The West Virginia Legislature is convening its 2022 session on Wednesday, January 12, and as usual we should watch things very closely.
Things have not gone well the past few sessions, and that certainly included 2021. One big example was the law ending payroll dues deductions — if you haven’t switched to an alternate payment plan yet, you may do so to keep your membership current.
Also, there was an attempt to close Lakin, Hopemont and Jackie Withrow hospitals, as well as the Manchin Senior Health Care Center. That bill didn’t make it last year, but it’s coming back up this time — and there will be a big push to pass it.
The state employees’ grievance procedure is always under attack. PEIA bills make us nervous. But bills that would benefit our members are often not even taken up in committee.
With that, here is a quick look at how bills pass in the Legislature:
• A bill is proposed, either by somebody in the Senate or the House of Delegates.
• The bill goes to one, two or three committees, where it may or may not be taken up. Changes may be made.
• If the bill clears committee(s), it goes to that chamber’s “floor,” to the full membership. There are 34 members in the Senate, 100 in the House of Delegates.
• A bill needs to pass three readings. The 2nd Reading is usually where changes (amendments) are made, and the 3rd Reading is the final passage.
• If a bill passes, it goes to the other chamber and through the same process.
• Amendments to the West Virginia Constitution are different — those need 2/3 votes of both chambers and then go to the voters at the next election.
Here’s where it gets complicated:
• If the other chamber passes the bill without changes, it goes to the Governor for his signature. If the other chamber passes the bill with changes, it has to go back to the first house.
• The first chamber may pass that version, or reject it and ask the other chamber to accept its version.
• If the chambers don’t agree, members of both chambers can be appointed to settle differences. Whatever comes out must pass both chambers.
• Here’s the big thing: Both chambers must pass the same version of a bill, exactly.
• All bills passed go to the Governor for his signature. He can also let the law pass without his signature, or he can veto it.
That’s the process, as briefly as we can describe it.
If you want to read on, here are some other tips:
• Regular sessions are 60 days, no more and no less. This session begins on Wednesday, January 12, and ends at midnight on Saturday, March 12.
• Bills do not have to be introduced on the first day. The Senate has 41 days to submit bills and the House has 35.
• Most bills are never taken up. A few pass one chamber and aren’t taken up by the other chamber.
• Legislative leaders decide which bills to advance, and bills that are likely to fail don’t move. You’ll see that almost all bills that make it to 3rd Reading will pass.
• If the “fix is in,” a bill will fly through the process. Also, bills can be silently sneaked through. (The Senate is great at this.)
• Anybody can testify in person at a committee meeting by calling the committee’s office beforehand. Be alert, though — agendas are posted as late as the morning of the meeting and you don’t always know when a bill is coming up. If you dare to do this, be very prepared.
What can members do to promote or oppose bills?
You may call, write to or e-mail your senators and delegates, or even come to the Capitol in Charleston if you can arrange a meeting. Some deal with the public better than others, as you can imagine.
A letter from a chapter or other small group might be more effective. Members at Lakin, Withrow, etc., may want to band together in a group effort.
How does UE Local 170 help out?
We have this “Legislative” section on our website. Some items are posted to our “News” section, and we send occasional e-mail messages to the full membership. For those who have consented, we send occasional text messages.
We will list and update bills that concern UE 170 members.
Our office manager and a few members are familiar with the process and can quickly answer questions such as status of bills and who represents you in the Senate and House. If you want us to follow a bill or issue we haven’t listed, suggest it!
We can be reached at (304) 347-4396 or [email protected].