Guest Commentary: Update From the 85th Legislature (4-13-21)

The final week of the West Virginia Legislature regular session brought about some pride in the political process as well as some disappointments.

Recently a state senator stated that there was a “mini-insurrection” when several dozen house republicans attempted to attend a public open-door meeting between house and senate leadership.

The senate conference room is quite small so the house republicans in attendance were made to stand outside in the hallway. Everyone who has ever taken a tour of the West Virginia Capitol building knows that the ceilings are high and even the most moderate of conversations can echo in the halls.

Now imagine multiple simultaneous sidebar conversations with some laughter among members and it is easy to see why some timid souls could think people were “…chanting, yelling vulgarities, and trying to intimidate senators into changing their votes” and, perhaps, even feel intimidated.

I was present during this so-called “mini-insurrection.” I did not hear chanting or vulgarities. However, as the House GOP leadership entered the conference room the other delegates did render enthusiastic applause. But when the meeting was called to order the hall became extremely quiet save for a sidebar conversation or two at the far end of the hall farthest away from the conference room door.

Also, while I personally did not hear it, I was told that a single GOP delegate did address a GOP senator with a vulgarity at the end of the meeting. While I personally condemn this behavior, it hardly amounted to an insurrection…not even a mini-one! In fact, I remember giving a fist-bump to the same democrat senator while saying “Good morning. We need your help this morning on this bill” as he entered the noisy hallway prior to the meeting.

I have no idea why the same senator characterized the incident as a “mini-insurrection,” particularly since everyone present had the right to be there for this public meeting and nothing happened which could remotely be considered an insurrection. Perhaps this fabrication was created to somehow score political points?

The meeting was about limiting the powers of the executive branch during a state of emergency so that a single individual can no longer be able to issue mandates indefinitely without soliciting input from the lawmakers after a reasonable amount of time. The senators desired to gut the original house bill with amendments to the point of it having no teeth and rendering it neutered and worthless.

The senators in the room used the excuse that the original house bill — the one that had teeth before the Senate amendment — was “unconstitutional.” This particular senate leadership team then refused to let it go to the floor for a full vote and it died in the Senate Judiciary Committee. Despite this fact, their narrative is now that the house GOP killed the bill and that it is “on their hands” (referring to the House GOP Caucus). My guess is that the Senate did not have the spine necessary to challenge the executive branch by letting this bill run and sending it to the Senate floor for a full vote. The big question is why? Backroom deals? Gentlemen’s agreements? Unethical promises of future political positions? Time will tell.

H.B. 2363: The Best Interest of the Child Protection Act of 2021. This bill is designed to change the way family courts render judgments on child custody cases. The goal is to set the conditions for the element of fairness for both parents. It does not automatically favor one parent over the other at the beginning of each case. I supported this bill.

H.B. 2694: The Second Amendment Preservation Act. If the governor signs this bill into law, it will forbid local and state law enforcement officers from assisting in federal-level firearms investigations or arrests for infractions of unconstitutional executive orders, etc. It will further protect said officers from liability unless said infractions are in violation of state-level firearms laws. All who opposed this bill in the House were Democrats. I was happy to support this bill.

S.J.R. 4: If it becomes law would give churches and religious denominations the option of incorporating. I supported this bill as it provides options for faith-based organizations.

H.B. 2982: The Second Chance at Life Act of 2021. I am a proud co-sponsor of this bill which would mandate that physicians or staff at abortion clinics are required to make women aware that there is an opportunity to chemically save the life of her baby within the first 24 to 48 hours of ingesting an abortion pill, should she change her mind and decide to carry the child full term. I am very proud of this bill.

H.B. 2368: Mylissa Smith’s Law. Another great bill which will mandate that elderly care facilities and hospitals permit family members to visit terminally ill patients so that they do not die alone. If this bill becomes law these health care facilities will not be permitted to use “the virus” or a “state of emergency” as an excuse to not permit family visitation.

S.B. 332: Providing procedure for West Virginia to select delegates to an Article V Convention. While it was amended in the house and passed on Friday, unfortunately, time expired on Saturday when it would have had to be voted on again on third reading. For reasons unknown to this freshman delegate, the leadership held this until the very end of the evening on Saturday night. I hope that was not by design? Sadly the bill died in the house. This was very disappointing as I was looking forward to voting for this bill. It would have set the conditions for a meeting of state delegations for the purpose of addressing an increasing number of federal-level unconstitutional mandates by executive fiat. Congressional term limits, the national debt, the nature of executive orders, and perhaps even stacking the U.S. Supreme Court could have been addressed. Opponents say that a convention of states would lead to the “REWRITING of our Constitution.” I say that this constitutionally permissible act would lead to a REMINDING of the U.S. Government that We the People are still in control and we want to strengthen and conserve our Bill of Rights, not rewrite them. We will try again in the future.

This will be the last legislative update for a while. I will provide reports during the interim legislative sessions throughout the year as well as other updates as necessary. I encourage everyone to visit www.wvlegislature.gov to see all the other pieces of legislation that made their way through the process this past week.

Godspeed!

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

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