As the summer heats up, so too does the activity under and around the Capitol dome in Charleston. While the July 4th holiday usually offers a nice break from state and national politics, there’s been no shortage of activity over the last two weeks. This week’s State of Affairs looks at some of the headlines and recent developments:
- While lawmakers finally completed action on a comprehensive education reform package (HB 206), the debate rages on over charter schools in West Virginia. One of the state’s two major teachers unions – the West Virginia Education Association – has announced its intent to file a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of HB 206 and charter schools in particular. The legal dispute will ultimately boil down to whether the omnibus bill violates the West Virginia Constitution’s single-object requirement, as well as provisions requiring for the provision of a thorough and efficient school system. It’s expected that the WVEA will start its legal battle at the circuit court level, but the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals will have the final word on the matter.
- Legislators are technically still in special session, but with their work predominantly complete, focus now turns towards the first full set of interim committee meetings for the year. The Legislature has formally announced the July 22-23 interim schedule, and it's packed with activity for most of the key interim committee meetings.
- The summer months also mark the kick-off of the legislative rule-making review process, with most rules required to be out for public comment by the end of June. As of right now, more than a hundred legislative rules have been proposed and published for public comment. Notable rules include the updated legislative rules for the state’s medical cannabis program, rules regulating industrial hemp, and rules relating to West Virginia’s updated campaign finance laws. As public comment periods conclude in July, agencies will revise and submit their final proposed legislative rules for consideration by the Legislative Rule-Making Review Committee later this year.
- With the candidate filing period for 2020 less than six months away, things are also heating up on the election front in West Virginia. Four candidates have already announced for Governor, including incumbent Governor Jim Justice, former Commerce Secretary Woody Thrasher, former Delegate Mike Folk and community organizer Stephen Smith. All eyes are on Senator Joe Manchin, who is expected to make a decision regarding his political future by September.
In the meantime, contested races are starting to pop up amongst the other Board of Public Works races as well. State Treasurer John Perdue has announced that he will seek re-election to a 7th term. Perdue is being challenged by former House of Delegates member Riley Moore. Beckley attorney Sam Petsonk has also announced his intentions to run against Attorney General Patrick Morrisey.
These are just a few of the early announcements in what is sure to be a busy 2020 election cycle. In addition to all of the Board of Public Works offices, West Virginia will have a United States Senate seat, three Congressional seats, and three seats on the West Virginia Supreme Court all up for election.
- Finally, West Virginia was in the national news as the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans heard oral arguments in the highly-publicized legal challenge against “Obamacare.” The West Virginia Attorney General’s Office has joined a number of states in challenging the constitutionality of the federal health care law, while Senator Joe Manchin has been a vocal supporter of the law and critic of West Virginia’s involvement in the lawsuit.