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?

Friday, February 20, 2015

Common Core: Explained

We're so pleased that WVFDW member Grace Norton, of Ohio County, has agreed to help us out with information about educational concerns from time to time. She is a member of the Federation's Legislative Committee, a retired educator, and one smart woman. Her experience teaching college-level courses to students should, probably, hold more water than that of a state Senate and House of Delegates who want to take public money to create private schools and who are following the ALEC Playbook of Lawmaking. But oops. That's a whole 'nother issue.

Here's Grace's take on Common Core, which – of course – the current Republican-controlled West Virginia legislature, wants to unadopt for West Virginia's students.
West Virginia legislators have introduced HB 2486 to repeal West Virginia’s 2010 adoption of the Common Core standards for education. The impetus for this move lies in mis-information campaign led mostly by right-wing talking heads. Those of us who have dealt with incoming college freshman and entry-level workers  for many years understand why West Virginia needs what the Common Core was designed to achieve.
Many have been led by radical right propaganda to believe that Common Core is a federal takeover of education, but that is a myth. Common Core is an initiative of the National Governors Association (NGA) and the Council of  Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) who recognized that tens of thousands of high school graduates passed every standardized test required of them but needed to take remedial math, English, and/or reading in their first semester in college.

At the college where I taught for many years, about 70 percent of incoming freshmen required remedial math and over 20 percent needed remedial reading and writing skills. It is a fair bet that at least as many high school graduates who do not enroll in college have the same or greater levels of deficiency. In most courses I taught, I had to require weekly vocabulary tests to ensure that students understood meaning of the words well enough to comprehend the reading material I assigned, which had reading levels several grade levels below what was typically assigned when I was a college student.
Common Core is not a curriculum. It identifies performance standards, and, in English/Language Arts also identifies some content aimed at developing good citizenship and significant cultural literacy. Common Core emphasizes reading across the curriculum, not just reading what we think of as “literature.” It also emphasizes applying mathematical concepts and reasoning to solving real world problems. Illustrations and examples of how to meet objectives are offered.  
Decisions made about most of curriculum content, about text books and other materials, and about specific teaching strategies and methods are made at the local level.
Common Core is a research-based, grade-by-grade set of performance standards in the areas of math, English and Language Arts designed to teach skills in the sequence best matched to how research shows that students acquire and develop skills and to teach reading in a way that prepares students to read materials in a wide range of subject areas. The national government had no role in developing and has no role in implementing the Common Core, which remains under control of NGA and CCSSO.

A full discussion what Common Core really is, how it was developed, what the standards are, and what research those standards and their sequencing were based on is available by clicking here.
Some major  myths created by the radical right’s disinformation propaganda are also debunked. The site explains why Common Core was developed, what it is trying to accomplish, and why that is important. Forty-six states and U. S. territories have adopted Common Core standards. It is important for a West Virginia graduate to be able to compete successfully with students from everywhere for jobs, scholarships, and slots in top colleges.  Is that not what we all should want for our kids?                                
The bill to repeal Common Core will do significant harm to the life chances of present and future West Virginia students. The first rule of lawmakers, like that of doctors, should be: First, do no harm.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Warm thanks from Senator Kessler

Prevailing wage, if you haven't heard by now, is on the Republican chopping block. A public hearing was held this morning, during which proponents were outnumbered by opponents 4 to 1. When business and labor come together to oppose legislation which reduces wages and trashes an already unsteady economy, well … what's a Republican to do?

Apparently they're waiting, along with the rest of us, until it gets parked in a committee somewhere. Or not. There's always the possibility of the bill not being taken up at all.

In the meantime … how about a word of thanks from Senator Jeff Kessler for the terrific turnout for the Stand UP Stand WITH West Virginia rally this past Monday? Neither snow, nor cold, nor bad driving conditions kept what looked like thousands from fighting for their rights.
This week saw a major turnout of hardworking West Virginians at the State Capitol, despite frigid temperatures and a record-setting snowstorm that blanketed much of the state.
During discussions, back-door negotiations with out of state interest groups and finally the passage of SB 361, the prevailing wage bill, I became frustrated with  the what I was witnessing by the Republican leadership and its push of harmful legislation on the people of this great state; so I called  for the Show Up Stand Up rally on President’s Day.
It warmed my soul to stand with nearly 2,000 West Virginians from across the state to make our voices heard and fight for their wages and rights that are being stripped from them.  The event was aimed at bringing attention to the radical and wrong agenda items being pushed through this session, and boy did we bring attention to it.  The Republican leadership has set a breakneck pace, moving through bills they say will improve West Virginia’s business climate…I say they’re wrong! These policies are hurting West Virginia workers and have more to do with politics that with helping the State. 
I want to extend a heartfelt thank you to the brave men and women who deified the elements to fight for what’s right, and to the many speakers who joined us in our fight.  There is nothing I can do to turn back the clock and change what happened during the last election, or change one vote on the floor; but what I can do is promise that if you stand with me I will stand with you and never stop fighting for your wages and your rights.

Fire in the sky

Another day, another environmental disaster in West Virginia, this time causing the evacuation of an entire small town, the complete destruction of one family's home, and the requirement for a boil-water advisory for far too many.
Betsy Reeder, a biologist and long-time activist, is from Summers County, and a member of Three Rivers Democratic Women. Hinton, the Summers County seat, was at one time a bustling railroad town, and a good deal of freight and coal traffic still passes through the county today. Following are some thoughts from Betsy on the derailment which took place Monday in Fayette County.
On Monday, February 16, 2015, a train carrying Bakken crude oil from North Dakota to Virginia derailed near Mt. Carbon, WV, destroying one house and sending giant fireballs into the sky as tanker cars exploded.
A similar incident in 2103 took the lives of 47 people in Quebec. Another derailment with explosions occurred in Lynchburg, Virginia, last year. 
In October of last year, the Charleston Gazette tried to obtain information about CSX shipments of crude oil throughout the state; information provided by West Virginia’s Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management lacked so much detail, however, as to be useless. It turns out that while 20 states make such information available to the general public and first-responders, West Virginia does not. We, the public, have no means of obtaining knowledge of how much crude oil (not to mention other hazardous materials, such as anhydrous ammonia) is being transported, how often, and along what routes.
The urgency with regard to transparency is all about safety, as the transport of crude oil by rail skyrockets in the wake of the fracking boom. The rail industry hasn’t had time to adapt, and there are serious – and realistic – concerns about the unsuitable nature of tanker cars, even newer models, which have design flaws and often travel at unsafe speeds, making catastrophic accidents not only possible but likely. 
At the very least, we need to get the trains to slow down to 15 mph as they pass through communities. We also need our legislators to take action to allow us to know what is passing by our doorsteps and backyards. Doesn’t it make sense, even if only one car is damaged and leaking, for us and our first-responders to know what we are dealing with?
Our thanks to Ms. Reeder for her insight and analysis of a piece of this disaster puzzle that hasn't been widely reported on. There's that transparency thing again.

We know Governor Earl Ray Tomblin and Senator Joe Manchin were on the scene within a couple of days. We know former Congressman Nick J. Rahall, who was the ranking member of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, would have been there the day of the incident if it had been at all possible. We'd like to think he would by now, on the fourth day of the disaster, have introduced legislation to make transporting volatile materials across the country safer for those of us who live along those routes.

The train derailment took place in Fayette County, remember? Nick's old district. Those are Evan Jenkins' constituents now. His Congressional website has a picture of him photoshopped in front of the iconic bridge spanning the New River. And while he did tour the site and released a few tweets about it on Tuesday, the most recent press release on that website is – at this writing – a week old, and lets us all know he supports permanent tax deductions for charitable giving.

Because government. Huh. Good God, y'all. What is it good for?

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

West Virginia needs livable wages

Chairing West Virginia's Democratic Party during this legislative session – the first with a Republican majority in more than 80 years – is a daunting task. Belinda Biafore is no stranger to heavy lifting, however, having spent the past 30 years working with and for Democrats. It's been said that if you need something done, ask the busiest person you know. Belinda fits both categories: She's the hardest-working woman in West Virginia, and she will get the job done.

Belinda Biafore
She won't get it done by herself, though. She doesn't want to and doesn't expect to. One of Belinda's many strengths is coalition building – she knows a lot of West Virginians, including current and former lawmakers, union members, WVFDW members, business and industry leaders, and working men and women from the Eastern Panhandle to the southern coalfields. The team at party headquarters is in place and has hit the ground running.

Her priorities – and ours and, we hope, yours – are clear: The Republican agenda is wrong for West Virginia and we must make that fact clear to voters. In case you missed Belinda's most recent message to WV Democrats, we're reprinting it here. Click here to add yourself to the party's mailing list.
It's no secret that the GOP puts corporations and large private companies over hardworking West Virginians, and it's no secret that the GOP puts big money over workers' safety. New Republican leadership's extreme radical agenda is crippling the ability of workers and their unions to fight for livable wages so that private companies can pay their employees less.
All we heard before they took office was "jobs, jobs, jobs." I have not seen one jobs bill. Instead, I've seen an attack on hardworking West Virginians and the jobs they already have! Not only are they breaking promises they made to voters, but they are gutting the workforce that is already in place. What good is a leadership that doesn't care about workers and the ability to provide for their families or to come home to their families safely after a hard day of work? No good!
We need to maintain a high standard of living in West Virginia, not pass legislation resulting in low-paying jobs for companies that only care about making a profit.
As Democrats, we stand with the hardworking families that have built this state, and we stand with their families and their children to ensure that they are able to have a good quality of life in West Virginia. We stand with you, and put people over profit, not profit over people. We will continue to fight for West Virginia families. This fight for hardworking West Virginia families is our fight, and we're not going anywhere.
Belinda Biafore, Chair

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

And now, a few words from Chris Regan

From time to time, we want others to share their voices here at Blue with a View. And having a firsthand account of yesterday's rally at the Capitol from Democratic Party Vice-Chair Christopher Regan is one of those times:

#StandWithWV Lets Republicans Know
Working Families Reject their Agenda

Braving a major snowstorm to make their voices heard, two thousand working West Virginians came to the Capitol Monday to rally against the anti-worker, anti-wage agenda being advanced by the Republican majority. At a time when politics leaves so many Americans disaffected and apathetic, the radical proposals in Charleston activated traditional Democrats, independents and even Republicans who have come to learn that the promises this new majority campaigned on are going unfulfilled.
Courtesy Elizabeth Opyoke
Senate Minority Leader Jeff Kessler called the rally, but it became a joint project of the House and Senate Democrats, labor leaders, water conservationists, and consumer advocates as well. The packed Capitol steps provided a powerful scene as thousands of workers in Carhartt bibs or hunting gear listened to an array of pro-working family messages from West Virginia's leaders. Senator Kessler, Secretary of State Natalie Tennant, AFL-CIO President Kenny Perdue, Delegate Mike Caputo, Senator Bob Beach, Delegate Shawn Fluharty and Senator Doug Facemire all spoke to loud and sometimes raucous cheering.
Courtesy Jeff Kessler

The rally revealed that ordinary West Virginians see through the big-money campaign to buy the state off for corporate interests. Signs carried around pointed out how so-called right to work laws hurt good wage-paying union jobs, how prevailing wage laws protect our construction workers and businesses and how laws to weaken drinking water protections are radical and wrong. Perdue reminded everyone present that promises of jobs bills and economic improvement were going unfulfilled, while Republicans paid off their friends in industry. Tennant, as one would expect, made sure to discuss the importance of registering more voters so the next election more accurately reflects the will of the people.

Courtesy Lynette Maselli
As predictions of bad weather came out on Sunday night, Republicans had taken to social media to mock the workers rally and suggest that no one would show up. As it happened, turnout would have been considered substantial on a nice summer day – under the circumstances, it was simply an amazing showing by the folks who are being directly hurt by the Republicans' policies. The thousands who were in Charleston will take back to their counties key information and motivation to make sure that the next time we vote, we get it right.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Let's get ready to …

Senate Minority Leader Jeff Kessler is calling on all West Virginians who care about rights – yours, ours, theirs, civil, workers', women's – to show up and stand up at the Capitol in Charleston tomorrow.

Senator Kessler says:
This rally isn’t about one single piece of harmful legislation – it’s about EVERY SINGLE piece of harmful legislation that is being steamrolled through this session! We need to have our voices heard!
It’s going to be cold so bundle up, so you can Show UP and Stand UP!
It is going to be cold. Which means our blue fingers will match our blue hats and scarves and jackets and jeans.

Thousands of protestors packed downtown Raleigh, NC, recently, demonstrating against the radical agenda being rammed through the legislature there. Madison, WI, has been the site of massive protests, as well.

A handful of Republican lawmakers have put Charleston, WV, in the national news recently with ill-advised and insensitive remarks. 

We Democrats have an opportunity – TOMORROW – to make some good news for West Virginia.

Bundle UP. Show UP. Stand UP. For West Virginia.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Let's get this straight

Based on a few comments on the Federation's Facebook page, we feel it's important to clear up some misconceptions about the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, which the West Virginia House of Delegates passed yesterday. The bill now moves to the Senate. We hope after reading this post you'll take a minute to call your State Senator and ask him or her to vote no.

This bill does not include exceptions for rape or incest, but as we mentioned yesterday, that's a minor issue. Most women who want to terminate a pregnancy resulting from sexual assault can and do well before the 20-week threshold. Let's be clear, though: Not all cases of rape or incest are reported or treated, for a variety of reasons. We do hope, however, that victims of a criminal would not be further victimized by the omission of such exceptions.

While the bill does include an exception for the life of the mother, an amendment to create an exception for the health of the mother was voted down. If a doctor says carrying a pregnancy to term would result in death to the woman, an abortion may take place. But if her health would be jeopardized – mental or physical – then the law says no.

We can't explain the logic behind this reasoning, and we won't try.

We've been accused of being pro-abortion. 

LET'S BE PERFECTLY CLEAR ABOUT THIS: We are pro-child, pro-woman and pro-choice. We've yet to meet anyone who is pro-abortion. We'd like to reduce the number of abortions as much as every Republican lawmaker sitting in the Capitol today.

But legislating against abortion isn't going to reduce that number. It will simply reduce the number of safe abortions. We will go back to back-alley, coat-hanger, self-administered procedures that resulted in infection, shock and death.

There is this notion among those in favor of this bill that a woman who has carried a pregnancy through 20 weeks suddenly looks down at her growing belly and says, "What was I thinking?!?" While many birth defects and problems can be found and decisions can be made prior to 20 weeks, some simply can't. Some women develop illnesses or diseases during their pregnancies that, if treated, would result in harm to the fetus. 

These women want these babies, and are left with a painful, heartbreaking decision in which government has no business interfering.

Now if you still think it's government's role to play doctor, more power to you.

We respectfully disagree.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

The platform

Parties have platforms, and platforms have planks. So do decks and loading docks, for that matter, but today we're going to talk about parties. Specifically ours.

Members of the West Virginia Federation of Democratic Women support the West Virginia Democratic Party platform. We are bound to through our bylaws and, frankly, we wouldn't be Democrats if we thought their (and by "their" we mean Republicans') ideas would result in a better life for all, without regard to race, creed, color or the size of your bank account.

One plank of the platform that is especially near and dear to us is F-8: Women's Health. We are women, after all, and we like to think that our health is important. (Interestingly, there is no plank for Men's Health, but one has been designated for "Health." In general.)

Here's what we Democrats agreed to at our last party convention, in 2012:
That last bullet point is important enough that it bears repeating:
  • all health decisions, including reproductive health, are made privately without interference by the government, insurance companies, or employers.
HB 2568, the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act is up for its third reading before the full House of Delegates today. Otherwise known as the abortion bill, some iteration of it appears perennially in the legislature and – as written – is unconstitutional. Last year's version passed through both chambers and was vetoed by the Governor. Because Democrats held a majority in both chambers in 2014, the veto was upheld.

Screeeeeech. Wait a minute. The Democratic party platform says women's reproductive health decisions are made without government interference. Says so. Right there in blue and white. If Democrats held a majority last year, in both chambers, then at least some Democrats must have voted FOR it. Begging the question: How did the bill ever make it to the Governor's desk?

Well, last year if you'll recall – and, really, how could you forget? – we held elections. And while the Democratic platform gives women the benefit of the doubt about their ability to take care of their bodies, their selves, privately and without interference, Democratic voters in West Virginia tend to disagree. Democratic lawmakers who support 20-week abortion bans, no matter what state, want to be re-elected.

We Democrats think having a "D" after your name is better than any other letter, especially if you represent us. We make phone calls and fire off angry e-mails, but in the end, for the most part, we forgive and forget.

But we can also be somewhat passive-aggressive. Staying home on Election Day is the ultimate act of passive-aggression and in 2014 it came back to bite us.

HB 2568 will be read today and voted on soon, and it will pass. It will pass with no exceptions for rape or incest. Which, one would hope, would not be a major issue. Most pregnancies resulting from rape or incest are terminated long before the 20-week threshold.

So why would a woman suddenly, after FIVE MONTHS, choose to terminate? The fact is, they don't, unless there is something horribly, dreadfully wrong with the fetus. Or the mother. So in those few cases – fewer than a dozen each year here in West Virginia – the law doesn't impede those women from making the most difficult and painful decision of their lives, right?

Well … wrong. A floor amendment making an exception for the health of the mother was voted down yesterday.

In the end, it doesn't matter what we of the Democratic Party or we of the WVFDW or we of the female gender wish or think or believe. In the end, a minority of registered West Virginia voters elected a majority of Republican legislators. And in the end, it's not just a handful of pregnant West Virginia women who will have to figure out a way to risk their lives to save their lives.

Because we stayed home last November, all West Virginians are going to feel the pinch of gut-and-cut politics in Charleston.

In the end.

Monday, February 9, 2015

We are women with a mission

We'd like to think the Federation, throughout its 50-year history, has always been a political force, but that wouldn't be true. For many, many years, we were the tea-and-cookie branch for most of the county executive committees. When the executive committee hosted a candidate forum, held a picnic, organized a rally … well, they could always count on the local women's group to provide refreshments.

Frankly, that turned a lot of women off, but we've seen a distinct and welcome move in a more active direction over the past few years.

And, yes, we still bring refreshments.

The WV Federation of Democratic Women has always encouraged its members to run for office. While the exact number isn't known, it's safe to say most of the women serving as elected officials on their county and the state executive committees also are members of the Federation.

Our mission is to bring Democratic women of West Virginia together, as a unified force, to effect change and support Democratic principles. We support women and women's issues, we stand for workers, families, students, minorities, truth, justice, and the American Way!

Okay, we got a little carried away there. We're not Superman … but together we are Super Women.

This week, our mission is to make Delegate Brian Kurcaba (R-51) aware that his comments about rape during a hearing last week are not left in that room. He's embarrassed West Virginia and made national news with his remark that while rape is "awful," the result of a rape is beautiful.

We get it. Yes, babies are beautiful. But his callous, offhand dismissal of the brutal crime of rape leaves many women cold.

To that end, the Federation is calling for his resignation and has created a petition which we hope you'll take time to sign. If you leave a message with your signature, Mr. Kurcaba and Speaker Tim Armstead will receive an e-mail. Please … flood their offices with your thoughts. Help us make sure the women of WV-51 are fairly represented. Thanks.

Moving forward

Our first order of business here, and one we've already done in a more timely manner on Facebook and Twitter, is to congratulate the new Chair and Vice-Chair of the West Virginia Democratic Party. The election was held Saturday, February 7, where elected members of the State Democratic Executive Committee moved Belinda Biafore from Vice-Chair to Chair and elected Christopher Regan as the new Vice-Chair.

Belinda Biafore
Chair, West Virginia Democratic Party
Chris Regan
Vice-Chair, West Virginia Democratic Party

What does this mean for the party? Blending Biafore's relationship-building skills and 30 years of experience with Regan's skills and commitment was – in the Executive Committee's judgment – the best way to build for the future.

Time will tell, of course, and we are looking forward to being a part of that effort. Belinda is a past president of the Federation and truly moved us toward a more progressive agenda. We're looking forward to watching Chris bring younger West Virginians who perhaps haven't committed to a party into the fold.

We Democrats like to say we are a big tent. Belinda and Chris have a big job ahead of them bringing Independents and lapsed Democrats back to the fold. We, of course, support them and will assist in any way we can.

A big blue welcome

The West Virginia Federation of Democratic Women maintains a lively social media presence on Twitter and Facebook, reposts items to Google+, has a website, and is launching – this month – a subscription-based newsletter.

What we haven't done, prior to now, is blog.

There are some who say blogging is on its way out, and that may be, but we're hoping it's one more tool to keep you – our members, followers and supporters of All Things Democratic – informed and in the loop of West Virginia Democratic events and issues.

The internet has made this great big world a much smaller place, one in which we can learn about other cultures, share ideas, promote causes, ask for help and offer assistance. 

It's certainly no big secret that Democrats across the country suffered big hits in the off-year election. We in West Virginia take small solace in knowing we're not alone. Our House of Delegates flipped from blue to red and, shortly after the election results were announced, our State Senate did, too, when He Who Shall Not Be Named changed his allegiance from D to R.


We may be down, but we're certainly not out. We invite your comments, we welcome your ideas, we'd love to have you participate. If you think you have something to say that will add to this big blue conversation, we invite you to submit it by emailing it to us. We won't accept everything you send us, but we will thoughtfully consider your submissions.

In the meantime … we have a lot to say. Stay tuned.

Members of the Jackson County Democratic Women's Club
at the 2014 Annual Meeting.