Education, Elections, Energy, Latest News, West Virginia Legislature

House defeats move to kill Senate anti-CRT bill; puts constitutional amendment before voters on state BOE oversight by Legislature

MORGANTOWN – An Ohio County delegate made an unsuccessful attempt to kill a Senate anti-CRT bill on Thursday.

Also on Thursday, a House resolution that would allow the voters to decide if the Legislature should have closer oversight of the state Board of Education completed its legislative journey.

And the United Mine Workers of America celebrated the demise of a bill aimed at stripping the Office of Miner Health, Safety and Training of its enforcement powers.

SB 498 is called the Anti-Racism Act and forbids the teaching in K-12 schools and higher education of various principals such as that one race, ethnic group, or biological sex is inherently, morally, or intellectually superior to another. Many of the topics on the list are associated with Critical Race Theory, though the bill never uses that term.

The Senate passed it 21-12 on Wednesday and on Thursday morning the House formally received the Senate message.

Delegate Shawn Fluharty, D-Ohio, then moved that the House reject the message, which would have blocked any committee consideration of the bill.

He reminded members that the House had a similar bill, HB 4011, which Judiciary took up, found too difficult to work with and put the issue into a study resolution for exploration after the session.

“The Senate decided to rush out a similar bill in the dark of night, as they do, and then sent it over to us,” he said. Considering the bill is a waste of time as the session enters its final nine days, he added.

Delegate Chris Pritt, R-Kanawha, argued against the motion, saying HB 4011 had strong support in the Education Committee, which approved it before sending it to Judiciary, and there is strong interest in it among the delegates.

But Delegates Cody Thompson, D-Randolph, and John Doyle, D-Jefferson, both contradicted Pritt, saying the vote was rushed – questioning of the committee attorney and witnesses was cut off and no debate was allowed.

Doyle said some rules on the issue need to be developed but much deliberation is needed.

Fluharty’s motion failed in a 21-73 vote and SB 498 will pass through two committees: Education and Judiciary.

Board of Education amendment

HJR 102 is called the Education Accountability Amendment. If approved by the voters in November, it would add this to the state Constitution: “Under its supervisory duties, the West Virginia Board of Education may promulgate rules or policies which shall be submitted to the Legislature for its review and approval, amendment, or rejection, in whole or in part, in the manner prescribed by general law.”

During initial debate on the resolution last month, it was reported that the Legislative Oversight Commission on Education Accountability has oversight of Higher Education Policy Commission rule-making, but not the state board’s. The state board presents its rules to LOCEA for information only.

The Senate amended and adopted the resolution on Feb. 28. The House took up the Senate message on Thursday, concurred with the Senate amendments and re-adopted the resolution in a 74-20 vote.

The proposed amendment will go before the voters in the November general election.

The House also concurred with Senate amendments to HB 4084, to enable advanced recycling of waste plastics in the state, and re-passed it. It will go to the governor.

Mining regulation bill

HB 4840 was the bill to stop MHST from enforcing mine safety regulations. It was on third reading on Wednesday, which was Crossover Day, and had to pass to remain alive. But House leaders parked it on the inactive calendar, effectively killing it.

The UMWA celebrated that move in a statement issued Thursday. “Yesterday was a big win for West Virginia miners as HB 4840 did not make it through the House of Delegates,” UMWA President Cecil Roberts said.

“The bill would have eliminated the West Virginia Office of Miners Health, Safety and Training ability to enforce necessary safety laws put into place to protect the lives of miners in our state. UMWA miners filled the halls of the Capitol building, letting legislators know how critical it is to keep West Virginia’s mining enforcement laws intact.

“Their voices were heard loud and clear and I could not be prouder of what they accomplished.”

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