Editorials, Opinion

The Good, the Bad and the Stupid 7: In memoriam

In this special edition of “The Good, the Bad and the Stupid,” we will honor a number of bills that could have improved West Virginia for the better but  are now officially dead.

All the bills we mentioned Wednesday saw no movement on cross-over day, and all have died in committee. (Though a House version of SB 158, setting 18 as the minimum age for marriage, did survive.) We would like to thank Delegate Shawn Fluharty (D-Ohio) for his valiant attempts to have Raylee’s Law amended into the expanded Hope Scholarship bill. Unfortunately, the amendment was voted down.

Here are some other bills we’d had our eyes on as good pieces of legislation but that are also now dead. And so, in memoriam:

○ HB 2111, “increasing access to contraceptive drugs, devices, and procedures.” This was one of several bills — including SB 588, to increase the tax credit for employers providing child care for employees, and a paid parental leave pilot program for state employees — that would have actually followed through on legislators’ promises to support women and families after passing an extremely strict abortion law last year.

This year the Legislature is proving right what we’ve said all along: It’s more focused on forcing births than supporting and protecting children and families.

○ HB 2830, “providing for solar energy production on formerly mined land.” From the bill: “According to a 2017 analysis, West Virginia had 219 square miles of formerly mined land and other degraded land that is viable for large-scale solar energy production based on a number of factors including site size, proximity to electricity infrastructure, and solar irradiance levels.”

Let’s face it. Former mine lands — particularly strip mines — aren’t good for much. Very little will grow on them because the soil has been contaminated and leached of nutrients. They’re not great for building residences or businesses because of the potential for mine subsidence and sinkholes. So why not turn what was once energy producing land back into energy producing land? Unfortunately, West Virginia’s war on renewable energy is so fierce that it would rather see land, jobs and revenue go to waste than diversify the state’s economy.

○ HB 2965, “to create a pilot project of tiny homes” that would “benefit seniors, veterans, foster care adults, and low-income residents who have previously had trouble finding stable housing.” This program would have started with 15 tiny homes in each of four communities and applicants for the homes would have to show financial need and/or be in one of the at-risk categories mentioned above.

A similar bill, HB 2966, would have created “a tax incentive to landlords who allow a first time or second chance housing of houseless individuals, justice impacted persons, assault victims, veterans, and adults who age out of the foster care system.”

Both bills would have helped with West Virginia’s housing and homelessness crises. Unfortunately, the state would rather ignore the lack of affordable housing and continue to villainize people who are homeless — or extremely at risk of becoming homeless — instead of helping them. We know many bristle at the idea of giving someone a house or very low rent, mostly because it doesn’t feel fair. But the quickest way to make someone a productive member of society is to make sure their most basic needs — in particular, having stable shelter — are met.