Monday, August 24, 2015

Voting: It's a BIG deal!

West Virginia Young Democrat Sarah Summers shares her thoughts on registering to vote for the first time. Her enthusiasm, dedication, commitment, and pride provide lessons for all of us, whether we are 18 or 80. Thank you, Sarah.

This past Wednesday I registered to vote ... as a Democrat of course. What a feeling it is to finally have a say in issues that affect my family, my friends, and myself. 

The idea of not registering to vote never entered my mind. I was raised in a proud, hardworking Democratic family. I have been around True Blue women who have always taken me to campaigns and events. It has been engraved in me that if I don't have my say at the polls, other people will make decisions regarding everything in my life. 

I have, however, come to the realization that not everyone my age is as excited as I am about getting out to vote. For many of my friends, turning 18 is nothing sensational except that it offers a bit more freedom. I am trying to get them to see 18 in a different light. 18 is the “voting age.” It is the age we can make our voices heard at the polls. It is an age free of control, but not the kind they are thinking. 18 could possibly be the most monumental age in one’s life.

As if the idea of making our voices heard, making our own decisions, and not being treated like children anymore isn’t liberating enough, there are plenty of other reasons to become a voting citizen. Simply stated, we are extremely fortunate to have this right. There is no justification for not casting a ballot; everyone can and everyone should

In 1920, after decades of fighting and dying for the right, the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was ratified. This Amendment declared that women deserve the same voting rights as men. Fifty years earlier, in 1870, the 15th Amendment granted African-Americans the right to make their voices heard. In 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed The Voting Rights Act into law, guaranteeing there can be no discrimination toward African-Americans casting a ballot. Today, any registered voter is accepted and able to vote.

So what's your excuse?

My fellow 18-year-olds, if you don’t vote then someone else will make decisions for you. I cannot stress this point strongly enough. Decisions regarding your healthcare, education, and income; your future in general; any rights you have come to know and love, are either in your hands, or in someone else's. I could go on and on. Whether you like it or not, you cannot complain if you don’t get out and vote. 

The 2016 presidential election is our prime opportunity. I urge you to watch the news, follow politicians, and become informed. Pay attention not only to the candidates you agree with, but to the ones you disagree with as well. 

Call a friend and schedule a ride to your local precinct on Election Day. Make it a special occasion, and remind yourself how blessed you are to have this right. 

Do whatever it takes. 

In the words of Franklin Delano Roosevelt: 
“Nobody will ever deprive the American people of the right to vote except the American people themselves and the only way they could do this is by not voting.” 
See you at the polls!    

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Five weeks and two days …

West Virginia's Democratic women will gather this year at Pipestem Resort in Summers County for their annual meeting. Have you registered yet? If not, you can easily do so online, or ask your club president for a registration form.

And for a slice of what it's like to plan and prepare for the event, visit Third District Director Debbi McNeer's blog. She and her fellow Summers County members are making sure you have a memorable meeting.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Medicare turns 50!

On Thursday, July 30th, we celebrate Medicare’s 50th birthday.   This will be a joyful day for seniors of America!  After nearly a half century, Medicare has a lot to be proud of.  Thanks to Medicare, millions of older Americans are able to enjoy retirement without the fear of medical expenses that could bankrupt us and our families.  In this age of shrinking savings and small or nonexistent pensions, Medicare is more important than ever.

 Retirees and workers should be very concerned over the drastic changes some of our elected officials want to make that would threaten the dream we all have for a safe and secure retirement.
These changes would include cuts to Medicare, Medicaid and to Social Security – not to just one of these programs, but to all three!  We have some Governors actually refusing federal funds that would expand Medicaid in their states.  And when it comes to Medicare, many want to pass costs onto seniors through benefit cuts, means testing, increasing the Medicare eligibility age, or privatization.
All of this leads us to a clear conclusion: Medicare remains strong, and is not in any immediate financial danger.  While the long term financial future of the program is important, there is no need to rush to drastic action.  Unfortunately, too many in Washington demand harmful Medicare cuts despite all this.  They claim that they want to help seniors and ensure the program’s future.  But it makes no sense to cut benefits now unnecessarily.
Fortunately, we can ensure that Medicare keeps celebrating birthdays for decades to come.  And we can do it without harmful benefit cuts.

  • Congress should reject proposals like the Ryan Republican budget that would cut Medicare funding by turning it into a voucher program.  It takes away traditional Medicare benefits and replaces it with a “coupon” to purchase insurance in the private marketplace.  It would end Medicare as we know it, leaving us at the mercy of private insurance companies.
  • Congress should reject proposals that further means tests Medicare benefits.  Medicare Parts B and D are already means tested for individuals with incomes over $85,000, and couples with incomes over $170,000.  More means testing is a direct attack on the middle class.
  • Congress should also reject proposals that shift Medicare costs to seniors.  Proposals to charge a surcharge to individuals who have Medigap do not deal with the rising costs of health care but, instead shifts costs on to beneficiaries.     Likewise, proposals to institute home health co-pays will penalize those who can least afford it – the oldest, sickest, and chronically ill.
  • Congress also needs to reject proposals like the Ryan Republican budget that raise the eligibility age for Medicare beneficiaries.  Proposals that have you wait two more years to get Medicare by raising the eligibility age to 67, leaves you on your own when you are most vulnerable.  You’ll either have to find a job that provides coverage, when you are at an age that most employers don’t want to hire you; pay for coverage yourself, at a time in life when your income is likely declining; or become impoverished so you are eligible for Medicaid.

Instead of these awful proposals, Congress should enact the Nelson – Caster Medicare Drug Savings Act, S. 1083 and H.R. 2005.  This legislation, which will require drug companies to provide discounts to the federal government for low-income Medicare beneficiaries, will save the government and taxpayers $121 billion over 10 years.  This is a sensible alternative that will save the Medicare program money without harming beneficiaries.

Between common sense reforms like the Medicare Drug Savings Act and the savings from the Affordable Care Act, we can feel confident about the future of Medicare as it celebrates its 50th year and we intend to make sure it is still strong now and for our children and our grandchildren!

Ginny Moles is Senior Caucus Director for the WV Democratic Party.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Still unequal after all these years

Belinda Biafore, chair of the WV State Democratic Executive Committee, has a message for all West Virginians about an issue that, at first glance, looks like a women's issue. In reality, it ends up being everyone's problem:
It’s the beginning of April and the countdown to Equal Pay Day begins. Equal Pay Day is on Tuesday, April 14th, and women all across the United States are reminded that we are still fighting for equal pay for equal work. 
Women in the United States are only making around 78 cents to every dollar a man makes. How is this fair? It’s not, and while nationally the amount is 78 cents, here in West Virginia women’s earnings are even less than that.
In a recent study by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, West Virginia ranks second to last in gender earnings ratio in the United States. West Virginia’s gender earnings ratio is 67.3 percent. Only Louisiana, at 66.7%, is lower.
We just completed the 2015 legislative session under Republican leadership that attacked wages of not just women, but all hardworking West Virginians. We need to be taking steps forward for our state, not backwards. How can we close the wage gap when we have a Republican majority that is focused on rolling us back in all aspects of our workforce?
Young men and women are the future of West Virginia. We talk about ways to keep them here at home to help our economy and build our future, but how can we expect young women to want to stay here?
Thirty cents may not seem like a lot, but it adds up when you’re providing for your family. Day after day we buy groceries, gas, and food for our children. We pay for child care and save for their college education.
We work and we provide for ourselves and our families. So why, when we work so hard, are women paid less?
Pay discrimination isn't just a women’s issue, it’s a family issue. It’s everyone’s issue.
Women have fought for centuries for equal rights, and our fight continues every single day. 
Join the Democratic Party in our fight for equal pay for equal work as we take Equal Pay Day to remember that hardworking West Virginians include hardworking West Virginia women. 

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

And now, a word from our sponsor …


While it's true that the West Virginia Federation of Democratic Women doesn't have sponsors, per se, we do spend money. And therefore, from time to time, we need to raise a little money.

Where do we spend money? Travel. Annual meeting. Postage. All the various and sundry expense categories necessary for running an advocacy group.

How do we raise money? Dues – one dollar per member of your county club dues goes to the state. We make every effort to have annual meeting registration fees cover the cost of the event. The largest source of annual revenue has been and remains ad sales for our annual meeting program book. We also raffle off a handmade quilt and raise money at our Friday night auction during the meeting weekend.

We'd like to offer training sessions throughout the state on topics of interest to you. So far we've heard you want to learn more about effective use of social media and how to urge more women to run for elected office. Training = expenses.

So. We've committed to publishing a quarterly subscription-based newsletter. Our first issue went to nearly 2000 people, and subscription orders have been trickling in, but in order for Lean to the Left to be successful, we need more. We need YOU.

For less than $3 per month – just $35 – you can brag about your group, learn how other clubs are contributing to their communities, be educated, enlightened, and inspired.

Think about it. Each month, could you forego …

  • a semi-fancy coffee drink?
  • those impulse lottery tickets?
  • a couple songs from iTunes?
  • that app purchase?
  • a bargain book for your Kindle or Nook?

and instead, use that money to support your West Virginia Federation of Democratic Women?

We thought you could. If you haven't clicked through to our subscription form yet, here's one more chance.

Thank you.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Who are we, and what are we doing here?

Who is the West Virginia Federation of Democratic Women? We're occasionally asked that question. Lately, we’ve heard from more than a few folks trying to tell us who we are. Or who we should be.

Let's set the record straight.

The WVFDW is a group of women who have joined together to speak out for Democratic principles in West Virginia. We are doctors, lawyers, and stay-at-home moms. We are teachers, retirees, veterans, and business owners. We are union members, college students, artists, moms, daughters, wives, sisters, and much, much more. With approximately 3,000 members, we don’t fit into a nice, neat little box.

Does every member agree on every issue?

Does every member voice her opinion the same way?

Does every member have the same priorities?

That’s what’s great about our group. We are alike and different at the same time. 

So how do we determine the WVFDW message.  It's simple: majority rules. Since we cannot vote on every issue within our group, we agree to stay consistent with the platform set by the West Virginia Democratic Party, defining our message. We have a Communications Committee and Board that keep the message going at all times in many different outlets. 

We were known, not that many years ago, as the tea-and-cookie branch of the County Executive Committees. We still raise money, but we’re doing that differently now. It is the 21st century, after all. Stay in touch with us by subscribing to our quarterly newsletter. And we’re launching a modest retail therapy effort today, as well.

Strong women speaking out with a strong message can stir emotions. Not a week goes by in which we are not criticized, sometimes constructively, sometimes not so much. We’ve been called names. We’ve been ridiculed. We’re frequently given unsolicited advice.  

Here's the deal.

We listen to all constructive ideas.
We toss them around within our membership to see if they are ideas we want to embrace.

Labeling and name-calling do not bother us.  
We occasionally dish it out, and we can take it. We’re not easily intimidated. How you define us is your opinion; if you do so rudely, that says more about you than it does about us. We know we're making a difference when you react.

Snarky comments may be met with snarky comments.
“Snark” is something we do and do well. Sometimes we feel the need to respond, sometimes we don’t. There is no policy here.

We have made mistakes, and we will make more.  
We are not perfect, and we don’t pretend to be. You will find typos, missing words, grammatical errors, misspellings, and more. We try to correct errors when we see them, and we try to thank you when you point them out. We try to be factual in everything we do, but we make mistakes. We also have used poor word choices (very recently, as a matter of fact!). We sincerely apologize when we’re wrong and move on. Let him who is without sin …

We might offend you.
No matter how much we try not to offend people, it happens. It’s not personal. We can’t scrutinize each and every image or word we display, hoping to somehow please everyone. Respectful dialogue is a welcome, but rare, occurrence, especially behind a screen.

We promote Democrats and Democratic principles.
We do not agree with all the Democratic legislators’ votes or positions, nor do we speak for them. The Democratic Party is a big tent, and we feel that adds to our strength. Also, um, we’re partisan.  

We aren't trying to impress you, and we're not seeking your approval.
You don't have to agree with us. We love it when you do, but we also know that many, many, many of you follow us for the sole purpose of finding something with which to disagree. 

We're strong, and we're here to stay. If you are a Democratic woman, we welcome your ideas and input to help us grow stronger.  

We are the West Virginia Federation of Democratic Women. Join us

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Done and done

A message from our state Democratic Party chair, Belinda Biafore:

Fellow Democrats,

Today concludes the 2015 Legislative Session and I want to thank all of our Democratic Legislators for standing with West Virginia and fighting for our families as we face this fight against the extreme, radical Republican leadership together. As a Party, we represent hardworking West Virginia families and will continue to fight for the betterment of those families and our state. 

This session, hardworking West Virginians faced an unfathomable attack on their wages, their workplace safety, and their ability to provide for their families by the new Republican leadership.

Not only did the rollback of mine safety and workplace safety lessen the security of workers coming home from a hard day's work safely, but their children now also face threats brought to them by the new Republican majority. The GOP has weakened vaccination laws in West Virginia bringing risk to our children in the public school system. Every parent, grandparent and family member should have the confidence to send their children to school safely and by weakening vaccination laws the new Republican majority has now lessened that confidence. Republican leadership also passed a bill that allows individuals to carry a concealed deadly weapon without training or a permit. Talk about safety risks, how are parents and families supposed to feel safe in our public places, in our communities or even in our neighborhoods? 

Republicans were elected on a promise to their voters to create jobs and better the economy but, here we are, at the end of the session and their voters did not see jobs bills or one plan to create jobs for our state. The only "jobs" bills we have seen pushed by the Republican majority are the "jobs bills" that gut wages and quality jobs that we already have in West Virginia. 

What were they doing with their time? They were busy pushing legislation on behalf of out of state interest groups and big money corporations, and participating in self serving politics. 

It's not right and it's not fair to the West Virginians they broke their promises to. 

What we saw this legislative session from Republican leadership was an extreme radical agenda that hurt hardworking West Virginia families. They gutted wages, rolled back workplace safety and put the education of our children at risk. We will not let them continue to hinder the quality of life for the hardworking West Virginians that have built this state and the children that are the future of this state. The barbaric Republican leadership is moving West Virginia backward, not forward and we will not stand back and let that happen.

This is only the beginning and our Democratic legislators faced a heck of a fight and I cannot thank them enough for standing up for hardworking West Virginians. 

Our fight is not over. Our state was taken from us by out-of-state special interest groups and big money corporations and now is the time we begin the process to get it back! 

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Don't forget to turn out the lights

As you might imagine, we spend a lot of our time interacting on various and sundry social media platforms. Facebook and Twitter are our faves, and where we're most active. So like and follow us, already.

One thing we've noticed lately, particularly on Facebook, are the number of comments from those who want to leave West Virginia, based on the actions of the newly elected Republican leadership in this legislative session. We've snarked about this previously. Those comments aren't going away.

But West Virginia families are.

And before you tell them not to let the door hit them in the ass on their way out, think of this. Population determines representation in Washington. Every state gets two Senators, but Congressional representation is based on population.

Probably more importantly, electoral votes are based on population.

Come with us back to the year 2000 for just a moment. You remember that election, right? The one in which the Supreme Court elected George W. Bush? Had West Virginia followed previous paths, and voted for Al Gore, Florida's hanging chads would have been irrelevant.

Yes. Think about that. West Virginia's five electoral votes going blue instead of red would have changed the course of history, dramatically.

There is, of course, no way to know whether we'd have spent thousands of lives and trillions of dollars on an unfunded war. But we can surmise.

Which brings us to 2014. Where does the time go? West Virginia is blood-red now, not true-blue, and the current legislature is determined to do some major bloodletting during their 60 Days of Doom. Repeal is the word of the day, day after day, and there's not much left for the left.

And so they're leaving. Maybe that's the Republicans' goal: Reduce the population and you'll

  • reduce the need for public assistance,
  • reduce the student/teacher ratio, and 
  • reduce those pesky liberals who think clean water is important.

But they're also reducing the number of people willing to work, which reduces the tax base, reduces the number of tourists willing to spend their money here and reduces the number of voters.

At any rate, we're here, and we're staying, and we hope enough Democrats will stick around to help us turn West Virginia blue in 2016. How about it … are you in?

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Trust us

We're just going to send you straight over to one of our favorite blogs, written by one of our favorite people, for some straight talk about West Virginia Republican politics. Chris Regan, the vice-chair of the state Democratic party, tells it like it is.

You can begin at the beginning and work backwards. Be sure to bookmark it or, better yet, subscribe so you never miss a post.

He's that good.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Standing with and moving forward

People come together for all sorts of reasons. Families, communities, and neighbors unite their strengths to fight for their beliefs, rights, and values. People come together in solidarity. And it's a beautiful thing. 

This weekend marked the 50th anniversary of "Bloody Sunday" in Selma. We should all give thanks and remembrance for those who so boldly and bravely risked and gave their lives to fight for the rights of not just African-Americans, but all Americans.  

We've come a long way throughout the years because of movements like this. Not one compares to another; all have fought different fights to build what we are today. 

We cannot afford to go back in any measure. 

Thousands of workers gathered at the West Virginia state capitol for the "Mountaineer Workers Rising" rally on Saturday, standing up for the rights and protections we have fought for to provide for our workers and their families. We have fought to ensure that our workers are provided good wages and to ensure they come safe from a hard days' work. West Virginians were joined by our brothers and sisters from all around our state to support our hardworking families. 

Saturday was what it's all about. 

Hardworking West Virginia families have built this state and we will not stand by while the Republican leadership strips their wages, workplace safety and rights away. 

We need to take it back to our values. What we're seeing right now from the new Republican majority in our Legislature does not represent West Virginia's values. We need to fight for our workers, our families and our children. We can't stop now. We need to be sure that all of our hardworking families are registered to vote and will vote for a leadership that will fight for them, and not for corporate greed and out-of-state interest groups. 

Our voting rights have been fought for, and "Bloody Sunday" serves as a reminder that individuals risked and gave their lives for these voting rights we have today. We must not take that for granted.

We must use our anger, our sadness, our gratitude and our strength to exercise our voting rights and remember who has stood by our children, our families and our workers. 

Friday, March 6, 2015

Some bills don't go anywhere

It makes us happy when bills we thought were bad, wrong or stupid live and die on the same day. But wait! Why would a lawmaker introduce a badwrongstupid bill to start with? Oh, you know…

  • States' rights. 
  • Tenth Amendment. 
  • Liberty! Freedom! 'Murica!

Take, for instance, HB2509.

In one page – just seven paragraphs – Delegates Faircloth, McGeehan, Moffatt, Kessinger, J. Nelson and Ihle wanted to pull the Affordable Care Act rug right out from under more than 33,000 West Virginians who enrolled or renewed their enrollment in that socialist, government-run plan commonly known as Obamacare.

Good thing those thousands of citizens have health insurance. People could get INJURED having the rug pulled out from under them.

We know that you know the ACA isn't a socialist, government-run plan. Some people still think so, imagine that. Why, if it were a government-run plan, it would be Medicare! And socialist? That would be the Veteran's Administration, thankyouverymuch.

So what, exactly, did HB2509 say? One sentence in the summation explains: "It determines that the federal legislation is invalid in this state."

Whoa. Just this state? Not all the other states whose citizens are also getting preventive care and reasonable co-pays under the ACA? Just West Virginia?

Who knew we were so special?

Well, they weren't concerned about other states, obviously, because they only represent folks from the Mountain State. But take that one step further, and you have to wonder: WHAT WERE THEY THINKING? And also? WHO WROTE THAT BILL?

Because seriously? When you start from a position that federal legislation is invalid in this state, you have to look past your nose to see what other federal legislation might be affected. Like, um, Medicare, for instance. And Social Security, maybe?

Wonder how that would go over in the state that has the highest number of citizens benefiting from Social Security Disability and the fourth oldest population.

Anyhoo. The bill was introduced on January 29 and went nowhere fast. We haven't seen it since. Except on MSNBC.

Maybe it wouldn't have died so quickly if it had been covered by Obamacare.

P.S. We're keeping a close watch on the Supreme Court, as it hears arguments regarding the Affordable Care Act. WV's Attorney General is just as eager to eliminate subsidies in West Virginia as that handful of Delegates is. 

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Because we like you

How about a little public service post today, instead of a snarky rant? We're full of snarky rants, but time's a'wasting and the information we're providing today – while not snarky – is valuable. Pay attention.

The West Virginia legislature's website is filled with useful and important information. If you're not familiar with it, it's not too late to get up to speed.

The website lists all members of both chambers, along with their political party affiliation, which district they represent (call your county clerk if you don't know your district), their statehouse mailing and e-mail addresses, and their Capitol phone number.

You'll also find dropdown menus under each tab with even more resources. Clicking on each menu item will take you to various areas of interest for each of the main tabs.

Click the Committee link, for instance, to navigate to each committee's daily agenda. You'll be able to see what's coming up for committees that are working on bills running through both houses.

So how do you find out about the bills? If you know the bill's number, you can enter it in a search box and another page with all the information about that proposed law appears – sponsors and co-sponsors, the bill's text, amendments to the bill and, after it's been voted on, the roll call vote.

We've been posting roll call vote lists on the Federation's Facebook page, and our readers are engaging in great numbers – commenting, liking, sharing, and making note of who votes how. Roll call votes are available to download as .pdf files, which you can then e-mail to interested contacts and groups. You can take a screenshot if you want to share it on social media.

But what if you don't know the bill's number? Enter a keyword – the topic, the name of the bill, a keyword – in the other search box on the Bill Status page. Entering the words "water storage tank" in the keyword search area produces results in paragraph form. You have to hunt for the bill number. If it's a House of Delegates bill, look for "hbXXXX." Senate bills are preceded by "sb" and have three numbers.
We've highlighted the bill number. You can then click on the blue line of text or enter the three digits in the bill number search box to get to the bill's page.

Unless you know your way around legal terminology, bills can be difficult to read. Nearly every bill affects some part of the West Virginia Code – all the laws that govern the Mountain State and her people. So when a bill says it affects, for example,  §17 A- 3 - 23  (Amended Code)you can then go look up that section in the Code to see what the legislature wants to change.

Also included under the Code tab are the texts of the West Virginia and U.S. Constitutions.

The Educational tab includes, among other things, the topic "How a Bill Becomes a Law."

Due to some of the shenanigans being pulled by the 82nd legislature, we feel some editing might need to be done to that section. We are particularly concerned with the Creating Public Charter Schools Act of 2015, which was tabled indefinitely in a Senate committee, but was then discharged from committee and sent to the floor – a rather unprecedented move by Senate President Bill Cole. The Charleston Gazette's Phill Kabler called it "ham-fisted."

Our hope is that, in providing this information, we've empowered you to find out more about the legislative process and which lawmakers have voted with you or against you. We feel the Republicans who are now in charge campaigned on false pretenses, promising measures that would attract businesses and grow jobs.

Keeping track of their votes will help you tremendously in 616 days, WHEN (not if!) you vote.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

West Virginians will rise again

This legislative session has been, in a word, brutal. They – those pesky Republicans – campaigned on Jobs! Prosperity! Economic improvement! Opportunity! Change!

Those of us who aren't wealthy and/or well-connected will feel the brunt of their lies. Those of us who are teachers, miners, construction workers. Those of us living on Social Security, retired, going to school, wanting to go to school. We're screwed.

Women got kicked in the gut this session. Maybe we should just take a celibacy pledge. Would that make them happy?

Anyway … it's not over yet. WVFDW will be publishing a legislative wrap-up in the next issue of our Lean to the Left newsletter. If you haven't subscribed, we hope you will. Before they pass a "Read What We Tell You To" bill.
Let's not wait until 2016 to get this party started, mmmkay? We want ideas, we want candidates and we want to turn West Virginia back to blue.

It's always been her best color.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Six weeks into the 2015 legislative session

In a piece published in the Charleston Daily Mail January 15, 2015, Senator Bill Cole wrote:
"In November, the majority of West Virginians voted for a change. For the first time in three generations, there will be a new majority at the Statehouse in Charleston, and with that brings an opportunity to approach our state’s challenges differently.
Change is seldom easy, and it may leave some feeling unsettled. We will not be perfect, and we will make mistakes, [emphasis is ours, all ours] but we will stay focused on the goal: Keeping our kids in West Virginia. My hope is by being a body of action and not words, we will show that we are committed to working for those who have placed their faith in us to represent them."

We will now quibble.

If we hear one more Republican claim they won in November by a majority, we may resort to violence. And, wow! A big thanks goes out to our Republican leaders for making it much easier to do so, with a bill that allows us to carry our concealed handgun without a permit. And you can begin doing that when you're 18.

Which we're not. So presumably we would have cooler heads.

Thirty-seven percent of West Virginia's eligible voters showed up to cast their ballots last November. You do the math. Thirty-seven percent does NOT a majority make. 

Senator Cole's purpose in writing that piece was to outline his plan for making West Virginia the "forever home" for young people. "I want to keep our kids home," were his exact words.

He mentioned better schools, and then pushed for a way to let regular folk like you and us become teachers without working for it. Like the rest of the teachers have done. And he reallyreallyreally has his heart set on charter schools, so much so that when the bill was tabled indefinitely in committee, he pulled out the "it depends on what your definition of 'tabled indefinitely' is" strategy.

We'll leave it to you to determine from where he pulled it.

He wants to create a legal and business climate so companies will come here and provide jobs. That sounds all lofty and all, but if workers aren't paid fair wages, who's going to do the work? Even our neighbor to the north, Republican Governor John Kasich, says 'right to work' laws aren't necessary in order to attract business.

Of course, that's in not-West-Virginia Ohio, so we shall see what happens. As for the legal climate – we're not lawyers. OH! And neither is Senator Cole! And he's proving it by presenting bill after bill after bill that will eventually face a court challenge. BECAUSE THEY'RE UNCONSTITUTIONAL.

Finally, Senator Cole wants to "correct those areas" where West Virginia is out of sync with Texas the rest of the country. We're going waaaaaaaaaay out on a limb here and guessing this goal has something to do with Ye Olde "West Virginia Intrastate Commerce Improvement Act," or as we like to call it, the "We Don't Think Gays Belong in West Virginia No Way No How Act." HB2881 strikes down local ordinances that protect LGBT citizens. Charleston and Morgantown and Thurmond would see their anti-discrimination laws overturned if HB2881 passes. Because, you know, Father Knows Best.

(To be fair, this bill originated in the House of Delegates. Which does not mean Old King Senator Cole isn't tossing his tiara about it.)

While other states across this great nation of ours are passing non-discrimination bills – North Dakota, Nebraska, and Georgia (cough – red states – cough) came up in one quick Google news search – West Virginia's lawmakers seem to think we'd be out of step if we made it illegal to fire a gay employee or evict a gay tenant.

Clearly, it's West Virginia lawmakers (not all of them, but that pesky 37 percent majority) who are out of step. 

So. If you were 18 years old, getting ready to move on with your life by stepping into the job market or entering the college of your choice, would you be comfortable here in West Virginia? 

Would you feel safe at a WVU tailgate party where your fellow 18-year-olds were drunk and carrying concealed weapons? 

Would you want your grandma living in a nursing home where liabilities for poor care were reduced? 

If you chose to follow in your family's footsteps and work in the mines, would you feel safe, now that West Virginia's lawmakers have made the mines less safe?

Would you want to stay in West Virginia with your same-sex partner or spouse (YES! You can get married here!) if you knew you could be fired at any minute and for no reason relating to your work performance?

We're tired of writing, and we haven't even gotten to the woman things. Which is odd, since we're a woman organization. But damn, there's just too much! The woman things and the campaign finance things and the ACA things will have to be separate posts. Coming soon!

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

At the risk of being redundant

West Virginia's Democratic Party Vice-Chair penned an interesting piece a couple of days ago. If you follow Chris Regan on Facebook, you've no doubt seen it. If you don't, well, you should.

And you should also read this analysis of the shenanigans going on in Charleston these days:
Legalizing crime in West Virginia 
Early in the Legislature's 2015 session, the Republican majority took aim at wages. Bills on prevailing wage, right to work and the wage payment act would all serve to drive the wages of working West Virginia families downward. Those pushing that agenda would say that lowering the wages of working people would somehow make West Virginia more “competitive,” but there is no concealing the fact that the primary effect of these bills would be smaller paychecks. Public hearings and resistance from leaders in the Democratic Party, including an appearance from U.S. Senator Joe Manchin last week, have exposed the harm these bills would do to West Virginians who work. 
But as the session continues, a new theme is emerging from the Republican House and Senate: legalizing crime. A host of bills being moved by Senate President Bill Cole and Speaker Tim Armstead identify bad (and formerly illegal) behavior and make that behavior more difficult to police, reduce the punishment for it, or outright legalize it. Every West Virginian, from children riding to school in their parents' car, to workers on our roads or in coal mines, to our elderly in nursing homes, stand to lose if the laws that protect them are weakened or repealed. 
Example: the Senate's bill to end implied warranties for automobile sales will get a lot of attention, because of the transparent self-interest demonstrated by a new Senate President who sells cars pushing a bill to give his own company immunity for wronging its customers. As the Charleston Gazette reported this past weekend, the Republican lemon-law bill would take away a remedy for car buyers even if they unwittingly buy a vehicle that isn't safe to drive. A working single mother who buys a car, even if she buys it from Senator Cole, ought to be able to count on it being basically sound and safe enough to drive her children to school. Repealing the law that gives her that right not only legalizes a crime, it encourages a tragedy. [This bill has since passed.]
That's not all. One of the real scandals ongoing in West Virginia is the care our seniors receive in nursing homes. Too many nurses and aides are overworked and underpaid, leading to poor care in nursing homes. The results include bad hygiene, bedsores and even deaths from malnutrition and dehydration. Republican bills respond to this crisis by seeking to help the companies avoid any punishment for preventable deaths. One bill stated that even if a company intentionally neglects a patient and causes their death and even if there is overwhelming proof (“clear and convincing evidence”) that this has occurred, the punishment should be lessened from existing law. Shouldn't we be increasing the penalties, until companies stop neglecting our seniors? 
Once again, pressure and amendments from Democrats stopped the Republican bill from totally ending punishment for deliberate neglect of our seniors. But why are Republicans seeking to protect lawbreakers from accountability? Where are the bills to raise standards, to protect working families and to protect seniors? Not one bill so far proposed has a positive effect on accountability for nursing home companies, for the quality of products like cars that we buy or for the safety of our workers. 
Of course the most destructive and shocking bills advanced by the Republican majority deal with worker safety. Both the ill-named “Coal Jobs and Safety Act” (it has no provisions that create jobs) and the “deliberate intent” bill are bills designed to legalize crime. The deliberate intent law currently provides that when a company intentionally breaks the rules and a worker or miner is injured or killed, the right to a day in court is preserved. Keep in mind, under current law, negligence or carelessness is not enough – the company has to break the rules on purpose or you can't go to court. A Republican bill sought to totally abolish the right of victims of the worst type of corporate crime – the kind that gets men and women killed on the job. 
The so-called coal safety act is even worse. It is a law that takes away safety rules West Virginia established after mining disasters and deaths – the hardest and most costly lessons our state has learned. Note how taking away West Virginia's safety rules works in concert with weakening the deliberate intent law: when the rules no longer exist, companies will say there are no rules for them to “intentionally” violate. Heads they win, tails you lose. 
Spinning these bills, Republicans say they are meant to hurt trial lawyers. Not likely. First of all, lawyers rarely go down in the mines and they are almost never killed on the job. These laws don't hurt lawyers, they hurt people – they hurt the victims of all these forms of crime the Republicans are legalizing. If a certain kind of case can no longer proceed in court, those cases simply won't be filed or pursued. The loser is not the lawyer, who moves on to whatever work the law allows him or her to do, but the working family that loses a breadwinner, the senior citizen neglected in the nursing home, or the child hurt in an unsafe vehicle. 
West Virginians should be asking why protecting those who intentionally harm our citizens has become such a priority for Republicans. Who is pushing them to take these reckless and radical steps to reduce accountability and punishment for the very worst kind of wrongdoers? Sure the lemon-law will has an easy answer when the Senate President is a used car dealer, but what about the rest of it: who is writing these bills and pushing them to the top of an agenda that was supposed to be about jobs? Who would want to legalize a crime, except someone who planned to commit one?