…..If the newspaper industry wasn’t fighting uphill to survive the business downturn from the pandemic, the WV Legislature has provided us with yet another challenge. The move to require legal advertising only on the State’s website would be a death knell for many small newspapers.
….What’s on the agenda this session? Educational savings accounts will take the funds expended on each student’s education and allow the funds to follow the student to a private school. The schools must opt to participate in the ESA program through the State Treasurer’s Office. Not sure from reading the bill if parochial schools are included in the definition of private schools. This is an issue that goes back 20 years. My problem always was that State funds should not be used to pay for religious education so if an hour is dedicated to religious instruction each day should that be deducted from the allocation.
….Charter school legislation has already passed out of Senate Education and I predict will pass the Senate. The bill increases the number of charter schools allowable in the State from 3 to 10. Although three were permitted under previous legislation none have been established. The permitting agency is changed from the local board of education to a state permitting agency under this year’s bill.
….The House has passed out of the Education Committee a bill that prevents teachers from being paid during a work stoppage. The bill which is now headed to the floor also prevents teachers from using sick days during a work stoppage. Unlike some states, West Virginia does not permit public employees to unionize thus the West Virginia Education Association nor does the State permit public employees to strike, thus the terminology work stoppage. The amount of support the teachers and school service personnel were given during the last work stoppage tells me the public supported them. Does the strong support for the bill mean our legislators do not? I look for the bill to pass the House.
….Governor Justice proposed eliminating the personal income tax in his State of the State. Doing so will mean $2.2 billion in revenue will need to replaced or 47 percent of the State’s budget. He proposes eliminating the tax exemption for professional services such as attorneys, barbers, beauticians, dentists, etc. The 6 percent tax sales tax would be increased by 1.5 percent. Increasing the sales tax is especially harmful to businesses in border counties. Sales tax on food also hits the lower income sector harder since a greater percentage of their funds are spent on food. Taxes would be increased on tobacco and soft drinks. From what I’m reading, raising the tax on tobacco might be an easy sell, but the soft drink companies have a very strong lobby so I look for soft drinks to be amended out.
…..The Governor describes his budget as “flat” meaning no expansion. He wants to make up part of the lost revenue from the removal of the personal income tax by attracting more residents who may choose to work remotely while enjoying our small town life and low cost of living. I hope we’re able to do that, but there’s no guarantee and the “state of our state” is too precarious to pass a budget on a hope that may not turn into reality.
…..A bill sponsored by Del. John Doyle will increase the notice being required for a change in ambient air quality standards.
… A bill sponsored by Del. Pat McGeehan would require the party caucus meeting to fall under the open meetings act. Under current code the Democrat and Republican caucuses are held behind closed doors with neither media nor anyone outside the party having access.
…..According to WV Metro News, a bill to put a time limit on the emergency powers of the Governor passed out of Judiciary Committee with an amendment, offered by Del. Pat McGeehan, to make the limit applicable to the current pandemic. Because the bill hadn’t yet been reported to the floor, the Judiciary Committee was able to reconvene; bring the bill back to the table; and vote to remove McGeehan’s amendment. The machinations of making your laws are convoluted and there is a reason they say you never want to closely observe sausage and your laws being made. Neither is very attractive. My guess (and it’s just a guess) is that leadership got a call from the Governor’s office.
…..The pandemic has brought to attention the increased need for telemedicine and a bill extends telemedicine to all feasible medical care.
…..”I won’t be satisfied until West Virginia’s success is no longer a surprise!” That was Gov. Jim Justice in his State of the State address. Good for him and neither should we…as citizens of this State… be satisfied. Think about it, how many stories did you read in the past few weeks about little West Virginia getting the COVID Vaccine distribution right.
….”He’s so dumb…he don’t know he don’t know,” the person who originally said this is said to have been Mike Starvaggi, long deceased and much loved founder of Starvaggi Enterprises. I, however, have often heard it from my good friend Dewey Guida, owner of DeeJay’s in Weirton. The message is clear. There are some people who don’t realize or acknowledge that they don’t know everything, or at least the problem they are encountering.
….I credit our success in the COVID Vaccine Distribution to the fact that our Governor fully acknowledged that he wasn’t a health care expert and turned the COVID crisis over to someone who was: Dr. Clay Marsh of WVU. At the time Justice coined the term ”COVID Czar” I thought it was pretty corny, but I now realize that the Governor was conveying a very clear message…..”this is the guy in charge.”
….Hancock County’s COVID status has changed from red to gold and as I write this no counties in the State are red. I feel a collective sigh of relief, but it’s important not to let our guard down. We need to continue social distancing and wearing our masks.
…..When this pandemic is over, I picture us all going through the grocery store hugging everyone we see! OK, maybe just me, but I am definitely going to hug so watch out!