This week from Charleston
Election years go straight from candidate forums to legislative forums without much of a break. This week I attended the first of several pre-session forums sponsored by the Jefferson County League of Women Voters at the Bavarian Inn. The forum was open to the public and was exceptionally well attended. Senator Snyder, Delegate Espinosa, Delegate-elect Upson and I participated in over two hours of questions and answers. Many topics were covered: mental health care in the Eastern Panhandle, heroin and drug abuse, Justice Reinvestment and adult drug courts, and the state budget among others.
As the League has worked hard on finding consensus on a plan for changing public library funding for operations, it was a natural question. I indicated that I supported the League’s recommendations and that library funding in West Virginia needs to be fundamentally changed. It is a true hodgepodge of funding streams in the state with no clear sense to it. There are not enough economies of scale in library operations. This impairs wise use of funding. I suggested that impact fees in counties that choose to adopt them could create a funding stream for capital costs for libraries. Delegate Upson indicated that she believed that additional user fees are a good way to fund libraries.
Although the election is over–and arguably it is time to move on—the outside spending on the election continues to be a topic, and it certainly was at the League forum. The starkest difference between the forum participants was the answer on whether the Citizens’ United opinion should be overturned. Senator Snyder and I were firm that we believe that the results of Citizens United are bad for the democracy and that the decision should be overturned. We both believe that corporations should not have the same free speech rights as citizens. Delegates Espinosa and Upson were clear that that support the Citizens United decision. During the discussion, I pointed out that some of the outside spending had likely violated our state law that we had passed in response to the Citizens United decision. The 2013 law requires that any spending on independent expenditures over a minimum limit must show the funding sources. Unfortunately, there are many instances of independent spending in state legislative races violated this law this year. I am a firm believer that sunlight is the best medicine for unlimited spending. In other words, contributors to negative campaign mail should be revealed. All candidates are required to reveal their contributors, and the law requires that contributors to independent expenditures must be revealed. There are pending complaints against several of the groups who sent independent expenditures for their failure to reveal their sources.