AND THEN AGAIN…….by Tamara Pettit

……..Legislation you need to know about:   As the Legislature reaches its midpoint, a lot of bills have been introduced that bear watching.    What happens in Charleston DOES have an impact on you financially……in the education our kids receive….in public safety…in the judicial system….and in our well-being..    Let’s take a look at those I have flagged for watching (and my personal opinion on whether it’s a good bill or a bad bill.

……..Who’s driving your kids?   School bus safety is a major concern, but what happens when the legislature opens up the code to allow students to be transported in vehicles or vans owned by the school board and adds service personnel to those allowed to drive them.   SB 267. Sponsored by Sen. Ryan Weld (R-1st) increases the seating cap in a vehicle permitted to transport students to 10 including the  driver.  The insurance cost on those vehicles is born by the County.    Discussion of the bill is on the agenda for Monday, Dec. 14 Board of Education meeting.  It’s a bad bill in my opinion and I wonder if school boards in Sen. Weld’s district were consulted before he introduced the bill.    Sure, it’s cheaper, but is it safer?   And, what about the school bus drivers who are CDL certified and trained to haul your kids?   The bill will result in fewer runs for them.  One of the reasons we have  required every safety precaution for our school buses and make sure our drivers have the necessary training is pretty simple.  Those buses carry our most precious cargo.  

…….Mask or no mask?  Who decides?   One bill quite simply takes control away from the local school board and hands it over to the State.  As we all know, the more local control is the more likely the decision is to be tailored to the circumstance.  Bad bill.   Delegate Pat McGeehan (R-1st) has introduced a bill to ban mask mandates.  I can’t even fathom.

…….HB 4074 has long been needed.  It requires middle and high school teachers to receive yearly education in self-harm and eating disorders.   Both issues are complex and not only do educators need to know how to recognize the signs, they need to be aware that a careless word or action can trigger an the onset or a relapse with an eating disorder.   I read the remarks by the sponsor whose daughter’s eating disorder began when a gym teacher said she was too heavy to be a cheerleader.   She came very close to death and is still fighting anorexia.

……SB 570 requires training for police officers in  handling those who suffer from dementia or Alzheimer’s. 

……..Funding for the State’s medical schools.    A Senate bill repealing the one cent pop tax (why should we pay extra to rot our teeth?) has passed the Senate and has been referred to House Finance.  Since  the 1950’s   the pop tax provided dedicated revenue to build WVU medical school to provide for its operation.  The new funding source would be the tax on insurance premiums and would be expanded to include  all three of the State’s medical schools.  Under the formula WVU would get $14 million;  Marshall -$5.5 million;  and the Osteopathic Medical School – $3.9 million. 

…….HB 2910 will reduce the number of magistrates in Hancock County.  Currently we have three magistrates.  The bill calls for one magistrate to allocated per 16,500 population.   Hancock County has a population of 29,003, if that ratio was used the County would be reduced to one magistrate.   The bill, however, states no bill shall have less than two magistrates so Hancock would only lose one magistrate.

…….I was surprised that  this bill has advanced.  HB 4024  adds cosmetologists to the section of the code that permits licensing of barbers through apprenticeship.  Sounds like a special interest bill to me.  There is another bill that removes the requirement for continuing education for cosmetologists.

…… I wrote earlier about a bill sponsored by Del. Pat McGeehan (R-1st) which changes the net terminal income distribution for racetrack video lottery.  Currently 2 % of the revenue goes to the county if the racetrack is in an unincorporated area.  That 2 % is only split 50/50 with municipalities after the threshold of $2 million is reached.  McGeehan’s bill removes the threshold.  Currently, however, the bill has yet to get on the Judiciary Committee agenda.

……What do you expect from your delegate or senator?   Is it enough to elect someone who votes in accordance with your political views?  Do you want someone who is able to get legislation passed that matters to you?  The two are not mutually exclusive in the real legislative world.  Sometimes the stance a legislator takes puts him/her in bad standing with the legislative leadership making any bill he/she sponsorsl dead on arrival.  When you’re looking at casting your vote for a legislator, you need to look at the whole picture.  Rhetoric is good for getting publicity, but being a team player is often critical in getting legislation passed.

…….At the conclusion of the legislative session, the Charleston Daily Mail used to rate legislators on the number of bills each legislator sponsored and the number of bills that legislator got passed.  It’s a good way to rate the effectiveness of your representative in Charleston.