Braxton Citizens' News, Opinion

Legislative session in the books…

Our state lawmakers concluded their work Saturday night. It will now take a few weeks to determine what those actions will really mean to the average West Virginian. As I have stated before in this space, I truly don’t think the powerful supermajority is in touch with the taxpayers.

Phil Kabler, the Charleston Gazette/Mail statehouse reporter, recently summed it up in one of his columns. He wrote: “More and more each session, the Republican legislative supermajority operates in an echo chamber where opinions that differ from their own are ignored or dismissed, and where the mainstream media is treated as an annoyance at best, and as an antagonist at worst.

“As the supermajority continues to become more and more politically extreme, and moves farther away from mainstream values, transparency and public scrutiny are anathema…”

Phil was aiming those comments at Senate Bill 687 which strips the powers of the State Auditor’s office to investigate abuse and requires approval of the Senate President and House Speaker to proceed with investigations. I wholeheartedly agree with Phil that from a public perspective this is an absolutely terrible piece of legislation. 

SB 687 is awaiting the Governor’s signature. I can only hope that his scrutiny of the proposal will see how much it takes away from the checks and balances that we must have to maintain a free and open form of government.

Lawmakers in their all-knowing wisdom passed the bill to reduce vaccination requirements for school attendance. As is often the case the intended bill was substantially changed as it made its way through the process. It faced some stiff opposition from both sides of the political aisle. While it passed, and in my opinion should never have, cooler heads did get some previsions added. For instance, regardless of where or how a student attends school, they must meet current vaccination requirement to participate in extracurricular activities.

Fortunately, Senate Bill 264 died in the House Judiciary Committee after passing the Senate. The bill took a shot at freedom of the press and the public’s right to know by wanting to reduce the rates paid and the number of legal advertisements the state, county and cities are required to place to inform taxpayers.

Also fortunately, House Bill 4621 suffers the same fate as the above-mentioned proposed legislation. If you remember that bill would prohibit the release of mug shots until after an individual was convicted. We also opposed that bill for the reasons I stated in this space last week.

Some good did come out of the session… being old, I like the idea of elimination my social security benefits from state income taxes, particularly considering I have already paid taxes on those funds once. We will have to wait a few days or weeks to see exactly what the session will do to or for taxpayers. Unfortunately, recent history doesn’t leave me very optimistic.