Editorial Roundup: West Virginia

The Register-Herald. July 30, 2022.

Editorial: Manchin does what’s best for civilization

To be sure, this 11th-hour legislative compromise between Sen. Joe Manchin and Senate leaders on climate change did not produce a muscular twin of President Joe Biden’s $1.8 trillion Build Back Better bill that bulged at the seams with worthy social policies. The president and most Democrats in Congress had spent more than a year laboring to pass that heavy and expensive policy tome – to no avail because Manchin, the most conservative member of the Democratic caucus, stood at the crossroads in opposition. The president’s bill was too pricey, Manchin said, and would only add fuel to inflationary fires already burning holes through the U.S. economy.

What our senior senator and Democrats are preparing to pass now is the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022, a significantly smaller step forward compared to Biden’s original footprint but a step in the right direction in addressing climate change, the federal debt and the rising cost of health care. It is a smaller slice of the bigger pie.

But all of the goals of this more slender piece of legislation are notable and important, and for that and for never retreating far from difficult negotiations, Manchin deserves credit and our praise.

This new bill is essentially Biden’s original, only stripped of generous outlays for, among other proposals, making housing and college education more affordable, establishing a child tax credit and providing funding to help parents with child care, preschool and home care.

Manchin’s bill arrives late – though not too late – at a time when we cannot be wasting any effort to cool a warming planet. Daily headlines tell us of mounting environmental disasters, of prolonged droughts and record heat waves, of forest fires too intense and fast moving to avoid or contain, of wells and rivers running dry in the western United States and of massive wind and rain storms bringing deadly floods and utter destruction worldwide.

Complex, diverse and delicate ecosystems have been so utterly compromised that entire species of plants, animals and insects have gone extinct – all because we have not cracked our collective addiction to fossil fuels.

This new bill promises to make significant changes to our energy consumption habits, turning us away from carbon toward renewable sources.

Clean energy tax credits and eye-popping investments in a range of tax credits promise to make homes more energy-efficient and electric vehicles more affordable. Provisions in the bill encourage the use of clean sources of electricity and energy storage.

The bill also has funding for the establishment of more manufacturing facilities in the U.S. to produce clean energy products like solar panels as well as those electric cars. There are also funds that would be applied to reducing manufacturing pollution.

The bill also seeks environmental justice for people – typically poor and Black – who have been victimized for generations. There are billions of dollars dedicated specifically to places that have experienced outsize pollution, with the goal of helping these people and communities combat public health risks.

In other pockets of the bill are plans to cut the cost of prescription drugs and health insurance for millions of Americans and “tax the rich” planks that include a 15 percent corporate minimum tax, a proposal to close the carried interest tax loophole and a provision for IRS enforcement.

Democrats estimate the bill will bring in $739 billion in revenue and will invest $433 billion in spending – thus meeting Manchin’s goal of reducing the national debt, in this case by more than $300 billion.

While the bill contains spending on a smaller scale than what House Democrats envisioned last year, the Manchin bill will realize historic spending for climate. The importance of that cannot be overstated.

The ultimate goal on the climate front of the legislation is to ratchet up the nation’s transition from an economy based on fossil fuels, moving swiftly and confidently toward cleaner and renewable energy sources.

That a senator from a fossil fuel-producing state wrote this piece of legislation is remarkable in and of itself, casting a profile in political courage. Manchin knows full well the political blowback he will most certainly face, and yet he did the right thing – not just for the people of his state and country, but for an entre global village, for all of civilization that has tough days ahead dealing with what environmental destruction is already baked into the cake.

But this bill promises to help the world prevent far greater calamities down that road.

And for that alone, the next generation and those beyond can thank Sen. Manchin – just as we do in the here and now.

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Parkersburg News and Sentinel. July 30, 2022.

Editorial: Responsibility: West Virginia lawmakers can’t dodge problem forever

West Virginia lawmakers have a long history of ignoring uncomfortable issues — sometimes for generations — when it seems as though there is little political pressure to act; and acting would require work. Among the latest examples is the question of racial disparity in discipline in our public schools. This one has been put on the backburner for years.

Federal data shows that while Black students make up less than 5% of the total public school population here, they are suspended at twice the rate of White students. To address the problem, state lawmakers decided back in 2020 to ask the West Virginia Department of Education to analyze the data and create a program to address it. At the time, lawmakers seemed to acknowledge the problem is real and wanted to try to fix it.

Here we are in the summer of 2022, and, according to reporting by Mountain State Spotlight, the report requested by lawmakers two years ago has finally arrived. Education researcher Sheila Coleman-Castells, who spoke to the state House Education Committee on the matter back in 2020, says the report presented this year is “unwieldy and unreadable,” and still presents no possible solutions to the problem.

Make no mistake, lawmakers and education officials alike have already acknowledged the problem is real.

“Moving forward, the intent of the WV Department of Education is to work as a collaborator and partner with (Coleman-Castells) and other entities, including community organizations and local school systems, to address the inequities that affect the lives of Black West Virginians disproportionately,” former state Superintendent of Schools Steven Paine wrote … after having already announced his planned retirement. Fred Albert, president of the West Virginia chapter of the American Federation of Teachers, voiced his support, too, according to Mountain State Spotlight.

State Sen. Rollan Roberts, R-Raleigh, was a sponsor of the bill seeking the report; and upon receiving it said “I think this is the first step. I think that’s what the intention was of the bill. To bring out the numbers, figure out what the trends are, and then begin to address those trends and I think that’s what you’ve communicated to us today.”

If lawmakers and education officials believe as they say, that this is a real problem, for goodness sake how many more years worth of students are they going to let suffer before they act to address it?

They’ve got a lot on their plates right now, and perhaps are counting on being able to use that as an excuse. But if, as reported, the data shows there is truly a disparity in the way teachers and administrators discipline Black students as compared with White students, it is legislators’ responsibility to get moving and address the problem. Now.

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