15 May 2009

They Voted For You: Hate Crimes

U.S. Reps. Alan Mollohan, D-1st, and Nick Rahall, D-3rd, helped the House pass the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009.

Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-2nd, voted against the measure, as did all but 18 of the House GOP members who took part in the 249-175 roll call.

The Associated Press reports that "gay victims of violence would gain new federal protections" under the "revived and expanded" bill.

"Hate crimes — as defined by the bill — are those motivated by prejudice and based someone's race, color, religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability," the article said. "Current law only permits federal prosecutions against crimes based on race, religion, color or national origin — and only when the victims are engaged in federally protected activity such as voting."

AP also reports that "the bill aroused the ire of conservative religious groups and pastors. Several Republicans argued those leaders could face criminal charges for speaking out against homosexuality or, at the very least, would be reluctant to state their views."

FactCheck.org on Thursday addressed some of the allegations by the legislation's foes.

"In reality, there's nothing in the bill that says pastors must zip their lips rather than denounce homosexuality, nor does it cover pedophiles, voyeurs, exhibitionists and dozens of other behaviors," its analysis concludes. "The First Amendment is still operative, and pedophiles would get no breaks under this bill."

Quote of the Day

"I'm concentrating now on being back in the private sector, and helping the Republican Party when I am asked. And this is where I am for the foreseeable future."

-- Former Secretary of State Betty Ireland, while not ruling out "a run for a political office in the future" to The Charleston Gazette.

Lawsuit Promised Over PEIA Move

West Virginia will stop subsidizing health care for public retirees, starting with those hired after this year, a move met by calls for a legal challenge, The Associated Press reports.

"American Federation of Teachers-West Virginia President Judy Hale vowed to sue following the vote by the finance board for the Public Employees Insurance Agency," the article said.

“It’s one of the things that helps us recruit teachers, retain teachers,” Hale told AP. “It’s outrageous in light of teacher shortages ... We will settle this in court.”

The board had held an emergency meeting "to respond to recent announcements from the private insurer now overseeing retiree coverage," the article explains. The board voted to move those 35,000 retirees back into its main program if it cannot find a new provider to continue its Medicare Advantage plan.

To cover the costs of such a transfer, "
PEIA will raid an already inadequate trust fund meant to provide non-pension benefits to future retirees," AP reports. But Matt Turner, spokesman for Gov. Joe Manchin, and PEIA officials "both predicted the subsidy’s end will gradually, and perhaps greatly, reduce the cost to the trust fund from future employees."

Others with coverage include The Charleston Gazette and MetroNews.

13 May 2009

Quote of the Day

"It does not look good, does it? Why would a state want to subject itself to an influx of money into its courtroom?"

-- Retired U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, joining the chorus of those troubled by West Virginia's Blankenship-Benjamin matter now before her former colleagues, as quoted by The Associated Press.

12 May 2009

Vetoes Piling Up

Gov. Joe Manchin has so far vetoed at least 15 of the 226 bills sent to him by the Legislature during the recent regular session. In all but one case, the veto messages cite errors in the bill's language.

Veto #12 was for the measure sought by Kanawha County's senators to lower the bar for a metro government proposal there, The Associated Press reports.

"It aimed to allow a county with at least 150,000 residents and a major city to opt for metro government with a simple majority," the article said. "The law now requires at least 55 percent of the vote."

Manchin vetoed 16 bills from last year's regular session, AP notes, and has so far signed 163 of this session's measures into law. Manchin has advised lawmakers to re-pass the bulk of this year's vetoed bills during the upcoming budget session after fixing their errors. There have been exceptions, however.

The Charleston Gazette also reports on the metro government veto, as does the Charleston Daily Mail.