A few good things from the Legislature
The Legislature adjourned its 2021 Regular Session on April 10. I wasn’t pleased with the results overall, but there were a few bright spots.
We passed a bill aimed at bringing workable broadband to the entire state. In the past, the Legislature’s attempts have failed, but this time I think we got it right.
A comprehensive liquor, wine and beer law that our tourist industry has wanted for a long time got passed. I believe we’ll now see farm wineries further develop in Jefferson and Berkeley counties.
I sponsored a bill to permit people to have power purchase agreements (PPAs) with electric utilities. You can now install alternative energy like solar panels at your home or business without paying up front. The installer will be able to sell some of that energy to the electric utility, getting paid for the installation and simultaneously reducing your electric bill. A version of this bill was passed into law.
Another accomplishment was the passage of “Mylissa Smith’s Law,” which requires hospitals to arrange to let close relatives visit a loved one dying of an infectious disease (like Covid-19).
Some good things that happened were the defeats of really bad (my opinion) ideas.
Chief among those was Governor Justice’s idea to eliminate the state’s personal income tax. I’ve discussed this proposal recently in this column, so I won’t belabor it. I think that idea would be a disaster for our state.
Another bad idea was a bill that would have prohibited counties and municipalities from taking down Confederate statues and plaques. Two years ago the Jefferson County Commission took down from the court house wall in Charles Town a plaque commemorating the Confederacy. Had this bill been passed and in effect then, that action would have been illegal. We did right to kill this bill, which was one of many bills introduced in this session (some of which passed) designed to take authority away from local governments and give it to the state.
The Aboveground Storage Tank (AST) Act was passed in 2014, as a response to a serious chemical spill that poisoned the drinking water of 300,000 West Virginians. This year, a bill was introduced (on behalf of the West Virginia Manufacturers’ Association) to effectively gut the AST. Thanks to opposition by the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and intense lobbying by citizens, led by the West Virginia Rivers Coalition, the bill failed.
Secretary of State Mac Warner wanted us to pass an election law bill, similar to the one that recently passed in Georgia, restricting voting. I and other Democratic delegates had already sponsored a bill making it easier for people to vote. This, and the bad publicity surrounding the Georgia bill, caused Mac’s bill’s demise.
A comprehensive rewrite of the entire criminal code was sprung on the Legislature with no warning. The Legislature decided that something like this needs considerable research and discussion, so the bill died.
I’ll be holding a “town hall” on Tuesday, May 18, to recap the recently completed session. It will be outdoors in person in the pavilion at Morgan’s Grove Park, 7-8:30 p.m. All are invited, please ask questions. The (seriously) bad weather date is the following evening, May 19.
John Doyle is a delegate for the West Virginia District 67. He can be reached at email@example.com.