Statehouse Beat: Legislature rolls into welcome mat | Phil Kabler

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  Statehouse Beat: Legislature rolls into welcome mat |  Phil Kabler

Back in 2016, when the newly Republican-controlled legislature came up with a bill that would allow people to use religious beliefs as grounds for discrimination, many Charleston companies were putting stickers on their doors that read, “All kinds are welcome here ”to show that they were all open to it, regardless of the kind of bigotry that was perpetrated in the statehouse.

If the 2021 legislature had a motto, it would be “One Kind Welcome Here,” as the Republican super majorities have sent the message loud and clear: If you are not a white, Christian heterosexual conservative, you are not welcome in West Virginia.

Example: Legislation that would effectively make it illegal to remove or relocate Confederate statues is advancing (HB2174), although all speakers at a public hearing made it clear that they viewed the bill as an obnoxious endorsement of symbols of white supremacy and the oppression of blacks.

No one voted in favor of the bill, much like the Republican members of the House Government Organizing Committee were largely silent during the debate on the bill before everyone voted to bring it to the House floor.

Proponents of the bill claim it merely creates a mechanism for removing Confederate and other monuments and memorials from public places, although that mechanism already exists for statues on Capitol grounds in the form of the Capitol Building Commission.

That despite the curator of the Ministry of Art, Culture and History Randall Reid-SmithThe Commission’s absurd assertion that the Commission’s authority over any “material physical alteration to the grounds and buildings of the State Capitol complex” somehow does not extend to statues, since the relevant state code does not specifically quote the word “monuments”.

(The Code does not specifically refer to “trees” either, but the Commission spends much of its time deciding whether damaged or diseased trees can be removed from the Capitol grounds and approving which types of trees to plant as replacements shall they.)

Rather than having an independent commission to make decisions about statues, the bill effectively places that responsibility on the shoulders of the director of the State Historic Preservation Office, a will and amusement worker who runs a department whose budget (including state conservation grants) is controlled by the legislator.

As shy as the Capitol Building Commission (under the fearless “leadership” of Reid-Smith and Gov. Jim Justice) responded to calls to relocate the Stonewall Jackson statue and bust from their current prominent locations in the Capitol complex. You can be damned sure that a bureaucrat is unlikely to put his job (and agency funding) in the U.S. line by defying the will of the super-major legislature.

During a virtual public hearing on the bill last week, Spokesperson for Spokesperson explained how obnoxious Confederate monuments are to the African American community. how they were established in the time of Jim Crow and Civil Rights not to honor the war dead but to increase white supremacy and intimidate the black population; and how West Virginia’s adoption of a law making their removal essentially illegal (while prohibiting renaming of schools, buildings, and public spaces named after Confederates) upholds stereotypes of the state as backward and racist.

Though their points were strong and valid, it won’t make any difference to the legislature.

One thing I’ve learned in three decades of reporting on the legislature is that public hearings rarely change minds or voices, and this seemed especially pointless as only one legislature bothered to attend the session.

I’m afraid the legislative super majorities, damn it, the optics are damned, they are determined to appease the MAGA crowd of voters who got a solid diet of annihilation culture propaganda on Fox News or Newsmax.

Likewise, legislation banning transgender athletics in interscholastic sports is fine, though the only evidence it is a problem in West Virginia is the constant outrage over Fox News and Newsmax.

In the meantime, as the end of this week is the deadline to get the bills out of the committee and up to the respective floors of the House and Senate on time, by crossover day (day 50 of the session), bills are being put forward to expand the State Human Rights Act introduced sexual orientation and gender equality as protected classes (SB254, HB2538) and failed in committee to pass the CROWN law prohibiting discrimination based on hair texture and style (SB108, HB2698).

In a session where a record number of bills only needed to be approved by one committee to advance into the House or Senate, all House and Senate versions of the bills have dual committee references, with the exception of the Senate version of the Anti-LGBTQ Discrimination Act.

The CROWN bill (“Create a respectful and open world for natural hair”) consists of two sentences and begs the question of why it is necessary to consider two committees in each house when, for example, a complex 30-page bill is weakened The licensing and training requirements for five different construction professions were set individually in both houses.

As the story of the Gazette Mail reporter Joe Severino It turned out that a unanimous resolution by the Charleston City Council and a rally by the Capitol were not enough to get the CROWN Act going in immoral legislation.

Legislative inaction on both bills speaks loudly: Your kind is not welcome here.

Back in 2017, the Washington Post created a travelogue for Charleston as part of an ongoing series entitled “Highlighting the Best Vacation Destinations You Probably Never Thought Of”. It provided a glowing account of the city’s surprisingly eclectic art, music, and dining scene, as well as top landmarks like the Capitol Complex, Taylor Books, and the Carriage Trail.

Despite the positive coverage, I remember that many of the readers’ comments were unfavorable, and many commented that they would not vacation in a red state.

(I was tempted to answer by pointing out that the parts of Charleston featured in the travelogue – Downtown, East End, and Elk City of the West Side – are as blue as the hometowns of the reviewers.)

If the topic of this session, at least from a judicial point of view, was to take steps to reverse the state’s population outflow and bring those mythical 400,000 new residents to the state, nothing about this session would change the minds of those who commented the Charleston article.

When he announced his (as I predicted, DOA) tax rescheduling plan, Justice said in his overly frank manner that the two most important factors in getting businesses and people into the state are good schools and good roads .

As noted last week, West Virginia was ranked 45th for education and 50th for infrastructure in the latest “Best States” rankings from US News and World Report.

That was before lawmakers imposed a fiscal battering ram on public education, with charter schools and the Hope Scholarship Act potentially blowing a billion-dollar hole in government funding for public education.

And because accounting for old scores is of paramount importance to the super majorities, the Legislature passed a series of bills at this session that metaphorically gives teachers, teachers unions, and education in general a big old middle finger.

While lawmakers may have given teachers the chance in 2018 and 2019 to have the audacity to leave their classrooms and come to the Capitol to confront them for breaking promises to better pay and safe health care, this one gave Meeting professional educators no reason to stay in West Virginia, and certainly no reason to move here.

Legislators also passed several American Legislative Exchange Council bills designed to weaken unions and the construction industry. Republican super majorities were thus able to score points against union PACs who fought for their opponents. But how does this encourage skilled craftsmen who have honed their craft over years of training to stay here or want to move?

As far as infrastructure is concerned, although there has been some progress in broadband at this meeting, it was at this meeting that the Deputy Commissioner for Motorways was the most likely to hear the improvement in state roads and motorways Jimmy Wriston promise to have all the potholes filled by Memorial Day.

400,000 new residents? After this session we are fortunate to avoid a mass exodus of the current residents.

After all, I couldn’t really pinpoint why Justice is so adamant about his tax shift plan to cut personal income taxes and then shift the tax burden on low and middle income families as he blows up $ 185 a million-a-year hole in the state budget. Why was his devotion to the plan so indomitable that he responded to criticism from the state Economic and Industrial Council and the Chamber of Commerce as personal attacks, among other things?

Then I read Gazette-Mail Reporter Scott Hamilton ‘s article “Buying Bubba’s House” in which he describes how the son of Justice James III repurchased PGA golfer Bubba WatsonThe Greenbrier Sporting Club home for $ 2.5 million, apparently after Watson’s endorsement deal with The Greenbrier expired.

All I know about Greenbrier Sporting Club is what I saw from the Cardinal’s window, but I can say that there are some terribly beautiful big houses there, especially considering they are second ones , third or maybe even fourth houses act for most.

My guess is that if the state shifted the tax burden from the rich by abolishing income tax, these million dollar vacation rentals would become more alluring.

Under state tax law, one can establish tax residency in West Virginia by spending more than 30 days in the state “with intent to become a resident” or by being “physically present” in the state for more than 183 days a year .

(“Physically Present” sounds like one of those quirky legalisms that would allow the wealthy homeowners of the Greenbrier Sporting Club to spend even moments in the state as a day. I suspect a good attorney would interpret “physically present” as it does Justice’s lawyers interpreted “living” as being extremely generous.)

For most of us, Justice’s tax plan would be either a wash or a tax hike. However, if you’re lucky enough to be a New Yorker making $ 10 million annually, changing your residence from New York to West Virginia with no income tax would mean a cool $ 882,000 annual tax saving.

This makes the $ 2.5 million second home look like a real bargain.