Editorial Roundup: West Virginia

The Intelligencer. November 16, 2022.

Editorial: Improving Health In West Virginia

West Virginians have known for generations that our state has among the highest rates in the nation of heart disease and other health issues. New research suggests that cardiac arrest deaths are actually decreasing in most of the rest of the country; but Black and rural communities are not experiencing the same change.

Using data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and adjusting the statistics for age, researchers found a steady overall drop of more than 40% in the rate of cardiac arrest deaths, from 7.7 deaths per 100,000 people in 1999 to 4.4 in 2020.

But that same research showed Black people were the only minority group that didn’t experience a significant drop in cardiac arrest deaths, averaging 8.7 deaths per 100,000 during the study. And the cardiac arrest death rate in rural areas (8.1) was more than twice as high as it was in big cities (3.5).

“On a society-wide level, we need to find ways for better training and awareness so we can get rid of these embedded disparities,” said Dr. Muchi Ditah Chobufo, a cardiology fellow at West Virginia University.

We’ve got to do a better job taking care of our own health. Eating right, breaking bad habits and exercising more can seem daunting. But given the price we’ll pay if we do not make the socio-cultural changes necessary to reverse this trend, there really is no other option.

Sure, there is work to be done on the policy front as well. We’ve learned by now, however, that we can’t count on that.

If there’s work to be done — and there is — we’re going to have to do it ourselves.

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Parkersburg News and Sentinel. November 15, 2022.

Editorial: Education: Time for state to find real solutions

When West Virginia voters rejected Amendment 4 last week, those who had warned against such a change in oversight — the West Virginia Association of School Administrators, the West Virginia Education Association, the West Virginia chapter of the American Federation of Teachers, and the West Virginia School Service Personnel Association, to name a few — breathed a sigh of relief.

With the vote, the state Department of Education remains the only such agency that does not have to submit rules to the Legislative Rule-Making Review Committee.

But State Board of Education President Paul Hardesty took perhaps the best approach to the news:

“It is my desire to put this issue behind us,” Hardesty said. “It’s time for the (Department of Education) and the State Board of Education to work with the governor and the legislature to provide the best educational opportunities available for ALL West Virginia children. No more us-versus-them, but all of us working together every day to promote student achievement.”

Hardesty went a step further saying there are “no more excuses,” and that we owe it to our kids to find “real solutions.”

He’s right. No more distractions, no more excuses, no more tilting at socio-cultural windmills that do nothing but harm our kids, it is time for those who spend so much time telling us they care about children and the future of this state to do their jobs. Lawmakers, the governor, the state Board of Education –in fact, all of us — have to, as Hardesty put it, “roll up our sleeves.”

We’ve been dead last for so long, it seems as though we have no hope. If we don’t work together now to pull ourselves out of the basement, we don’t.

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Charleston Gazette Mail. November 10, 2022.

Editorial: WV voters back GOP, but not its policies

West Virginia voters sent a split message Tuesday by widening the Republican Party’s supermajority in both legislative chambers but also rejecting all four proposed constitutional amendments that same

supermajority put on the ballot.

Unofficial results from the general election seem to suggest West Virginians are fine with the Republican Party having a veto-proof majority in the Legislature, but they know overreach when they see it. The amendments were discussed more than the candidates it seems, which could’ve been a factor. It’s also possible voters felt surer about the amendments because it’s explained on the ballot, to some degree, what those proposals would do, as opposed to a mere name with a “D” or “R” beside it.

Whatever the case, three of the four proposed amendments would have expanded the Legislature’s power, and it is clear voters don’t think that should happen.

Amendment 1 was inspired by a botched attempt to impeach the entire West Virginia Supreme Court. The Legislature’s response, rather than adhere to proper procedure, was to try and cut the courts out of any impeachment process, no matter how mangled, through the amendment. Voters weren’t having it.

Amendment 2 was undoubtedly the most talked about proposal. It would’ve given the Legislature the power to repeal property taxes on business inventory and machinery, along with personal property taxes on vehicles. That sounds great, but the obvious problem is that those taxes stay where they’re paid and help fund schools, law enforcement agencies, fire departments, ambulance units and libraries. The proposal was heavily favored by Senate President Craig Blair, R-Berkeley, and Senate Finance Chairman Eric Tarr, R-Putnam, but opposed by Republican Gov. Jim Justice, who has been trying on and off for the past three years to push an income tax cut through the Legislature.

The glaring flaw in both tax cut proposals is the lack of a solid plan for replacing that revenue, relying instead on a budget surplus that could be inflated and fleeting. Justice got off his ample backside to hold a series of forums against Amendment 2, showing he can have an effect when he wants. Of course, playing a role in sinking his own party’s shot at big tax breaks for out-of-state businesses probably won’t do much to help his income tax cut plan, most recently stonewalled by the Senate in a special session over the summer.

Beyond the political intrigue, voters likely could empathize with the problems around Amendment 2 in a more tangible way. Who would want to give politicians the power to take money from public services, such as schools and emergency response agencies? To keep services like those from experiencing debilitating cuts, money would have to come from someplace, which usually means a tax increase somewhere else.

Amendment 3 was the only proposal that didn’t have anything to do with the Legislature, and its defeat is a bit more puzzling. It would have given churches the right to incorporate into 501(copyright)(3) nonprofits (mainly for liability reasons). This is available to churches in every state except West Virginia. It’s possible the amendment, and the issue itself, were too vague. It’s equally possible Amendment 3 was judged guilty by association, landing on the ballot with such suspicious company.

Amendment 4, also heavily discussed in the run up to Election Day, would have given the Legislature control over policies from the West Virginia Board of Education, meaning legislators could approve or reject curriculum, standards, teacher training requirements, school building specifications and a host of other issues in public schools. Considering that legislative involvement in public education over the past two sessions has primarily consisted of efforts to ban local school boards from implementing public health measures during a global pandemic and attempting to limit how history is taught framed by bizarre claims of reverse racism, it’s a very good thing this amendment didn’t pass.

This shellacking of the GOP agenda shows why Republicans wanted to get that virtual abortion ban done in a slap-dash special session and quelled any discussion of putting it on the ballot. Many West Virginians might approve of their politicians, but they don’t approve of the resulting policies, especially as it pertains to increasing the power of the Legislature.

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