By Lyra Bordelon
In the past week a legislator tested positive for COVID-19, causing alarm and testing in both chambers.
“We’re praying for Delegate [Brandon] Steele and his family … and their health,” said Senator Stephen Baldwin. “We spent the day trying to figure out what the situation was, working with DHHR, the public health clerk in the Senate, President Blaire, and I want to thank those folks. The Bureau of Public Health and the DHHR have been protecting us across the state for the past year, but those efforts sometimes go unnoticed. They do not go unnoticed to us.”
Baldwin and Democratic leadership, in a press conference after the positive test, explained they were not in favor of closing the session unless a serious outbreak occurs or if the virus is one of the newer strains. They also called out representatives that have flaunted masks, or even openly mocked masks by wearing a mesh mask.
“There comes a time when things need to get real, and we need to get real,” Baldwin said. “Masks need to be worn at all times. They need to be worn when we’re voting, worn in the hallways, they need to be worn when we’re in committees, they need to be worn in offices, that’s the way we’re going to move past the situation we’re in now. We’ve got to have testing. … We’ve got to have reporting. … That’s got to happen so just one case doesn’t turn into multiple cases.”
According to Baldwin, 25 or 26 senators have been vaccinated so far.
Bills by Greenbrier County representatives have also progressed in the past week. Senator Jack Woodrum sponsored three more bills that have been passed by both houses of the Legislature:
– Senate Bill 469 would allow for a notary public to notarize a document over “communication technology” under certain conditions. Now enacted, the bill passed both houses without a single nay vote.
– Senate Bill 9 pushes requirements for the Licensed Racetrack Modernization Fund back from June 30, 2020, to June 30, 2030, and makes other technical changes. Although it initially passed the Senate on February 16 with yeas from Baldwin and Woodrum, the bill was revised before passage by the House (63-34-3, nay Bruce and Longanacre) and again by the Senate (21-13, yea Woodrum, nay Baldwin). After the vote, Bruce posted to social media “I voted NO on Senate Bill 9, which pumps another $100 million dollars into casinos over the next 10 years. … With issues like the drug crisis, road and infrastructure, and so much more, I believe $100 mil would be better served elsewhere.”
– Senate Bill 10 changes the date annual racetrack tables game license renewals fee is to October 1. Passed by the Senate on February 16 with yeas from Baldwin and Woodrum. The bill was then passed by the House (80-17-3, nay Bruce and Longanacre) on March 23.
The Senate approved one other new Woodrum bill – S.B. 502, adjusting the fees and age requirements around lifetime hunting licenses, was unanimously passed and is now in the House Agriculture and Natural Resources committee.
Bills introduced by Senator Stephen Baldwin have passed the Senate since last week, including:
– Senate Bill 590, permitting medical marijuana to be prescribed in edible form, passed the Senate (26-8), with yeas from Baldwin and Woodrum.
– Senate Bill 626, setting new rules around scrap metal and catalytic converters, including a requirement that “person in possession of a catalytic converter which had previously been installed on a motor vehicle, or parts, thereof shall have … written documentation of ownership or authorization.” Violating this provision could mean a year incarceration or a $1,000 fine. Passed the Senate (29-4-1, yea Baldwin, Woodrum) and is now expected in both the House Government and Judiciary committees.
In addition, last week’s roundup included an absent vote from Baldwin for S.B. 272, and S.B. 277 – this absent vote was for a reconsideration vote. During the final vote on each bill, Baldwin voted against both.
Introduced through the Senate President and Senate Minority Leader Stephen Baldwin, Governor Jim Justice proposed one bill that passed through the Senate:
– Senate Bill 693, updating the meaning of federal adjusted gross income and certain other terms used in West Virginia Personal Income Tax Act, unanimously passed the Senate. The bill is now being considered by House Finance.
In the House, Delegate Todd Longancre sponsored two bills that have passed since last week:
– House Bill 2982, requires that information about the process of chemical abortion be provided to a woman prior to prescribing pharmaceuticals for, or administering, a chemical abortion except in certain emergency circumstances, passed the House (83-15, yea Longanacre and Bruce).
– House Bill 2874, extending waiver of veterans’ initial business registration fees and annual business fees to active-duty military members, their spouses, and immediate family, was passed by the House with no nay votes.
In a recent column, Longanacre also defended H.B. 2174, which would require any removed monuments be analyzed by a Charleston committee before being disposed of by a local community that wants to remove them. In public discussion, the most considered monuments are those honoring confederate leadership.
Several members of House spoke against the bill, noting that many of the monuments serve as reminders of slavery, the active rebellion against the United States, and the harsh treatment of African Americans. Longanacre pushed back against this idea, citing one African American delegate for being “racist” against white people, stating they were insisting that “if your skin is white, you are ‘privileged’ and if you are in a position of ‘power,’ then we are a racist.”
Longanacre also, incorrectly cited Nazi ideology of racial purity as “socialist” in more than name, appearing to endorse not removing or recontextualizing Nazi imagery in Germany after the war.
“Ironically enough, [the bill’s opponents] did bring up the fact that Germany banned all Nazi (National Socialist German Worker’s Party) monuments shortly after WW2,” Longanacre wrote. “… However, they failed to mention that just 75 short years later, German students are increasingly embracing socialism. Could this be because history is quickly forgotten if it is not preserved?”
Previous Mountain Messenger Legislative roundups included the following bills sponsored by Greenbrier County Representatives that have passed both chambers:
Also previously covered are bills sponsored by Greenbrier County Representatives that have passed one chamber of the West Virginia Legislature:
– Governor Justice, through Baldwin and the Senate Majority Leader, S.B. 275