West Virginia League Update, January, 2017

League members: Here is an update to let you know what the League is doing in West Virginia.  If you do not wish to receive these occasional messages, please reply and you will be taken off the circulation list.  If you are changing your street address or your email, please send the new ones to the state treasurer, tbyler@suddenlink.net so that you can keep informed.

 LEAGUE ACTION

  • The League opposed the proposed purchase of the Pleasants power plant that is currently operating in a deregulated electricity market where it is struggling to compete against less expensive power sources.  The League firmly opposes this new attempt by First Energy to offload this plant to our regulated market because of debt the company has acquired due to their own lack of foresight in the transitioning energy markets. 
  • The state league added our name to WV Rivers Coalition on a stormwater permit on Rover Pipeline.  The league believes that all pipelines should have a complete and thorough permit applications in order to prevent as much land and water pollution as possible.
  • The state board of directors has joined in a coalition with WV SUN (WV Solar United Neighborhoods), a nonprofit group which forms solar cooperatives in WV.  These cooperatives expand access to solar by educating West Virginians about the benefits of distributed solar energy, helping them organize group solar installations, and strengthening West Virginia’s solar policies and its community of solar supporters.  There are at least five solar cooperatives in our state.  For more information, click on http://www.wvsun.org/.  

NEWS of INTEREST in WV

  • The new Secretary of State fired 16 people, including the head of the Elections Division and two others in the division.  The League believes this will leave voters without a reasonable means of making their questions or concerns about voting known.

STATE LEAGUE CONVENTION

  • You are invited to attend the state league convention on Saturday, May 6, in Parkersburg.  Any league member in WV may attend, and our four local leagues are encouraged to send delegates to make decision for the next biennium. 

 

West Virginia League Update, January, 2016

JANUARY, 2016

League members: Here is an update to let you know what the League is doing in West Virginia.  If you do not wish to receive these occasional messages, please reply and you will be taken off the circulation list.  If you are changing your street address or your email, please send the new ones to the state treasurer, tbyler@suddenlink.net so that you can keep informed.

 IN THIS ISSUE

  • Our Legislative Priorities
  • Environment: Energy, Water, Aboveground Storage Tanks, Fracking & Methane
  • Clean Elections
  • Library Financing

 

LEGISLATIVE PRIORITIES

 The League Board has adopted its 2016 legislative priorities. Each member of the legislature has received a letter including the League’s priorities.

 

The League of Women Voters of West Virginia:

 

  • Supports reforms of the WV tax system that are broadly based, rely on diverse revenue sources, provide an adequate, stable yield, and treat taxpayers equitably.
  • Supports strengthening disclosure requirements for the sources of political campaign expenditures, including independent expenditures and election-related communications.
  • Supports measures that encourage investment in energy efficiency in West Virginia’s homes, businesses, and industries.
  • Supports expanding the availability of services for people who need treatment for mental illness or substance abuse.

 

The League opposes measures which would weaken protection of the environment. In keeping with its goal of encouraging participation by citizens in their government, the League will continue to monitor election laws and oppose measures which limit access to voting.

  

NATURAL RESOURCES

 

The League will be supporting the following in the upcoming session.

ENERGY EFFICIENCY – The LEEP program – http://www.eewv.org/leep

Energy Efficient WV is pushing the Local Energy Efficiency Partnership (LEEP) Act, a tool to finance the up-front costs for making buildings more efficient and using the energy savings to pay off the investment.  Some of the attributes of this program:

  • It would be a tool to finance the up-front costs for making buildings more efficient, and use the energy savings to pay off the investment.
  • Local governments could choose whether to create this funding mechanism, at no risk to tax payers.
  • Energy efficiency builds jobs!     

  

LEGISLATIVE RULES

The legislature has the authority to weaken, strengthen, or pass the rules as submitted. The League will be working with other environmental organizations for strengthening rules to enforce protective laws.  Rules on Water Quality Standards:

  • Reject revisions to the Aluminum and Selenium standards that will    weaken the protection of WV’s waters.
  • Keep “Category A” Drinking Water Standards for WV’s waters. There will be efforts to take away that protection.
  • Learn how to participate in local water protection, go to the WV Rivers Coalition website, and download the new safe water toolkit - ”Drinking Water Protection: A Citizen’s Guide to Getting Involved.” www.wvrivers.org/

  

ABOVEGROUND STORAGE TANKS

In July, DEP proposed a new rule which includes detailed rules for implementing the Aboveground Storage Tank (AST) Act. This rule went through an exhaustive public notice and comment process. In November, it was submitted to the Legislative Rule-making Review Committee. At that time, the July rule was pulled from the Committee agenda and, without citizen involvement, agreed to numerous changes proposed by the regulated community. An amended version was then passed by the Committee.  The League asks the Legislature to restore the most important protections stripped from the AST rule.

    *Prohibit illegal tanks from receiving delivery of chemicals.
    *Close the loophole allowing for voluntary compliance with standards.
    *Consider threats to drinking water and human health in siting new tanks.
    *Require periodic inspections by certified personnel.

  

EFFECTS OF FRACKING ON DRINKING WATER

The LWVUS, joined by the LWVWV and other state Leagues, sent comments to the EPA’s Science Advisory Board (SAB) in regard to the board’s study on the effects hydraulic fracturing has on drinking water sources.  The League’s comments  state that the research reported in the draft is not the comprehensive and definitive study Congress funded in 2010. The League requested that the Hydraulic Fracturing Research Advisory Panel urge the SAB to restore integrity to the final report and to the SAB legacies by taking actions, as outlined in the League’s statement.

 Among the concerns raised were the problems of lack of control of noise, dust, and volatile organic compounds; disposal pits; testing water supplies; and some permissive instead of 

mandatory language.  See the WV Surface Owners Rights Organization (www.wvsoro.org) website for more information.

  

Adopt Recommendations of the wv

Public Water System Supply Study Commission

The WV Public Water System Supply Study Commission (PWSSSC) was established by SB373 to provide an annual report with policy recommendations to the legislature. Its second report, issued on December 15, 2015, is available at: http://tinyurl.com/pwsssc2015. Key policy recommendations include:

  • Permit release of information that is already in the public domain.  Legislation (SB423) passed in 2015 created conflict and uncertainty about what information can be presented to the public regarding potential contaminant sources, even if this information is currently within the public domain. The legislature needs to clarify that public water systems can share information already subject to public disclosure.
  • Provide information to downstream public water systems to adequately prepare for emergencies. In order to minimize contamination risk and to prepare for emergencies, public water systems need up-to-date information about contaminants that pose a threat to the water supply. These recommendations make sure utilities are notified about substantive changes to aboveground storage tanks, the toxicity of chemicals stored upstream, and mobile threats (such as trains) to the water supply.
  • Spills must be reported in a timely manner.
  • Continue a $2 million appropriation to the Board of Public Health. The BPH aids water utilities in the preparation of their Source Water Protection Plans.

  

THE WV LEAGUE’S COMMENTS

WV CLEAN POWER PLAN

The WV Department of Environmental Protection is working on how to comply with the U.S. EPA’s Clean Power Plan for Existing Power Plants and sought public comment and data.   The goal by 2030 of the Clean Power Plan is to cut carbon pollution from the power sector 32 percent below 2005 levels. The League sent comments related to the Clean Power Plan.

 

WV RULES

The League sent comments or added its name to comments by other organizations on water quality standards, Fracking, and AST’s (aboveground storage tanks).

 

FEDERAL RULES ON FRACKING   The LWVUS, joined by the LWVWV and other state Leagues, sent comments to the EPA’s Science Advisory Board (SAB) in regard to the SAB’s study on the effects hydraulic fracturing has on drinking water sources.  The League’s comments state that the research reported in the draft is not the comprehensive and definitive study Congress funded in 2010. The League requested that the Hydraulic Fracturing Research Advisory Panel urge the SAB to restore integrity to the final report and to the SAB’ legacies by taking actions, as outlined in the League’s statement.

 

 

EPA’S NEW METHANE POLLUTION REGULATION

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has proposed the first-ever air pollution standard for new and modified oil and gas facilities. This regulation is a critical part of President Obama’s Climate Action Plan to cut greenhouse gas emissions by more than 40 percent by 2025. Throughout the country, methane and other harmful substances are released from wells, compressors, and pipelines, among other sources throughout the oil and gas sector. Methane emissions from the oil and gas sector are substantial – about one-third of total U.S. methane emissions.  Tightly regulating this methane is absolutely critical to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and protecting public health. Curbing methane emissions is a “win-win” that can save fuel, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, improve air quality, and improve pipeline safety.  Doing so is a critical near-term step toward implementation of the Climate Action Plan and continued U.S. leadership on climate protection and healthier air.  The LWVUS supports EPA’s efforts to protect our people by cutting methane emissions

  

OTHER LEAGUE PRIORITIES

CLEAN ELECTIONS

Public financing and transparency of political spending are important safeguards for a true democracy. The corporate elite, millionaires and billionaires should not be able to use their wealth to bribe our elected officials, and they should dictate what happens to the future of our state and the future of our people. In a true democracy, everyone’s voice should be heard. Donors who contribute to a candidate’s campaign or spend millions of dollars on political ads should not have more access to and influence over our government.

 Julie Archer and Natalie Thompson are co-coordinators of WV Citizens for Clean Elections, a coalition of organizations that advocates for transparency and accountability in elections through reforms, such as public financing and full disclosure of political spending.  http://www.wvgazettemail.com/gazette-opinion/20160107/julie-archer-and-natalie-thompson-next-step-for-wv-eliminate-secret-political-donations

  

LIBRARY FINANCING

Senate Bill No. 113 is a bill currently in the WV Legislature which would increase teacher pay over a 5-year period.  It would do this by allowing counties to impose an additional levy of $.01 per $100 of assessed valuation on taxable property for the exclusive purpose of funding public libraries.  League members Priscilla Haden and Betty Barrett are watching for action on this bill.

 The main emphasis this year by the WV Library Association will be on keeping the Grants-in-Aid at the same level as it has been the last few years – $5.09 per capita.  The Association also wants a Facilities Improvement Fund.  However, they believe that passing a new tax will not happen this year, if ever.  At the federal level, there is a push to help school libraries.

  

TURNING POINT SUFFRAGIST MEMORIAL

A league in Virginia is spearheading an effort to build a memorial to the women who sacrificed so much in the days leading to the passage of the 19th Amendment.  In partnership with the association trying to raise funds to build this memorial, the league is are trying to raise awareness among members all over the country; the imprisoned women were from all over the country as well.  They are also collecting suffrage effort stories from the states to be made available at the memorial. Many of the supporters had great-grandmothers in the forefront of the fight.  If you are interested in this project, please see the website www.suffragistmemorial.org.  The League State Board has made a modest contribution to this effort.

    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

 Nancy Novak, President

League of Women Voters of West Virginia

West Virginia League Update, January, 2015

    West Virginia Update

January, 2015

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. 

  1. The LWVWV strongly opposes voter ID laws and other measures that unduly restrict eligible voters’ ability to exercise their right to vote.
  2. The LWVWV supports strong rules that will protect all West Virginians from chemical spills and other hazards to our drinking water sources.
  3. The LWVWV supports measures that would assure adequate, predictable and sustainable funding for West Virginia libraries.
  4. 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 gibbins@frontier.com 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, connigl@aol.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, arosser@wvrivers.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

West Virginia League Update, September, 2014

 
 
  

    West Virginia Update

September, 2014

 

IN THIS ISSUE

  • Library funding in Kanawha County and yours – consensus due Oct. 15.
  • Candidate Questionnaire coming soon in the WV Voter.
  • Women’s Equality Day anniversary celebrated.
  • Conni Lewis reports on National Convention.
  • New National League consensus on agriculture is announced.
  • Turning Point Suffragist Memorial seeks donations. 

FUNDING KANAWHA COUNTY LIBRARIES

Background: Three times the Kanawha County Board of Education sued to have the Kanawha Public Library monies that were appropriated by the legislature returned to the Board. The Supreme Court ruled in the Board’s favor this last time (2013).  The decision resulted in a loss of about 40% of the library’s total operating budget.  Several other counties in West Virginia which had similar legislative mandates, made the decision to continue funding their libraries. Kanawha County did not.

The Kanawha Library system could not effectively function without this money.  The County Board of Education placed a levy on the ballot for the May 2014 primary, but they included added a large amount of dollars for improvements in the school system.  This levy failed.  The Board of Ed has agreed to put the issue to the public once again in the November 4 general election, this time with a much lower dollar amount, and with the total going to operate the library system. 

 

HOW IS YOUR LOCAL LIBRARY FUNDED?

The WV League of Women Voters is finishing up its study on Public Library Financing in WV, and you can participate.  You should have received the league’s study material, either via email or through your local league.  (To have it emailed to you, contact NnovakWv@gmail.com.)  Local leagues in Huntington, Jefferson County, Morgantown and Wood County will hold meetings this month to discuss the background material and answer the questions together.  Members-at-large may participate by filling out the questionnaire and returning it by October 15 to Carolyn Watson, 131 Starlight Lane, Harpers Ferry, WV 25425.   Please clearly identify yourself in order to be counted as a league member.  

    CANDIDATE QUESTIONNAIRE

All statewide candidates have been asked questions by the league, and their answers will appear in the WV Voter, your state league newsletter, and will be posted to the WV League website about October 15.  The candidates covered will be the two major parties, Republicans and Democrats, and also five additional parties appearing on the state ballot.  The US Senate and House races will include the Libertarian, Independent, Constitution and Mountain parties.   The WV Senate and House of Delegates races will include the American Freedom Party, Constitution Party, Independent, Libertarian, Mountain Party.  However, not every party will be represented in every county.  You may see the complete list on the Secretary of State’s website, http://apps.sos.wv.gov/elections/candidate-search/, with local races found at your County Clerk’s office.  There are no state Constitutional Officers or Supreme Court races on the ballot in 2014.

WOMEN’S  EQUALITY DAY

Recently the League of Women Voters marked Women’s Equality Day, the 94th anniversary of the constitutional amendment that granted women the right to vote. The Huntington League celebrated the occasion with its work to engage and empower all voters.  League members are committed to making sure voters have the information they need to participate in elections and ensure their votes count. The Huntington League cooperated with the Herald-Dispatch to produce an election guide; they are sponsoring candidates meetings, and they register citizens to vote.  Other leagues in West Virginia are similarly active at for the November election. 

REPORT FROM NATIONAL CONVENTION

West Virginia League member Conni Lewis (Charleston) attended the Convention in Dallas in June.  She served as a presenter for caucus called “Don’t Drink the Water: Protect Your Water from Chemical Spills” sponsored by an Illinois league.  She drew from her experiences as an affected resident during the January 2014 spill from a chemical storage tank into the Elk River.  Three hundred thousand residents of Charleston and nine counties were affected. The league caucus presented information about the spill and how we can reduce the risk of a similar spill.

 

AGRICULTURE CONSENSUS ANNOUNCED 

The national league board has approved the new position on Federal Agriculture Policies, which was based on responses from 243 state and local Leagues.  The new Statement of Position reads, in part:

The League believes that government should provide financial support for agriculture that includes disaster assistance, crop insurance, need-based loans and incentives to adopt best management practices. Support should be extended to new production methods, such as organic, hydroponic, and urban practices, and to farms that supply local and regional markets.

Subsidized crop yield insurance should be linked to implementation of best management practices with the subsidy denied for marginal or environmentally sensitive land.  Government should limit the amount of the premium subsidy received by larger farms.

The League supports policies that increase competition in agricultural markets.  Antitrust laws should be enforced to ensure competitive agricultural markets. Alternative marketing systems such as regional hub markets, farmers’ markets and farmer cooperatives should be promoted.  Clean air and water regulations should apply to all animal and aquaculture production and processing facilities.   For further information, please see http://www.lwv.org/content/lwvus-position-federal-agriculture-policies.

 

TURNING POINT SUFFRAGIST MEMORIAL

A league in Virginia is spearheading an effort to build a memorial to the women who sacrificed so much in the days leading to the passage of the 19th Amendment.  In partnership with the association trying to raise funds to build this memorial, the league is are trying to raise awareness among members all over the country;  the imprisoned women were from all over the country as well.  They are also collecting suffrage effort stories from the states to be made available at the memorial. Many of the supporters had great-grandmothers in the forefront of the fight.  If you are interested in this project, please see the website www.suffragistmemorial.org.

 

BOARD OF DIRECTORS MEETING

The WV League board of directors will meet in Bridgeport on November 8, 2014.  Any League member may attend.  If interested, please contact NnovakWv@gmail.com. 

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

 

 

 

West Virginia League Update, January, 2014

    West Virginia Update

January, 2014 

 

LEGISLATIVE PRIORITIES FOR 2014 ANNOUNCED

The League of Women Voters of West Virginia has adopted the following issues as its legislative priorities for the 2014 session of the West Virginia Legislature.

  • The LWVWV supports the concept of a future fund for West Virginia
  • The LWVWV supports an upgrade of the fracking/horizontal drilling law to protect those who live near the drilling sites and the environment.
  • The LWVWV supports measures that improve children’s lives by assuring access to health care, pre-school education, and community resources that increase their chances for early school success.

In keeping with its goal of encouraging active and informed participation by citizens in their government, the League will continue to monitor election laws and oppose restrictive voter ID measures.  The League also supports a permanent funding source for the Supreme Court of Appeals Public Campaign Financing Program.  Our members will be following the Legislature on these and other issues during the 2014 session. 

COALITIONS WE HAVE JOINED

 

The League is made up of citizen lobbyists but we do not have any paid lobbyists in Charleston.  One of the ways we can be effective is for individual members to respond to League Action Alerts by contacting their individual legislators.  Action Alerts from the state board will be sent from time to time as legislation progresses.  Another way for the League to be effective is to join coalitions which share some of the same goals.

 

Our Children, Our Future

The board agreed to join the wide-ranging campaign to fight child poverty initiated by WV Healthy Kids and Families Coalition.   Some of the legislative priorities for the coalition include: preserving funding for Family Resource Networks; implementing a multi-year plan to expand In Home Family Education programs; providing 30 minutes of physical activity/day in school; and tackling substance misuse and abuse and creating a Future Fund.  All these aim to help children and their families break the cycle of poverty.  Susan Watkins (susanwatkins@suddenlink.net) may be contacted regarding Our Children, Our Future.

 

West Virginia Future Fund – West Virginia is currently facing a natural gas boom similar to that of the coal industry in the last century.  As envisioned, the Future Fund would be created from a portion of natural resources severance taxes and set aside for the future.  It would provide a permanent source of wealth for West Virginia after the minerals are depleted.  The League supports this concept, together with the coalition Our Children, Our Future.  How does this affect child poverty?  History shows that some of the poorest counties in the state are those from which the greatest natural wealth has been taken. The Future Fund will ensure that children of today and tomorrow will have a lasting benefit from resource extraction.  More information may be found at www.wvfuturefund.org/.

 

Citizens Action for Real Enforcement (CARE)

We have joined with a coalition of organizations that is demanding accountability for West Virginia’s enforcement of the Surface Mining and Reclamation Act.  The group has filed a formal administrative law petition with the federal Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement alleging widespread problems with enforcement of the Surface Mine Control and Reclamation Act and the WV’s Department of Environmental Protection’s demanding federal intervention.  The Office of Surface Mining dismissed 14 allegations but determined that five needed further investigation.  You may contact Conni Lewis (connigl@aol.com) or Helen Gibbins (gibbins@frontier.com) about CARE.

 

Other Action

Besides belonging to coalitions, the League cooperates with several groups to respond to selected Action Alerts in these areas:

 

A LIBRARY STUDY IS COMING

 

The League has undertaken a study of public library funding in West Virginia, to be completed in October.  The task is complex.  Our state has 97 public library systems, which are organized at various levels, with little uniformity. They function under a patchwork of governing and funding, from state, county and municipal taxes, and local non-tax sources.

The courts in West Virginia have struck down laws mandating that boards of education in certain counties give some of their funding to their local libraries.  Further, the Court challenged the Legislature to come up with a statewide system of local funding of public libraries.  What this system of funding might look like is still up in the air.  During the 2013 Legislative session, two bills seeking to deal with this situation were introduced but not approved.

The League of Women Voters hopes that in studying this issue, we can reach a position to enable us to lobby the Legislature as it develops its legislation on library funding.

The study, when ready this spring, will be sent to all members via email with a due date of October 15 for responses.  Local Leagues will hold meetings for study, discussion, and consensus.  Other members around the state may also participate by reading the study material and answering the questions.  Ultimately it is the job of the Board of Directors to assemble and collate all the answers, and then to determine whether a League consensus has been reached.  Questions may be addressed to Carolyn Watson libladyuw@yahoo.com or Betty Barrett EandBBarrett@comcast.net.

 

NATIONAL LEAGUE NEWS

 

Leagues around the country are participating in a new Agriculture Study/Consensus. The topics items for study include Economic Health of the Agriculture Sector, Animal Management, Research and Development, Food Safety and Food Labeling. The study materials are comprehensive and interesting, available at  http://www.lwv.org/search/content/agriculture%20background%20papers

 

STATE COUNCIL TO BE HELD IN MAY

 

The biennial State Council of local League will meet with the Board of Directors on May 3, 2014 in Fairmont.  A budget for 2014-15 will be adopted and plans for the year made.  Each local Leagues is permitted (and encouraged) to send delegates.  In addition any League member may attend as a visitor.  For details, please contact Nancy Novak.

 

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

 

 

West Virginia League Update, October, 2013

    West Virginia Update

October, 2013

IN THIS ISSUE

  • Birthplace of Rivers National Monument is proposed.
  • The League supports affordable health care.
  • The League participates in Constitution Day.
  • WV Women’s Commission reports.
  • The September state board meeting is open to members.

 

BIRTHPLACE OF RIVERS

 

The proposed Birthplace of Rivers National Monument is a citizen initiative designed to protect a part of the southern Monongahela National Forest that includes the headwaters and tributaries of the Gauley, Greenbrier, Elk, Williams, Cranberry, and Cherry Rivers.

 

The League of Women Voters supports this proposal, under our national Resource Management position: “promote an environment beneficial to life through the protection and wise management of natural resources in the public interest.”

This section of the Allegheny Mountains possesses some of the most iconic natural features and best outdoor recreation in the eastern United States.  It features dense forests of red spruce, trout streams and black bear habitat.  In addition, Cranberry Glades hosts a unique series of tundra-like bogs which shelter migratory birds and rare plants.

 

The League has often taken positions in favor of saving public lands for recreational and aesthetic purposes.   We contacted our Members of Congress, asking their support for this National Monument, and we encourage other citizens to do so too.  More information can be found at http://www.birthplaceofrivers.org/ .

 

 

AFFORDABLE HEALTH CARE IN WEST VIRGINIA

 

As everyone knows, the West Virginia health insurance exchanges are up and running and are proving extremely popular.  The national league‘s 1993 position on health care states in part “a basic level of quality health care at an affordable cost should be available to all US residents.”  The remainder of the lengthy position may be found in the booklet Impact on Issues by going to: http://www.lwv.org/content/impact-issues and downloading the Social Policy section IoI2012_SocPol.pdf.

 

Several local leagues in the state, including Morgantown and Wood County have held public meetings to help the public get ready for this important and complex new program.

 

 

CONSTITUTION DAY

 

Constitution Day was established by Congress in 2004 after being proposed by our own Senator Robert C. Byrd.  All K-12 schools as well as all colleges and universities receiving federal funds must have some program or activity that features the United States Constitution.

 

The West Virginia League of Women Voters was one of the sponsors of this year’s celebration on September 17 at our state capitol in Charleston.  The League has played an active part in this program for the last three years; in addition, the Huntington league has also participated in Constitution Day activities.

 

 

WV WOMEN’S COMMISSION REPORTS

 

Here’s some news from the WV Women’s Commission from their recent newsletter.

 

Findings Released on Status of Women and Girls in West Virginia

The report examines the status of women and girls in five regions of the state, as well as in the nation as a whole. Key findings showed that women in West Virginia have made significant gains in education and entrepreneurship. In fact, the number of women-owned business in West Virginia increased by nearly 3,500 between 1998 and 2007. Additionally, the proportion of women who hold a bachelor’s degree or higher increased from 11 percent in 1990 to 18 percent in 2010.  In brief:

 

Employment – In 2010, 50% of women in West Virginia were in the labor force compared with 59% of men On average, women who work full-time annually earn $29,000 compared to $42,000 for men.

 

Economic Security – West Virginia women are more likely than men to live at or below the federal poverty line.

 

Health and Well-Being – More than 1 in 5 women aged 18—62 lack health insurance in West Virginia

 

The report was written by the Institute for Women’s Public Policy Research in collaboration with the West Virginia Women’s Commission.  The WV Women’s Commission is a Commission within the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources  For more information, visit http://www.wvwomenscommission.org/

 

 

BOARD OF DIRECTORS TO MEET

 

The League’s state board of directors will meet in Parkersburg on November 16, 2013.  Any League member may attend.  If interested, please contact Nancy Novak for more details.

 

 

For additional information about events happening in the WV or National Leagues, please log on to  www.lwvwv.org.or www.lwf.org.

 

Nancy Novak, President
League of Women Voters of West Virginia

 

 

 

West Virginia League Update, June, 2013

    West Virginia Update

July, 2013  

IN THIS ISSUE

  • The League has filed a petition on surface mining.
  • The League will submit comments on state water quality standards
  • Another Supreme Court ruling you may not have heard of.

 

 

LEAGUE FILES PETITION ON SURFACE MINING

 

The League joined the Citizens Action for Real Enforcement Campaign (C.A.R.E.), a coalition of state and federal organizations that is demanding accountability for West Virginia’s enforcement of the Surface Mining and Reclamation Act (SMCRA).

 

On June 24 the group filed a formal administrative law petition with the federal Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (OSMRE) alleging widespread problems with enforcement of the Surface Mine Control and Reclamation Act.   and the WV’s Department of Environmental Protection’s (WVDEP) demanding federal intervention. The petition was filed under a provision that allows citizens to ask the federal OSMRE to take over a state agency if they believe the agency is failing to enforce the law. The filing of this petition triggers an obligation on the part of OSMRE to investigate the citizens’ claims and, if they are deemed valid, to order changes in the state program or assume enforcement itself.

Here are some of the problems with the WVDEP’s program

  • Understaffing and underpaid employees resulting in inadequate inspections.
  • Grossly inadequate penalties for infractions of the law.
  • Deficient use of accurate science relating to flooding and pollution, resulting in permits that do not protect communities and our waters.
  • Resisting the monitoring of selenium and conductivity in the effluents from mine sites resulting in impaired streams.

 

Retired miner Chuck Nelson summed up the case for federal action, “People who have lived in the coalfields for generations have reached out to our DEP for help. After many years of pleading our case, we have no confidence in our DEP, nor should we. Our only option is to seek federal intervention to assure that our communities get what everyone deserves – protection from the pollution and toxins that are directly impacting the health of the people that live within these communities,”

 

The filing of the petition is a first step. C.A.R.E. envisions a sustained campaign by educating its members and the public on the inadequacies of WV’s surface mining enforcement program.  For more information see: http://blogs.wvgazette.com/coaltattoo/2013/06/24/breaking-news-citizen-groups-seek-osmre-takeover-of-west-virginia-deps-mining-program/

 

 

LEAGUE COMMENTS ON WATER STANDARDS

 

The League is joining other groups to submit comments to the Department of Environmental Protection’s (WVDEP) on its Triennial Review of water quality standards. The other groups include the WV Rivers Coalition, WV Environmental Council, WV Highlands Conservancy, Appalachian Mountain Advocates, WV Chapter of the Sierra Club, Ohio Valley Environmental Council.

Some of the comments support the agency’s proposed changes. But some of our comments indicate concerns about:

  • The need for nutrient criteria for streams to ensure aquatic health.
  • Opposition to weakened standards for aluminum.
  • Support for the establishment of a Total Dissolved Solids standard.
  • Support for an aquatic life criterion for water conductivity that is consistent with peer-reviewed scientific analysis that high conductivity harms aquatic life.

 

 

SUPREME COURT RULING ON PLANNING AND ZONING

Lost in the coverage of other important Supreme Court decisions is Koontz v. St. Johns River Water Management District. The decision, based on the takings clause of the 5th Amendment to the US Constitution, weakens considerably the rights of local land use agencies to prevent harms and burdens that come from development. For more information read

http://www.theatlanticcities.com/politics/2013/06/supreme-court-just-handed-real-estate-developers-big-win/6010/

 

For additional information about events happening in the WV or National Leagues, please log on to  www.lwvwv.org.or www.lwf.org.

 

Nancy Novak

 

Nancy Novak, President

League of Women Voters of West Virginia

NNovakWV@gmail.com

304-295-8215