Guest Commentary: Update From the 85th Legislature (3/25/21) - West Virginia Daily News
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Guest Commentary: Update From the 85th Legislature (3/25/21)

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This week was explosive to say the least. Several bills that some consider to be controversial made their way onto the House floor to be debated and subsequently voted on.

House Bill 2008 changes requirements for licensure relating to elevator mechanics crane operators, HVAC, electricians, and plumbers. The goal is to reduce oftentimes very draconian and overly restrictive barriers to entry into these career fields. While many may decry this bill, many more will have increased opportunities to become either employers or employees within these much-needed career fields. It is the hope that a bill such as this will help not only to stop the hemorrhaging of our graduates who move out of state to find good work but also create some much-needed jobs over the long term. I trust the free market to weed out the substandard contractors, should that be a concern for some.

The governor signed into law the Jumpstart Savings Program. This initiative would provide the opportunity for those attending vocational and technical school students to save money for the professional equipment of their career field. The goal is to facilitate new business startups as graduates earn their career licensing and can immediately purchase the specialty vehicle, tools, equipment, and other professional items associated with their career field which they will be required to have in order to be successful. Note: This bill has nothing to do with the Hope Scholarship. More on that later.

House Bill 2174, the West Virginia Monument and Memorial Protection Act of 2021. This was the bill of the week that caused some debate fireworks on the house floor. This bill would pave the way for a legal route for local municipalities, counties, and state agencies to have an arbiter to appeal to for the safe and legal removal and relocation of monuments that local municipalities may want to have removed. It does not take the rights away from a community to remove a monument. However, it would protect and preserve the monument for posterity. For example, if a local municipality votes to remove a bust of Stonewall Jackson, it would have to make an application to the WV Department of Arts, Culture, and History. This agency would then determine where the same would be relocated, such as to a museum or otherwise stored and protected from destruction.

Opponents of the bill consider it racist, while proponents consider it a constitutional act of preserving our history for our posterity. In fact, the debate on this bill was so contentious that at one point Delegate Walker (Dem. — Monongahela County) twice stated “Power, plus privilege, equals racism.” She followed that up by stating “Black people cannot be racist!” Yes, you read this correctly. In other words, those delegates in the room who supported the bill are allegedly racist. Moreover, if your skin is white, you are “privileged” and if you are in a position of “power,” then we are racist. I never thought I would hear a fellow elected official stand and exercise their own privilege as a delegate to insinuate that she is not privileged nor can she be racist. Quite frankly it was the most racist and divisive thing I have ever heard an elected official say in the public arena of debate.

After two hours of debate, which mostly consisted of every Democrat lecturing about racism, the bill passed. Oddly enough, not one Democrat in the room called for the removal of all the Robert C. Byrd monuments around the state, not even the one of the former KKK member that is front and center in the Capitol Rotunda. And neither do I. While I did not at all like his politics of over four decades of keeping West Virginia a welfare-addicted state or his racist KKK connections, I nevertheless do recognize that he is a part of our history.

Ironically enough, they did bring up the fact that Germany banned all Nazi (National Socialist German Worker’s Party) monuments shortly after WW2. The Democrats stated that “the monuments brought up bad memories and could be offensive to some.” 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? On behalf of the voters in the 42nd District, I was happy to support this bill.

I am also happy to report that the House Committee on Health, which I am a member of, voted on the Abortion Second Chance at Life Bill. This bill would mandate that those who issue the RU486 abortion pill must also make women aware of the fact that there exists an opportunity to save the baby’s life if they change their minds within the first 24 to 48 hours after taking the pill intended to murder the baby. Either the house bill or the senate equivalent should make it to the house floor for a full vote sometime during this week (March 22-26). I am very proud to have co-sponsored the House version.

Finally, for those of you who noticed Senator Baldwin’s comments in his The Back Pew column last week regarding the Hope Scholarship, you may have been confused, and rightly so. After all, while commenting on the Hope Scholarship, which he does not support, he attempted to attach my comments about HB2013 (the Hope Scholarship) to the Education Savings Account Bill, which was HB2321.

These are two totally unrelated issues with different intents. In his column, he stated that “a delegate recently said counties would still receive partial funds for students who get an ESA; that is false.”

In other words, his comments insinuate that I fabricated the numbers about the ESA even though I gave no numbers about the ESA. The numbers I gave were clearly regarding the Hope Scholarship. He has either intentionally or unintentionally developed a shell game by attributing my factual comments relating to one bill (HB2013), to an entirely separate Bill (HB2321). As many of you noticed he never explains how or why he believes my numbers are “false.”

But why would he do this? In my view, there are two reasons. Either he was intentionally attempting a partisan bait and switch to misguide the voters, or he sincerely does not know the difference between the Hope Scholarship and the Education Savings Plan. Since I perceive him to be a man of honor, I want to believe it is the latter. I sincerely believe he made an honest mistake. Nevertheless, I did notice numerous other discrepancies in his column but those of you who read them are intelligent enough to trust but verify by doing your own prudent research. These bills are too serious to be misunderstood or misrepresented by elected officials, either purposely or accidentally.

Get your legislative updates and do your own research by going to wvlegislature.gov and clicking on BILL STATUS.

Godspeed!

Todd Longanacre
Delegate, 42nd District, WV House
Todd.longanacre@wvhouse.gov

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