West Virginia Update
IN THIS ISSUE
- League Legislative Priorities 2015
- West Virginians Deserve Safe Drinking Water
- Tips for Watching the 2015 WV Legislature
- Call to League’s 2015 Convention
LEAGUE 2015 LEGISLATIVE PRIORITIES
Every year the League chooses Legislative priorities to help focus on issues which may see action in the Legislature. Explanations and further information for each priority statement are found below.
- The LWVWV strongly opposes voter ID laws and other measures that unduly restrict eligible voters’ ability to exercise their right to vote.
- The LWVWV supports strong rules that will protect all West Virginians from chemical spills and other hazards to our drinking water sources.
- The LWVWV supports measures that would assure adequate, predictable and sustainable funding for West Virginia libraries.
- The LWVWV supports increasing taxes on tobacco products in order to improve the health of West Virginians.
FURTHER INFORMATION on the PRIORITIES
1. OPPOSE VOTER ID LAWS
Advocates of Voter ID laws say they are trying to prevent fraud in voting. The fact is that cases of ineligible people attempting to vote or actually voting are extremely rare. Most cases of election irregularities involve corrupt officials tampering with vote counts or violations of campaign finance laws. What Voter ID laws do is disenfranchise people who are eligible to vote but lack the necessary documents to obtain the required form of identification. Among them are older people whose births were not properly registered or whose records are missing, poor people who cannot afford the fees to obtain needed documents, non-drivers who lack drivers’ licenses, and people who simply are discouraged by the inconvenience of getting the necessary documents. It’s not hard to see that the disenfranchised are disproportionately urban (non-drivers), poor, and elderly. Given the dismal turnout in the most recent general election, we should be encouraging more eligible people to register and vote, not making it harder for them to exercise their right as a citizen.
By Kathy Stoltz
2 – PROTECT OUR DRINKING WATER
Last January a chemical leak into the Elk River ended up polluting the drinking water of nearly 300,000 West Virginians. The health of many of those living in the area served by the affected water company was harmed. Schools and many businesses closed during the event. People had to obtain potable water from jugs and other sources. The West Virginia legislature “stepped up to the plate” to pass SB 373 which strengthened the protections of West Virginia’s drinking water supplies. The League of Women Voters of West Virginia opposes any effort to weaken SB 373. A recent statement by the WV Department of Environmental Protection says that of the 50,000 above-ground storage tanks registered with the state, 1,100 were marked by inspectors as “not fit for service.” Officials remain in the process of determining whether any of those tanks are located near water sources for communities or contain toxic chemicals which could affect nearby communities. Lawmakers have indicated that they may revisit the storage tank requirements which have been criticized by businesses as too expensive. To ensure clean, safe water for everyone as well as a vital economy in West Virginia we must keep SB 373’s protections and their implementation strong.
by Helen Gibbins
3. SUPPORT LIBRARY FUNDING
Public libraries are a major educational and community resource. West Virginia’s libraries are seventh in the nation in state funding, but only 49th in local funding for operations. The West Virginia League of Women Voters will support legislation providing more adequate, sustainable funding from public sources in order to fulfill the goals of our public libraries. The following are the goals, and some bills are expected o be introduced.
The major goal is to maintain current Grants In Aid to libraries at the current $5.09 per capita. Bills are expected to establish a vehicle for a Library Facilities Improvement Fund, which would receive funding at a later date, and another to allow counties to add one penny per $100 assessed value to property taxes, to be dedicated to libraries. Allowing a simple majority for approval of all excess levies, not just education levies, would be very helpful to libraries. Children would also benefit from having professional staff in their school libraries.
By Betty Barrett
4. INCREASE TAXES ON TOBACCO PRODUCTS
West Virginia has the second highest prevalence of current smoking among adults in the nation in 2011 according to the WV Bureau for Behavioral Health . During the years 2006-2010, the estimated annual direct health care costs caused by deaths and illnesses from smoking were $709,000,000. With regard to tobacco use among youth, in West Virginia we have seen a recent decline in use. Evidence indicates that higher cigarette taxes/higher price leads to decrease in tobacco use, particularly among youth who have less expendable income and less access.
According to the report “Tobacco is Killing (and Costing) Us,” report published collaboratively by the WV Division of Tobacco Prevention and the WV Health Statistics Center, while there have been successes in reducing smoking among WV youth, our state shows no declines in smoking among WV adults, and has one of the highest rates of cigarette smoking in the nation. There needs to be a collaborated effort in education, prevention, cessation strategies, and policy initiatives that support one another. Towards this end, League supports all efforts to increase state tobacco taxes in West Virginia as a means to improving health overall for West Virginians.
2015 Legislative Session
West Virginians Deserve Safe Drinking Water.
We need your help in observing the one-year anniversary of the careless contamination of the drinking water of more than 300,000 West Virginians. We need to make sure more is done to protect water across the state. With continued citizen pressure, we assure the progress we’ve made in 2014 toward cleaner, safer water continues. Together, we can make certain all provisions of the Above Ground Storage Tank Bill are maintained during the 2015 WV Legislative Session. Contact league member Helen Gibbins firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
1. We want all of our rivers and streams protected for current and future drinking water use.
- Defend existing application of Category A protections, the water quality standard for drinking water use, for rivers and streams across the state.
- Reclassify the Kanawha River as Category A to provide an option for a secondary intake.
- Continue to require coal mining permits meet water quality standards to protect drinking water supplies.
2. We want strong source water protection plans.
- Appropriate $12.2M for source water protection planning.
- Enforce the requirement that the public be included in the planning process.
3. We want strong regulation of aboveground storage tanks.
- Reject attempts to exclude tanks that pose risk.
- Ensure tank owners will be financially responsible for potential contamination events through adequate bonding requirements.
4. We want studies and recommendations to protect our water supplies to be further considered.
- Authorize funding for the continuation of the WV Public Water System Supply Study Commission.
- Ensure the Commission completes the Chemical Safety Board Recommendation Roadmap by June 2015.
- Adopt preliminary recommendations of the Commission:
o Appropriate $12.2M for the development of source water protection plans.
o Consider legislation for income tax credits for landowners for source water protection entitled the “West Virginia Water Protection Incentive Act”.
TIPS FOR WATCHING THE WV LEGISLATURE
Since the League is relatively small, we join together with certain other organizations in order to accomplish our goals. The organizations we choose to join are chosen to have similar policies and issues to ours. Some of them are below with their websites included for more information.
ACTION ON CHILDREN AND FAMILIES
Our Children, Our Future (OCOF) http://wvhealthykids.org/
OCOF is one of the coalitions the League partners with. Falling under the auspices of WV Healthy Kids and Families, their platform for 2015 is:
- In-Home Family Education Programs for Early Childhood
- Improving children’s oral health by limiting nutrition benefits for soft drinks
- Substance Abuse prevention
- Increasing the tobacco tax to reduce rates of smoking
Legislative Action Team for Children and Families, http://bit.ly/wvactionteam
The League is a part of this action team which meets weekly during the legislative session.
It supports the advancement of family-friendly public policy and works to mobilize support for issues that improve the lives of children in West Virginia. You can sign up for action alerts on pending issues affecting children here: http://salsa4.salsalabs.com/o/50981/p/salsa/web/common/public/content?content_item_KEY=12075 .
ACTION ON ENVIRONMENTAL ISSUES
West Virginia Environmental Council (WVEC) http://wvecouncil.org/.
The mission of the West Virginia Environmental Council is to facilitate communication and cooperation among citizens in promoting environmental protection in West Virginia, to assist in organizing grass roots groups, to facilitate interaction among established environmental organizations, and to correspond with all appropriate local, state, and federal agencies involved in the management of West Virginia’s environment. League member Conni Lewis, email@example.com will be their new coordinator of lobbyists.
Citizen Action Group (CAG) (http://www.wvcag.org/)
West Virginia Citizen Action Group (WV-CAG) has, since 1974, advocated for better public policy, rights of individuals, a clean environment and a stronger democratic process.
Their main goal is to increase the voice of the average citizen in public affairs – to speak out in behalf of the consumer, to speak out in defense of a cleaner environment, and to speak out against governmental corruption. Other issues include health care reform, taxation reform, ethics, election reform and women’s issues.
West Virginia Rivers Coalition (http://www.wvrivers.org/)
This coalition believes that clean water is the foundation of life, and that all people should respect and be able to enjoy clean West Virginia rivers and streams. Angie Rosser, Executive Director, firstname.lastname@example.org
Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition (OVEC) http://ohvec.org/
OVEC is a nationally recognized grassroots organization dedicated to the improvement and preservation of the environment through education, grassroots organizing and coalition building, leadership development and media outreach. Their work encompasses much of West Virginia.
Solid Waste Management Board’s website http://www.state.wv.us/swmb/ is a good place to keep up to date on the progress of recycling and solid waste legislation. Click on Solid Waste Associated Legislative Activity. Among their other purposes, they plan for the proper management of solid waste on both the state and local levels. They are also involved in the development of recycling infrastructure statewide. This is accomplished through the distribution of grant funds to the local solid waste authority’s, public awareness programs, and assisting individuals, businesses and government units in finding markets for recyclable materials.
Energy Efficient West Virginia (http://www.eewv.org/)
This is a group of concerned West Virginia residents, businesses and organizations who have come together to promote energy efficiency among residential, commercial, and industrial customers in our state.
CALL TO CONVENTION 2015
The League’s biennial State Convention will be held in Huntington on Saturday, April 18. Local Leagues are entitled to voting delegates, in numbers allowed by the Bylaws (information to follow). Any other member may attend as a visitor. Please contact Nancy Novak, NovakWv@gmail.com if you are interested. The Luncheon speaker will be Ted Boettner, Executive Director of the WV Center for Budget Policy, “working for a shared prosperity.”
For additional information about events happening in the WV or National Leagues, please log on to www.lwvwv.org.or www.lwv.org.
Nancy Novak, President
League of Women Voters of West Virginia