Editorials, Opinion

The Good, the Bad and the Stupid: Law of the land

In our (hopefully) last The Good, the Bad and the Stupid for the year, we’re going to introduce you to some of West Virginia’s new laws. To keep things consistent, we’ve labeled each bill as “good,” “bad” or “stupid” based on how we’ve categorized it in the past.

Good: SB 181 — to establish and fund  suicide prevention and mental health crisis call centers in West Virginia, as part of a national initiative. Callers can dial 988 to be linked to a 24/7 center, where they can then be connected to emergency services or a peer who can listen and talk to them.

Bad: HB 4012 — “to prohibit an entity from requiring proof of a COVID-19 vaccination to enter a hospital, state institution of higher education or a state or local governmental office, entity, department, or agency, unless such proof is required by federal law or regulation,” and then gives the offended persons the right to sue. COVID-19 is still a serious health threat — particularly to the immune-compromised people you’ll find in hospitals, so it should be perfectly reasonable for hospitals and health care establishments to ask for proof of vaccination for the protection of their patients. As for higher education, most universities already require students to have certain shots, and the COVID-19 vaccine is no different. We’d say it was stupid, but its potential to get someone killed puts HB 4012 solidly in the “bad” category.

Stupid: SB 262 — authorizing the state treasurer to compile a list of financial institutions that are “boycotting” (deny banking service to) fossil fuel companies and to refuse to enter into a banking contract with a financial institution on the list. We’re just waiting for this one to be challenged in court as a First Amendment violation. It is quite literally a government entity punishing a private business for exercising its Supreme Court-ruled right to give or not give money to certain institutions as protected political speech. As the state hemorrhages money in the legal fight to protect this stupid law, just think of all the other things your taxpayer dollars could have been used for.

Good: HB 4353 — the “Voter Turnout Act,” in short, syncs local municipal elections with state/national primaries and general elections. Local elections typically get very low turnout, likely because they happen in off-years. The hope is that by putting local offices, referendums, levies, etc., on the ballot during primaries and general elections, the municipality will get greater voter participation.

Bad: SB 268 — to create an “exemption from compulsory school attendance” for a child who participates in a learning pod or microschool. Because nothing screams “I hate public education” more than pushing through warehouse homeschools and unregulated private schools right after charter schools failed to take hold.

For space purposes, we’re going to skip over “stupid” and end on a positive note.

Good: HB 4074, “Meghan’s Law” — to “require schools provide eating disorder and self-harm training for teachers and students.” Most people’s struggle with poor mental health begin in adolescence, especially around puberty. Considering kids spend a about third of their day in school, it’s important their teachers and peers know how to identify certain harmful behaviors — but also how to have the subsequent difficult, awkward conversations about them. Getting young people mental health help early opens a whole new world for them: one filled with support and opportunities.