leagues to understand what is needed to achieve DEI goals.
If you are interested in serving as the representative for West Virginia please contact President Jonathan Rosenbaum.