Last week I wrote about the “absolute worst” legislator of the 2021 regular session. Today I want to acknowledge the person I would consider Legislator of the Year (although, given the horrific nature of this legislature, this is akin to the Valedictorian of Reform School).
This award goes to the judiciary chairman of the Senate Charlie Trump, R-Morgan, whose committee managed to take a bunch of awful bills and either improve them, effectively convert them into study resolutions, or sit on them until Saturday’s time runs out.
A case in point was what is known as the Second Amendment Preservation Act (HB 2694), which, in its original version, would have made it a criminal offense for state and local law enforcement officers to assist federal agencies in enforcing stricter federal gun safety laws than our scanty semblance of state safety laws for weapons.
As Trump noted, the idea that state and local justice officials working with their federal counterparts constitute an “unwanted entanglement” is as ridiculous as the concept of ignoring the supremacy of the US Constitution and federal law and declaring that certain Laws are not enforceable in the state.
Trump came to the point to get to the heart of the problem that sparked the bill that gun nuts are afraid of this old, weak president Joe Biden and the scary Nancy Pelosi / Chuck Shumer Controlled Congress is coming for their weapons.
(Biden instead announced on Thursday some perfectly sensible, rational, and measured weapon safety measures that all sensible Americans should support.)
Trump wisely noted that when it comes to an unconstitutional transgression by the President or Congress, the correct answer is not legislation that forces state and local officials to effectively ignore the law or executive order, but rather its constitutionality in Asked what is Trump’s strike-and-insertion amendment doing.
Similarly, Trump adopted House Joint Resolution 1, which originally proposed a constitutional amendment prohibiting the state, cities and counties from making laws or regulations that restrict the right to keep and carry guns, and do so by “Locality, ammunition capacity, caliber, change, accessories, decibels, carrying method or other means”, and it was weakened to the indication of cities and counties. No weapons ordinances may be issued that are stricter than state law – which happens to be current state law.
(Had the constitutional amendment been ratified in its original form if your neighbor decided to set up a shooting range in his back yard and do late night stump wipings with AR-15 and you complained about noise being harsh; you can’t violate in any way, shape, shape or fashion on his 2A.)
Also in another demonstration of wisdom, Trump ruled that it would be inadvisable to attempt a cursory review of a 400-page full rewrite of the state criminal code in the last 10 days of the 60-day session, and instead it was changed to one to effectively investigate certain convictions for one year, with the involvement of the State Criminal Commission.
(Trump’s colleague in the house, chairman of the judiciary Moore got itR-Kanawha was similarly cautious when he concluded that there was insufficient time in the session to take up a law amending the State Election Law (SB565), which also met with significant opposition and was included in the list of 361 Voter of the Brennan Center for Justice was inducted into 47 states, introduced oppressive laws.)
Meanwhile, on my Friday deadline for filing this humble column (and anything is possible in the last hours of a legislature), some terrible bills remained on the Trump Judiciary Committee, including the bill that would make it a crime for white supremacists to be closed remove or relocate statues (HB 2174), a bill that was unanimously rejected in the public hearing and generated significant negative national publicity for West Virginia at a time we are allegedly trying to attract people here.
With his diligence and willingness to become unpopular with a party that is moving ever further to the right, Trump was a brief glimmer of light in a deeply dark meeting.
To a lesser extent, Trump continues the longstanding tradition of the Senate Judiciary Committee being a sanctuary where extreme, poorly designed, or harmful bills have died.
That follows a legacy of committee chairmen who were smart, open-minded, and fearless (often helped by being in safe Senate districts), names like Jim Humphreys, Bill Wooton and Jeff Kessler and Corey Palumbo.
One of the most egregious actions I’ve seen in my 32 legislative terms was the attempt by the Senate leadership to work through an 11-hour version of the Income Tax Reduction / Sales Tax Increase Act (HB 3300), with members having a maximum of two hours to read the new Version of the complex tax shift and with President of the Senate Craig Blair, R-Berkeley, who refuses to comply with Senate Rule 15a that requires invoices with tax implications to include a tax bill detailing the financial implications of the legislation.
Throughout the process, the party, which allegedly advocates transparency, went out of its way to ensure that no evidence, studies, or expert testimony was presented that would have challenged its basic premise that the income tax cut would affect people and businesses in will bring the state in droves.
It occurred to me that the legislature and governor had a resident tax and revenue expert in their midst throughout the process, but never asked him to analyze the validity of the claims. This expert has been Deputy Minister of Finance for many years Mark Muchow.
Muchow’s Fiscal Note for the original version of the Senate’s income tax plan (SB 600) is hidden within sight.
Muchow pointed out that states with no income tax are not tax-free havens, that these states generate revenue from countless other taxes, including consumption taxes, corporate and corporate taxes, and property taxes, that are significantly higher than comparable taxes in West Virginia.
He found that Florida property taxes are 2.3 times higher than property taxes in West Virginia and Texas 3.5 times higher. Commercial property taxes are twice as high in both states.
Muchow noted that Tennessee, often quoted by Gov. Jim Justice As a model for his proposal, he has property taxes 56% higher than West Virginia, has the highest sales tax in the country at 9.55%, taxes groceries at 6.25%, and levies an additional sales tax of 2.75% Luxury goods.
Additionally, he notes that general corporate taxes are higher in Tennessee and that as a personal concern, the state has significantly higher consumption taxes, including a beer tax that is dramatically higher than West Virginia.
Muchow also noted, “Pro Captia spends Tennessee less on (public) education and higher education than West Virginia.”
(I assumed that cutting spending on programs and services might be the real intent of reducing income tax.)
West Virginia would likely make spending cuts under the original Senate plan, with Muchow estimating it would cut general revenue by $ 185 million in its first full year.
(In his videoconference accusing House leadership of killing his plan by refusing to enforce it without scrutiny like the Senate, Justice claimed Muchow had submitted a tax bill stating that the plan would raise state revenue by $ 80 million. I can’t find such a tax note. Justice also said he took an increase in property tax off the table in negotiations. I can’t find any evidence that property taxes were ever on track.)
In particular, Muchow pointed out that West Virginia currently has the 17th lowest per capita tax burden and local tax burden. This begs a question I tried to ask earlier: If our already low tax burden doesn’t attract people and businesses into the state, how low do we have to be to be supposedly attractive?
While the judiciary appears unwilling to abandon his plan, state taxpayers should require him to produce reliable independent evidence to support his premise of a direct causal effect between income tax cuts, sales tax increases and increases, and economic and population growth.
I’ll bet what’s left of Justice’s fortune that no one can be found.
Finally, legislation to permanently liberalize beer, wine and liquor regulations during the pandemic (HB2025) posed an interesting problem, as Major League Baseball reissued minor league baseball, which West Virginia cost all four affiliated professional baseball teams.
The State Code (60-8-3 (i) 1) provides a special license for the sale of wine in “professional baseball stadiums”, defined as “a facility primarily for the use of one approved by the National Association of Professional Baseball -Leagues, Inc. or its successor used as a major or minor league baseball park. “
(The National Association was the governing body of the small leagues before MLB blew it all up.)
With the changes, West Virginia Power is now a member of the independent Atlantic League and no longer strictly defines a minor league team, while the stadiums in Morgantown, Bluefield and Princeton are no longer “professional ball parks” since the three are now Amateur Collegiate Wood Bat League teams host.
(For practical reasons, I don’t think Bluefield or Princeton ever sold adult drinks.)
It is. Richard Lindsay, D-Kanawha, raised the issue during the discussion of the law in the Senate Judiciary Committee. Legal counsel to the committee Tom Smith said he believes the Power Ball Club can continue to serve wine as professional baseball will continue to be held at Power Park, but the West Virginia Black Bears seem out of luck with wine sales.
It would be a shame if the power park wine sales had to be shut down for technical reasons, as tough as a lawyer / lobbyist Wendel Turner worked to pass the legislation in part on behalf of his wife, Janeenjoying the occasion of Glass of Wine at the Ballyard.