Editorial Roundup: West Virginia

Recent editorials from West Virginia newspapers:

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Jan. 20

The Herald-Dispatch on a county's upcoming vote that could declare it a “Second Amendment sanctuary":

On Jan. 23, the Cabell County Commission will decide whether to follow the lead of Putnam County, the town of Fort Gay and 400 other counties, cities and towns throughout the United State in declaring itself a Second Amendment sanctuary.

The sanctuary movement is designed to reassure residents the local government will not enforce gun control legislation that it deems to be in violation of the Second Amendment.

“I plan to stand up for the law-abiding people that want to protect their families, and I just want to take a stand in support of them,” said Commissioner Kelli Sobonya, who will introduce the resolution.

“I’m not sure how enforceable it is, but I just think it’s important to take a stand and side with the people.”

The wave of Second Amendment sanctuaries follows legislation being considered in Virginia that would impose additional restrictions on gun ownership. Among legislation being considered is limiting handgun purchases to one per month, requiring universal background checks on gun sales and a “red flag” law that would allow authorities to temporarily take guns away from anyone deemed dangerous to themselves or others, according to USA Today.

The spark for the sanctuary movement, though, was a proposed ban on assault weapons, which would affect thousands of owners of the popular AR-15-style rifles, according to The Associated Press. One version of the bill, which Democrats later disavowed, would have required current owners of the rifles to turn them in or face felony charges, the AP reported.

Even a large number of Virginians think this is taking gun control too far. Since November, more than 100 counties and cities there have passed sanctuary resolutions.

Locally, the governing bodies of Boyd, Greenup, Lawrence and Pike counties in Kentucky have passed sanctuary resolutions. In Ohio, the Lawrence County Board of Commissioners was also scheduled to vote Jan. 20 on a similar resolution, joining Meigs and Clermont counties.

The resolution is largely symbolic. It doesn’t have the force of law. And this isn’t Virginia. No one is threatening to take West Virginians’ guns away from them. No political party would win a majority of offices in statewide elections here if it proposed strict new regulations on the ownership of firearms.

The resolution, if passed would put the rest of the nation on notice which side Cabell County — or at least a majority of its three commission members — takes in the continuing argument over the role of firearms in American society. This is one issue that defies a one-size-fits-all approach, even in Cabell County. A cattle farmer on Union Ridge who needs to protect his livestock from coyotes probably takes a different view of guns than a person living on the South Side of Huntington or in a subdivision near Ona.

Is the resolution before the Cabell County Commission a waste of time? Maybe. It depends on how much of the commission’s time is taken up by people for and against the resolution.

If the Cabell County Commission is intent on passing this resolution, that’s fine. If it tables it or votes it down, that’s fine, too.

Even a casual observer knows that, culturally, West Virginia is a sanctuary state for guns. There are a few pockets where the majority of residents are against guns of any sort, but the great majority of West Virginians are firm believers in the Second Amendment, whether their county officials pass resolutions or not.

Online: http://www.herald-dispatch.com

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Jan. 18

The Register-Herald on a proposed West Virginia bill that could ensure paid family leave for state employees:

The United States is the only industrialized country that does not guarantee its citizens paid family leave. A proposed bill in the West Virginia statehouse could change that in part — at least for state employees here in the Mountain State.

While legislation has stalled at the federal level, efforts are underway here at home to provide state employees 12 weeks of paid family leave following the birth or adoption of a child or when a family member is suffering a serious illness.

On Jan. 14, Del. Moore Capito, R-Kanawha, and Del. Eric Nelson, R-Kanawha, introduced the measure that calls for that paid time off for state employees by amending state law.

Good for them. This course correction is long overdue.

Under current state law, public employees are allowed to take 12 weeks of unpaid family leave in situations following the birth or adoption of a child, or when a family member is seriously ill – but only after exhausting all other forms of paid leave. The proposed legislation would change some of that.

While there is no fiscal note on the new bill, Capito believes, once in place, the law would result in a cost-savings to the state.

Regardless, this is a progressive, forward- thinking measure for a state desperately in need of such. With the state’s population in a steady decline, with deaths exceeding births, this measure alone would give state employees the confidence – and the financial support – to start or add to their families and to stay at home here in West Virginia and put down some roots. Yes, a proverbial win-win.

This is the kind of legislation that can put a needed shine on the West Virginia star. It would be a start, anyway. There is much the Legislature could do – but hasn’t – to help working families and, simultaneously add to an improved image of our state.

Of course, what would be even better is if Congress would get off its duff and pass the Family Act so that all Americans could benefit from paid time away from work. Current federal law – the Family and Medical Lave Act – already permits 12 weeks away from work but without pay. The federal Act – co-sponored by a pair of Democrats, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York and Rep. Rosa DeLauro of Conneticut – fixes that. Workers would be eligible to collect benefits equal to 66 percent of their typical monthly wages, with a capped monthly maximum amount of $1,000 per week.

Fortunate and wealthy people already get time off, of course. Overall, however, only 12 percent of U.S. workers have access to paid family leave through their employers, and these workers are disproportionately well paid, highly educated and male.

Paid family leave for all is not a new concept. Parents in Sweden get 480 days of leave at 80 percent of their normal pay, and new moms in Denmark get 18 weeks of maternity leave at full pay. Four states – California, New Jersey, New York and Rhode Island – have passed paid leave laws.

The federal Act is not an entitlement, but an earned benefit similar to Social Security.

It is also affordable: Employees and employers would each make contributions of 0.2 percent of wages, or two cents for every $10 earned.

And the benefits far outweigh the cost. Women with access to paid family leave are more likely to stay in the workforce, building their careers, and off of public assistance.

Likewise, families with access to paid family and medical leave are less likely to declare bankruptcy and their children have better long-term health. Parents’ time at home with infants in the first year of life can have long-lasting effects on their children’s future academic performance and help build a better, more able workforce.

We applaud both Capito and Nelson for addressing the wrinkle in state code even if it narrowly addresses only state employees.

This should be an easy call. Legislation that puts families first, that honors state workers, that lifts up and strengthens working families – especially in a state that has too long ignored real issues out here in the real world – should sail through the legislative process and be signed into law by our governor.

In the meantime, Del. Capito ought to give his mom, Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, a call and urge her and our state’s senior senator, Joe Manchin, to get behind the Family Act and drop the watered down version that they currently support.

It’d be good for the whole family.

Online: http://www.register-herald.com

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Jan. 17

The Exponent Telegram on how updates to the National Environmental Policy Act could affect West Virginia’s oil and natural gas industry:

”No government ever voluntarily reduces itself in size. Government programs, once launched, never disappear. Actually, a government bureau is the nearest thing to eternal life we’ll ever see on this earth!” — President Ronald Reagan

We are reminded of the above quote by the recent effort of President Donald Trump’s administration to revise the National Environmental Policy Act, which has been around for 50 years and was last revised about 40 years ago.

You see, regulation — controlled by government bureaucracy, is also one of those things that seem to be perpetuated, even long past their usefulness.

That’s not to say that the National Environmental Policy Act should be totally abandoned.

But it certainly is in need of updating, including the streamlining of applications and simplification of the review process.

The most glaring recent examples have been efforts to advance West Virginia’s oil and natural gas industry with the building of a couple of pipelines, primarily the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) and Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP).

But they have been wrangled and strangled in enough red tape bureaucracy to choke off any valid efforts to find compromise.

And as we’ve said in the past, there has to be a way to mine, drill and transport natural resources for their intended use.

It’s the only currently viable way available to ensure a sound national energy policy, which in turn provides for sound national security.

And in time, the national energy policy will include more and more renewable resources, as coal and then natural gas and oil eventually filter out.

But that time is not now. And our country has spent far too much money and resources in trying to control and contain international sources for what we have abundantly available in our own backyard: Natural resources for power generation.

Current regulations are keeping the country from advancing to new levels of prosperity. And we do believe that a balance can be found between environmental concerns and the need to move pipelines forward.

And natural gas industry officials aren’t calling for abandonment of regulations, just clarifications and streamlining.

Charlie Burd, executive director of the Independent Oil and Gas Association of West Virginia, said the industry is already well-policed and focused on environmental concerns.

“Our industry operates in a very safe and efficient manner, and the technologies that we have now are improving literally every day,” he said. “We are able to produce more clean-burning, energy-efficient natural gas to be used throughout the country to heat homes, cook meals and to fuel other manufacturing operations.

“Being able to operate in a less restrictive environment while maintaining current environmental and safety stewardship is something that we’re all for.”

Don Santa, president and CEO of the Interstate Natural Gas Association of America, probably said it best, when he stated the focus should be on clarifying, saying the rules as currently written have led to costly, lengthy delays.

“The NEPA is an important law that is intended to ensure good public policy and informed decision-making,” he said. “However, since the law passed 50 years ago, the corresponding NEPA regulations have not undergone a significant review.

“The lack of clarity in the existing NEPA regulations has led courts to fill the gaps, spurring costly litigation, and has led to unclear expectations, which has caused significant and unnecessary delays for infrastructure projects across the country.”

After 50 years, the Trump Administration is correct to call for changes to the NEPA.

The goal should be to strike the proper balance of protecting the environment while spurring economic development through natural gas and other resource exploration.

Online: http://www.wvnews.com