Statehouse Beat: Not-so-great week for WV’s GOP qualified majority | Phil kabler

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Last week was a revelation in the Legislature.

Not because the President of the Senate Craig blair, R-Berkeley, compared vaccination warrants to Nazi Germany.

Not because the senator Mike Maroney, R-Marshall, was so upset by the shady, secretive and closed-door dealings underway that he unleashed a curse on the Senate floor.

Not because Senate Republicans carved Kanawha County so much that it looks like Leroy Brown after the bar fight.

We know Democrats are a superiority in the Legislature, but we learned last week that moderate Republicans are an even smaller superminity.

Based on the votes against the worst of the two Senate electoral division cards and against the Vaccines Mandate Bill which gives a free pass to those who oppose the injection, we can conclude that only seven moderate Republicans remain in the Senate: Sens. Charles Clement, R-Wetzel; Maroney; David Stover, R-Wyoming; Tom takubo, R-Kanawha; Charlie trump, R-Morgan; Ryan Solder, R-Brooke; and Eric Nelson, R-Kanawha, who missed the special session (more on this momentarily).

That leaves 16 ultra-conservative Republicans in the Senate, meaning that on any issue they only need two votes (or one vote when a member is absent, as they did with Stover voting for the Mandates Bill) to pass legislation. they wish.

The immunization exemption bill is a classic example of this legislature bowing to a vocal minority, facing strong opposition from the State Chamber of Commerce, dozens of major employers, hospitals and health care providers, with concerns that the law could put federal medicare and Medicaid payments at risk.

(Which prompted Blair to make an incredibly rude, callous, and entirely false Nazi reference, saying, “I think it is reminiscent of Nazi Germany. Our federal government uses federal dollars to coerce citizens into obeying the state. . “)

On top of that, according to the Department of Health and Human Resources, 856,915 of the 1.43 million West Virginia people aged 18 or older are fully immunized, meaning that for them, employer mandates are only not a problem. That leaves a vocal minority of around 575,665 unvaccinated adults in the state. (Only down from the 588,000 West Virginia Gov. Jim justice said he needed to be vaccinated when he started what became his Puppy incentive draw in May.)

Given that vaccines have been available for a year and have been readily available to anyone who wants them since the spring, and given that we experienced the worst peak of the pandemic yet in September, and given that Justice handed out $ 1.8 million in prizes in its vaccination incentive raffle and takes to virtual airwaves three times a week begging, begging and cajoling people to get vaccinated, we can presume that these more than half a million people have steadfast philosophical or political ideas. opposition to vaccination.

In other words, with the passage of the Vaccine Waiver Bill, the qualified majority in the Legislature was playing to the whims of a West Virginia minority, while ignoring the wishes of the majority, many of whom would prefer not to be unvaccinated. individuals, and while also ignoring the concerns of business operators, doctors and lawyers.

Or as Blair put it in a less quoted line in his speech, “I think what we’re doing here today is the right thing to do, regardless of what doctors and lawyers tell us.

Perfect encapsulation of the ignorance that permeates conservative Republicans in the legislature.

The biggest losers in the truly impressive Kanawha County Senate gerrymandering will be the residents of the Charleston subway.

Currently three Senators reside in Charleston (unlike our Governor), and prior to the 2011 redistribution it was common to have four Charleston Senators.

If the 2021 plan is not overturned as unconstitutional, after 2022 Charleston will have at most one senator, and is not assured of that with a map that rips the city out and places it in a neighborhood with the northern hinterland. from Putnam. , southeastern counties of Jackson, Roane and Clay.

Reaching out and grabbing a strongly democratic and by West Virginia-style urban community, a racially diverse urban community, and putting it with very rural, very white, and very politically conservative counties, cannot pass the constitutional rally, but we will see.

The redistribution also apparently draws two of Charleston’s three senators out of the Senate after 2022.

Senator Richard Lindsay, a progressive Democrat and majority leader Takubo, one of the few moderate Republicans, will apparently not be able to stand for re-election in 2022 in the new 8th arrondissement, since Nelson, who is moving to the new 8th from the old 17th, is He will not be re-elected until 2024. In multi-county districts, no county can have more than one senator.

It’s no coincidence that Charleston, the state’s largest, predominantly Democratic and relatively diverse city, has gone from 12% of the Senate to 9%, and will now drop to 3%, and potentially 0.

For those who believe in free and fair elections, now is the time to step up to the bar.

Years ago, then-Sen. Charlotte pritt, D-Kanawha, came under heavy criticism for missing a vote on the budget bill when the extended budget session lasted exceptionally long and straddled a Caribbean vacation she had previously scheduled.

Her absence from that vote even pushed her into her 1996 gubernatorial campaign, when attack ads gave the impression that she had failed in her duty.

Cut to the present where Nelson missed the entire eight day special session for what we understand to be a vacation trip to Europe.

Nelson could have spoken intelligently and rationally against the majority’s gerrymandered redistribution plan, and more importantly, he would most likely have been the 17th vote against the vaccine mandate bill, killing the legislation in a 17-17 tie. .

For some time now, justice has been on the airwaves (real and virtual) three times a week to spread disinformation and claim undeserved credit for its handling of the state’s response to COVID-19 (which, these lately, has been essentially non-existent).

On October 15, justice said the state’s COVID-19 statistics were “unbelievable,” saying, “We made the right decisions. We made the right choices throughout.

At the time, West Virginia had the highest COVID-19 death rate, second highest hospitalization rate and lowest vaccination rate in the United States, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Department of Health and Human Resources. .

As of October 15, 4,108 West Virginia had died from COVID-19. At the cut-off date for this column, the total is 4,263, with the unvaccinated accounting for 93% of all deaths since vaccines became available.

The claims of justice regarding the state’s handling of the pandemic are either ramblings of a completely delusional person or outright lies.

Likewise, Justice took to the air last week to claim that West Virginia’s unemployment rate had fallen to the lowest level in state history, a claim he did not attempt to ” support with historical data.

“Over the past few years we’ve had many firsts and set all kinds of economic records, but at the end of the day hitting a new all-time low for our unemployment rate may be the most important record we’ve ever broken. », Said justice.

Sure, Sean O’Leary, a senior policy analyst at the West Virginia Center for Budget and Policy, was quickly able to debunk Justice’s claim as patently false.

As O’Leary’s analysis of the state’s workforce has shown, the drop in unemployment is the result of nearly 14,000 West Virginia residents leaving the labor market. work since February 2020 – that is, to retire, leave the state, live off the underground economy or simply quit. looking for a job after their unemployment benefits expire. This includes 4,100 people who have given up since April.

“If these workers were still counted as unemployed, the state’s unemployment rate would be 6.2%,” he noted.

So the Justice story was just plain wrong. The unemployment rate is not the result of the state’s economic boom, which is obviously not the case. This is because masses of potential workers have left the state or left the labor market.

Justice also found time for a virtual demonstration on Friday, spinning a ridiculous demand from three right-wing Maryland lawmakers to move three counties from western Maryland to the state in a full-fledged fairy tale about the how crowds of people and businesses flock to the state, having discovered the rough diamond that is West Virginia.

(It doesn’t matter that the U.S. Census figures indisputably prove otherwise.)

The show allowed him to put forward all of his true GOP beliefs, including loyalty to the Second Amendment and opposition to women’s reproductive rights – issues that he says draw people in western Maryland to the state of the mountain.

Lately, Justice’s COVID-19 briefings have only addressed the pandemic in a tangential manner, with Justice instead using the forums to launch political rhetoric, attack enemies (go into tirades against the Gazette-Mail in two of the three briefings la last week), and in a particularly bizarre segment, joined by the State Curator of Arts, Culture and History Randall Reid Smith as they shared the photos from the high school yearbook of Justice.

This is certainly not the behavior of the one who, after completing his second term as governor, intends to leave towards sunset, leaving politics behind.

In his MSNBC program last week, Joy reid it is assumed that justice is considering a race for the US Senate in 2024, possibly defying its former ally, now sworn enemy, Joe manchin.

Maybe she’s on something.

Finally, turns out the shady backstory for the new administrative secretary Marc Scott is darker than we thought.

Scott’s biography mentions him as having a Bachelor of Business Administration degree from Almeda University.

It turns out that dear old Almeda U. is an unaccredited for-profit online university registered on the Caribbean island of Nevis, and is known to award college credits for life experiences, which she refers to as “Prior learning assessments”.

In a remarkable 2004 WRCB-TV investigative report in Albany, New York, reporter Pierre Brancato received an Almeda Childhood Development Diploma for her dog, based on life experiences that included playing with children every day, teaching them how to interact better with each other, and teaching them responsibilities “like feed the dog”.

Babydog could possibly get an aviation degree from Almeda for his life experiences flying around the state, helping justice hand out taxpayer-funded raffle prizes.

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