Editorials, Opinion

The Good, the Bad and the Stupid 1

Welcome to the first “The Good, the Bad and the Stupid” of the 2024 regular legislative session. For those who are unfamiliar with this annual tradition: Every Friday while the West Virginia Legislature is in session, we do a roundup of bills, rank them as good, bad or stupid and tell you why.  If there are bills you would like to see gain more traction or ones you’d like to see die, make sure to reach out to your area delegate and/or senator.

The Senate suspended regular reading rules during the session’s first week and immediately passed dozens of bills, moving them to the House for consideration, including the ones below.

Good: SB 144 — requiring each county board to ensure that its meetings are open to the public through in-person attendance and broadcast live on its website. This is a recycled bill that did not pass last year. We are all in favor of better transparency and more access to government meetings for those who wish to listen or attend. The people’s business should be conducted in front of the people.

Good: SB 157 — requiring one-year residency within a district or county to fill a vacancy in the Legislature. There is a similar bill with residency requirements for federal offices, too. We like this one because an official can’t represent the interests of his or her constituents if they know nothing about the people and places they are supposed to represent.

Good: SB 159 — prohibits people convicted of specified sexual crimes against minors from serving on state or county school boards. The certain crimes include preparing and distributing sexually explicit or obscene material to minors; sexually assaulting a minor; and filming sexually explicit conduct of minors. The only problem we foresee with this bill is that there are other introduced bills, such as SB 195, that are trying to deem any depiction or display — including anything nonsexual or nonexplicit — of transgender people or drag as “obscene.”

Bad: SB 143 — the West Virginia Guardian Program, to allow county school boards to contract with an independent contractor who is an honorably discharged veteran, former state trooper, former deputy sheriff, or former federal law-enforcement officer to provide West Virginia Guardian services. This is another bill recycled from last year. One of biggest concerns is that it doesn’t say much about the vetting process for one to become a “Guardian.” There are some things listed that an applicant must be or do, and some things that would disqualify someone from being a “Guardian,” including certain crimes. But nowhere does it explicitly say that an applicant must pass a state and/or federal background check. And if something isn’t explicitly written into law, a good lawyer can get around it.

But the worst part of this bill is that it feeds into the myth that more guns in schools is the answer to school shootings. Just look at Uvalde: That school was surrounded by heavily armed, active-duty officers of all levels and they waited hours to engage the gunman. Or at Parkland, where the resource officer at the school ran away from the shooting. Experience has shown the fabled “good guy with a gun” is about as effective as “thoughts and prayers.”

Stupid: SB 162 — to establish the Summer Feeding for All initiative to encourage county school systems to look for innovative ways to provide assistance to students to access nutritious foods during summer break and other times when school is not in session. This one is stupid because it’s an unfunded mandate on school systems to conduct extensive surveys on student food insecurity. But even more stupid, instead of instructing county boards of education to make sure kids get fed, the boards are just supposed to hand students a packet on foodbanks or charities.

Seriously? Just feed the kids. Partnering with local charities and foodbanks can be part of it, but it’s just an insult to invade someone’s privacy to figure out if they are food insecure, then hand them a pamphlet so they can go ask someone else for food.