Elections, Latest News, West Virginia Legislature

Bills complete legislative journeys as special session ends; Evans comments on Senate president’s Nazi remarks

MORGANTOWN – The Senate redistricting bill and the House COVID-19 exemption bill completed their legislative journeys Wednesday evening.

The Senate redistricting bill is SB 3034 and passed out of the Senate 31-2 Tuesday. The House took it up on Wednesday and House Redistricting Committee Chair Gary Howell, R-Mineral, offered an amendment to make seven changes to conform certain census blocks between the House and Senate maps.

One of those changes was to adjust a block between the 2nd and 13th Senate districts in Marion County that contains seven people.

Delegate Evan Hansen, D-Monongalia, was among those who voted against the Senate map. He objected to the division of Mon County, saying the ideal Senate district based on the 2020 census is 105,513 people, and Mon has 105,822.

“If there ever was a single county in West Virginia that should be provided its own senatorial district, Mon County is that county,” he said.

The vote to pass the bill was 72-19. The House then returned it to the Senate, which concurred with the amendment and re-passed it 26-0.

After the usual work to finalize the bill, it will head to the governor.

The vaccine exemption bill is HB 335. It allows employees with religious or medical exemptions to the COVID-19 vaccine to present a certificate to their employers.

The bill came from the governor and sparked universal opposition among the medical and business communities because of potential conflicts with federal law, potential expensive litigation and potential loss of Medicare and Medicaid funds for health systems.

It passed the House 68-30 Friday and the Senate 17-16 Tuesday.

On Tuesday, Sen. Eric Tarr, R-Putnam successfully amended in a severability clause should any portion of the bill be found unconstitutional.

On Wednesday, the House concurred with the Senate amendment and re-passed it 66-24.

Before the vote, though, Hansen took the floor to comment on the House floor about comments made on the Senate floor – including by Senate President Craig Blair, R-Berkeley – comparing vaccine mandates to Nazi Germany.

“I do think we should be careful when we compare policies to Nazi Germany, especially vaccine policies meant to keep people safe,” he said. He mentioned some of the inhumane tortures Nazis performed in the guise of medical research. “To me, these aren’t particularly comparable to vaccine mandates intended to keep people safe and healthy.”

He recommended that people pause and think before they make such comparisons.

HB 335 also will head to the governor.

The House and Senate also passed some other supplementary funding bills Wednesday evening and then adjourned the special session sine die – putting an official end to the session.

Tweet @dbeardtdp