Editorials, Opinion

The Good, the Bad and the Stupid 10

Of the over 2,500 bills introduced this past legislative session, only 279 became completed legislation. And of the 140-ish bills we were following, only about 16 of them passed.

Friday, we presented you with the Legislative Graveyard. Today, we’ll give you some of the bills that did pass, presented with their original “good,” “bad” or “stupid” designation.

Good: SB 190 — to remove the marital exemption for sexual assault. This bill largely flew under the radar. The provisions of this bill had been amended into the House version of the “Women’s Bill of Rights,” which got a lot more attention and traction. In the end, though, both “Women’s Bill of Rights” bills died and SB 190 passed as a standalone. We’re thankful lawmakers finally fixed the loophole in the penal code that could let a spouse get away with rape. We’re just disappointed it took two years and an astounding amount of debate to make it happen.

Bad: HB 4233 — to prohibit marking “nonbinary” on birth certificates. This is one of those bills that’s a “solution” looking for a problem. It’s obviously targeted at transgender and nonbinary individuals as part of the culture war against the LGBTQ+ community. But it will also impact intersex individuals — people who are born with both male and female primary sex characteristics. For a long time, parents would make the decision about which genitalia their child would keep (and have the other surgically removed) and which gender to raise them as. In more recent years, there has been a movement to allow intersex people decide for themselves later in life which sex or gender they choose to live as (if either) and/or to have surgery to adjust their primary or secondary sex characteristics. And that would mean possibly marking “nonbinary” on the child’s birth certificate — which will now be illegal.

Stupid: HB 5105 — to remove vaccine requirements for students attending virtual public schools; expanded through amendment to allow private schools to adopt their own policies. As Sen. Mike Maroney said, “Vaccines are a victim of their own success.” They’ve been so good at eradicating disease that newer generations have forgotten the horrors of those diseases — and why we need vaccines to keep them at bay. The only saving grace of this bill is that the amendment to allow loose “religious exemptions” was removed at the last minute.

Good: SB 378 — “prohibiting smoking in vehicle when minor 16 or under is present.” Second-hand smoke is very real and very dangerous. This bill’s flaw, though, is “smoking with a minor in the car” will only be a secondary offense, meaning it can’t be the main reason you get pulled over.

Bad: HB 4552 — “to ensure party affiliation is consistent with candidate’s voter registration” We consider this one “bad” because about 25% of West Virginia’s registered voters are Independent. If any of them wanted to run for office, they would either have to run as a third party, which automatically puts them at a disadvantage since our system is dominated by the Republican and Democratic parties, or they would have to change their registration to a party that does not necessarily reflect their values and political stances. We see this as potentially limiting, or at least discouraging, people who would consider running for office.

Stupid: SB 280 — “No public school board, school superintendent, or school principal may prohibit a public school classroom teacher from responding to student inquiries or answering questions from students about scientific theories of how the universe and/or life came to exist.” This watered-down version isn’t as bad as the original bill, which would have expressly allowed “intelligent design” or “creationism” — religion-based explanations for how the universe began — to be taught in schools. This final version is still stupid, because the vagueness of what qualifies as “scientific theories” will likely lead to legal troubles in the future.