The Herald-Dispatch. February 2, 2023.
Editorial: Legislature works on recovery matters of concern to public
Pill mills are largely a thing of the past. Meth labs in mobile homes on back roads, operated by drug dealers relying on large quantities of over-the-counter allergy medications, have been replaced by international cartels. And recovery houses to help people overcome their addiction(s) are springing up faster than laws can regulate them.
It’s not easy for the 134 members of the West Virginia Legislature to step out of their individual areas of expertise to address these matters, but they are moving forward as the 60-day session reaches its halfway point.
A few bills discussed in committees this week demonstrate that.
Senate Bill 242, sponsored by Sen. Mike Azinger, R-Wood, would create a licensure procedure and program requirements for residential substance use disorder programs.
It sets an administrative due process procedure, establishes reporting requirements and establishes civil penalties and injunctive relief for those who are not in compliance.
Azinger introduced the bill following discussions and complaints from Wood County officials who wanted their residents to have a say in allowing treatment programs to open in their communities. It’s a similar situation in Cabell County, where residential programs have opened inside and outside Huntington city limits. People want to make sure programs in their neighborhoods are legitimate treatment centers and not fly-by-night operations that bring in people with substance abuse problems and kick them out into their community when the money is gone.
House Bill 2498, introduced by Delegate Laura Kimble, R-Harrison, would require medically assisted treatment programs to give public notice of their intent to locate in communities, among other things.
Taking another approach, HB 2916, introduced by Delegate Bill Ridenour, R-Jefferson, adds fentanyl to the list of materials defined as weapons of mass destruction in state law. That provision is part of a wide range of actions designed to deal with domestic terrorism.
The fact these bills were introduced by legislators from different parts of the state shows that these concerns are not limited to the Huntington area. Statewide problems are more likely to get the Legislature’s attention than local ones are.
These bills are all in committee. Their fates are undetermined. In the end, they may need more work, or they could be rejected because of a fatal flaw that’s not obvious at this moment.
It’s not an easy process. The bad guys in the illegal drug business can move faster than the good guys in legislative bodies. It’s the way the system is built to work.
Local communities need tools only the Legislature can provide. Legislators are working on providing those tools, and that does give hope that certain problems can be addressed soon.
The Intelligencer. February 1, 2023.
Editorial: Support Education in Mountain State
Providing a good education for our children and properly supporting teachers will take up a lot of time and effort this session Lawmakers must tackle this issue to help the state properly educate children.
Senate President Craig Blair, R-Berkeley, spoke about our education challenges with a new perspective last month. He said he was thinking about education as an economic development tool, which then creates an upward spiral.
As he rightly pointed out, if we are getting education right, we are attractive to new residents and employers.
Blair also said “We’ve got to make it so teachers can teach. Not babysit; not teach to the lowest common denominator…”
House Speaker Roger Hanshaw, R-Clay, also said our state “cannot leave teaching on auto pilot. We can’t hamstring teachers.”
He talked about improving our reading and math scores, of course. But referring specifically to early childhood education, Hanshaw said lawmakers want to “assist teachers … by putting the maximum number of caring adults in these classrooms.”
Importantly, Hanshaw said lawmakers need to “get out of the business of dictating curriculum.” Goodness, we must hope lawmakers hear him on that.
We’re a third of the way through this year’s session, and there’s still plenty of work to do on these topics. It sounds as though legislative leaders are determined to support educators and improve education in our state. That is good news not only for West Virginia’s young people, but for all of us.
Now they must follow through and ensure such support is given.
Parkersburg News and Sentinel. January 28, 2023.
Editorial: Tax Relief: Justice’s plan is a step in the right direction
Tax experts agree: Cutting the personal income tax will benefit West Virginians and make the state more competitive in attracting new residents. Gov. Jim Justice takes that message on the road this week as he pushes the state Senate to support his tax cut proposal.
Justice’s plan, as passed by the House through HB2526, would phase in a 50% tax reduction over the next three years — 30% this year, and then an additional 10% in years two and three. The proposed tax cut would return $1.2 billion to West Virginia taxpayers.
When fully implemented in three years, West Virginia’s personal income tax rate will go from its current 6.5% to 3.25%. It will be the lowest of all its border states other than Pennsylvania.
Here’s what some tax experts are saying about the proposed tax cut:
— Grover Norquist, founder of Americans for Tax Reform: “This pro-growth income tax cut will be a huge win for all West Virginians. … This surplus should be used to lower income tax rates and keep more money in the hands of taxpayers across the Mountain State.”
— The Tax Foundation: “West Virginia has the revenue and, so it seems, the legislative desire to improve the state’s tax competitiveness this year. It can be done. … West Virginia is one of only seven states that hasn’t offered any significant tax relief since 2021 — and five of the other six forgo an individual income tax. Surely West Virginia policymakers can find a way forward to get themselves off that short and unenviable list.”
— The Cardinal Institute of West Virginia: “It is worthwhile asking, ‘why reduce the income tax?’ There are a number of reasons … (and) most of these reasons boil down to more money in the pockets of job-creators, employees, and citizens and fewer economic distortions.”
It’s time for West Virginia to move forward on meaningful tax relief. The personal income tax plan offered by Justice is a step in the right direction toward a brighter future.