Ron Gregory

February 18, 2014

It is safe to say there is enough posturing going on regarding House Bill 2364 to produce a very good picture of how the West Virginia legislative process works — or doesn’t.

HB 2364 is controversial because it deals with a right-to-life issue. Pro-lifers maintain it protects unborn babies. It is a dangerous bill for those Democrats who have repeatedly told voters they are “pro-life” while doing absolutely nothing to show where they stand once the legislature convenes.

The whole thing reminds me of Lincoln County high school consolidation. Every elected official campaigned as an opponent of consolidation but only a few board pf education members did a thing to stop it. Democrat legislators hide behind procedural votes to keep pro-choice advocates happy while telling the folks back home there is nothing they can do to advance the pro-life agenda.

Finally, a week ago, West Virginians for Life and Republicans decided to draw a line in the sand. They tried to discharge 2364 from Don Perdue’s Health and Human Resources Committee, where it has been bottled up by leadership for the entire session. And this is not the first time Democrat leadership has done all they can to kill pro-life bills. Just check with Dr. Wanda Franc, West Virginians for Life’s chairman. It is an old record gone bad.

To begin with, let me say that if a legislator is pro-life, he or she should vote that way. Telling people you are fighting for unborn children isn’t backed up by the facts if you never do anything about it.

Some Southern Democrats love to tell voters and the media they are “pro-business” and “pro-life.” Check their voting records, dear voters, and see if the facts back up the claims. In most cases, they do not.

Suddenly, nearly every Democrat in the house of delegates is a firm believer in the “committee system” since HB2364 is on the table. Suddenly, only two of them have the nerve to vote against the committee chair to discharge the bill. These are two brave souls in Delegates Jeff Eldridge of Lincoln County and Rick Moye of Raleigh. Both have been “taken to the wood shed,” by leadership. But leadership has also been challenged during a Democrat caucus late in the week. There, supposedly pro-life Southern Democrats begged for mercy. They pleaded with leadership to let the bill that would protect fetuses after 20 weeks move forward. They said their political lives were on the line.

Yet it should not have come to this. Now, leadership was likely to allow the bill to move forward Monday with a slight change (this column is written on Sunday). Money to set up a defense fund will likely be removed from the new version. The bill will pass committee and move on to judiciary. Eventually, nearly everyone predicts, it will pass both the house and senate. But I wouldn’t bet on that. Pro-choice advocates will do all they can to derail it and some well-intentioned Democrats will fall for their tactics.

If delegates are actually pro-life, they should have tossed leadership aside and voted to discharge the bill. All maneuvering now does not negate the negativity created by the original vote. No other vote surpasses the one taken last week. If a delegate voted pro-choice, then he or she should be labeled as pro-choice. Opponents on the campaign trail will use that vote, and others, to show voters just where the Democrats have really been on conservative-liberal issues. It is a liberal house with a liberal leadership. It is not moderate; it is certainly not conservative.

There are doubtlessly pro-life Democrats, such as Boone County’s Josh Barker, who voted not to discharge the bill from committee. Barker is a newly-appointed member and surely needs leadership to advance his political career. Perhaps voters will ignore his one vote but it will be difficult to ignore the votes of those who have been pro-choice for years in their voting.

For example, Democrat Doug Skaff of Kanawha, has and continues to talk a good pro-life game. He has yet to vote that way, however. His explanations that the “committee system works” are hardly verified by positive bills that have come from the legislature in recent years. Messages to his Facebook account, cheering his pro-life stance are just not accurate.

Under a communist government, democracy lovers proclaim the damage caused by a select few running the country. Yet, that is what follow-the-leader Democrats are doing in proclaiming they cannot vote against leadership and the committee system. A select few are making decisions voters never intended for them to make. Pretty soon, ALL of the pigs are going to look the same, just like “Animal Farm” predicted.

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I asked one Democrat house member, “what about the abortion bill?”

He quickly responded, “I paid that damn thing years ago. Why are you asking about it now?”

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Automated calls to voters about Democrats who voted pro-choice on 2364 caused quite a stir as well. The calls and criticism apparently caused Delegate Dave Walker, the profanity-spewing delegate from Clay County, to belittle and berate Republicans on the house floor Friday. Walker was so out of control that when Minority Leader Tim Armstead called for a point of order regarding Walker’s comments, Speaker Tim Miley diplomatically moved on to the next speaker. Walker repeatedly called Republicans “liars” for telling the truth about his vote on 2364.

It was Walker, of course, who called a chamber of commerce female a “b—-h” when she appeared before his committee, leading to a reprimand from then-Speaker Rick Thompson.

Walker seldom speaks on the house floor but when it does, it is Katy bar the door. Clay Countians should be embarrassed by this pitiful excuse for representation.

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Like the farm hand in the old “Green Acres” tv show, it appears members of Team Mingo have yet “to be tested to my full capacity when it comes to stupidity.” How on earth could someone like former Magistrate Dallas Toler be caught dealing drugs while on probation for his other offenses? It isn’t like Toler did not know federal agents were looking at him on a daily basis. My, my.

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Advertising from the 2010 campaign, by the way, shows that what is apparently Team Mingo’s predecessor group paid for numerous ads. Yet, they apparently never registered with the secretary of state. It is not like those boys to skirt the law, as we all know. They just openly flaunt it.

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Meanwhile, the Mingo County case of allowing a candidate on the ballot after the filing deadline has apparently set precedent, something Mingo has often done in the case of election law.

Sally Shepherd, who ran unsuccessfully for agriculture commissioner, filed paperwork to run for Kanawha County commission on the final day for filing. Unfortunately, Shepherd mailed the papers to the secretary of state rather than the county clerk, as prescribed by law.

In a startling turn of events, Republican County Clerk Vera McCormick announced that she would “follow (West Virginia) code” and refuse the filing when Shepherd finally took it to her. In a letter to McCormick, Shepherd cited the Mingo case whereby a candidate’ was allowed to pay an additional $5 on his filing fee after the deadline. Shepherd noted that the secretary of state’s office has proclaimed following the election laws “discretionary.” Therefore, Shepherd argues, she should be placed on the ballot.

My question to Secretary Natalie Tennant is why we even have election laws if they are discretionary. And isn’t it refreshing to see a public official abiding by the law, as McCormick is?

Ah, Mingo County … where new “laws” are made every day.

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I suppose someone has thought of this, but has it occurred to the rest of you that the potential election of Mingo County Clerk “Big Jim” Hatfield as a county commissioner this year sets up an intriguing scenario that might just favor Team Mingo?

Having lost a number of their elected officials to the Federal Hotel system, Team Mingo would still appear to control the county commission if Hatfield is elected. That means the pair of Team Mingo members would get to appoint the new county clerk replacing Hatfield. That would give Team Mingo one gain for their other losses over the past few months.

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Cabell County’s court system records indicate Brantz O’briant has a hearing scheduled on a driving under the influence (DUI) charge and possession of less than 15 grams of a controlled substance. The charges were first reported here last week.

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I asked Republican Cabell County Delegate Carol Miller what the idea was for her hosting a town hall meeting in Hamlin along with fellow Republican Kelli Sobonya and Democrat Eldridge. Miller appeared to be quite astonished that would inquire, saying nobody else had asked that question (that’s one reason I’m at the legislature, Carol). I found it interesting since Hamlin is in Miller’s district but not in Sobonya’s or Eldridge’s. Additionally, the bi-partisanship shown is intriguing.

Finally, Miller told me that all three are on the house health committee and “we’re concerned about this chemical in the water issue.” That makes me wonder why ALL members of the health committee were not invited to Hamlin — or does it indicate that only these three are really interested in clean water?

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Finally, to those who consistently ask me why I use the term “Democrat party” rather than “Democratic party,” I refer you to what the proper name for the group is. They are “Democrats” NOT “Democratics.” On the ballot, the rooster represents the Democrat party not the Democratic party. In fact, to my knowledge, there is no such thing as a Democratic party in America. The Republicans are not Republicanatics. I am only trying to use the proper name.

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Your comments, story ideas and rumors are always welcome. Use the email address listed or call me at 304-533-5185.