Editorials, Opinion

The Good, the Bad and the Stupid 4

We’re running our weekly roundup a little early this week, and we’ll mostly be focusing on the “good” and the “stupid” today. The “bad” will come tomorrow. Without further ado, let’s take a look at what the Legislature has been up to.

Good: HB 4003 — to establish legal rights to chemical compounds, elements and substances that are derived from the treatment of mine drainage. In plain English: This bill sets the framework for allowing the state and private entities to see rare earth elements extracted from acid mine drainage. We’ve previously discussed the benefits of REE extraction, so we won’t get into the details here. But in short, it creates a financial motivation for treating AMD-contaminated water, and it brings an important part of electronics manufacturing back to the U.S.

Stupid: SB 495 — to require graduating high school seniors to pledge an oath to uphold the Constitution. This bill is as weird as it is unnecessary. Students already say a pledge of allegiance to the flag every morning, which is technically voluntary (but not really) and not something most other Western and democratic nations do.

Good: HB 4376 — to grant full-time employees of county boards of education three months of paid leave, following the birth of a child, or the placement of a child in the home through adoption or foster care. This is something we’d like to see extended to all state employees, and something more private businesses should consider.

Stupid: HB 4270 — to eliminate Daylight Saving Time. Everyone hates it when the clocks change twice a year, but what makes this bill stupid is that the elimination of DST would only apply to West Virginia. This means everyone who crosses the state border for work, recreation or other purposes had better understand that other states will be operating in a different time zone for half the year.

Good: HB 4459 — to allow health insurers to establish alternate premiums for unvaccinated people. This one is going to be controversial, but it does make sense. Insurance companies establish premiums based on a person’s risk factors — age, pre-existing conditions, whether or not they smoke or drink — and not being vaccinated is a huge risk factor. This bill’s generic language covers any vaccine recommended by the CDC, including measles, mumps, chickenpox, polio and, yes, COVID-19.

Stupid: HB 4007 — “to reduce personal income tax rates and to create a fund into which one half of each fiscal year’s general revenue surplus will be deposited to offset any loss of revenues determined by the Legislature to have resulted from this and any future reductions of those rates instead of using that portion of the surplus to fund the state’s Rainy Day Fund.” As the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy points out, this bill seeks to wipe out a major portion of the state’s steady revenue based on a few years of surplus (which, we’d like to point out, only exists because things like schools and road maintenance remain chronically underfunded). HB 4007 is a shortsighted plan for West Virginia’s long-term future.

Good: HB 4353 — to make local elections the same day as state elections. We’ve supported this idea for years. Local elections are so important, but they consistently have low voter turnout, in part due to the inconvenience. Combining them with statewide elections is the best way to get more voter participation.