CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The theme so far this session is the need to restructure the way government operates in West Virginia, having too much power and funding concentrated at the state level.
We've seen it with legislation to extend and expand the home rule pilot project (SB435) to give cities flexibility to enact ordinances and develop revenue structures that best serve them, without going through the time-consuming process of getting legislative approval.
(I believe it was Don Marsh who pointed out that in 1950, Charleston and Charlotte, N.C., were roughly the same size. Constrained by restrictions in state law, Charleston has shrunk over time, while Charlotte took advantage of home rule to greatly expand and grow into a business and financial center, with a current metro population larger than the entire state of West Virginia ...)
Likewise, a good bit of the public education reform debate has focused on the top-down nature of the state school system, where policies that should be made at the school or even the classroom level instead come down from state board offices in Building 6.
The one exception to efforts to shift authority from Charleston to counties and municipalities is the bill to nullify county and city gun ordinances (HB2760). Asked if I thought it will pass, I said that given the current frenetic climate in the Legislature, the best-case scenario is that it will be the only anti-gun control bill passed this session.
Just as the coal industry created a frenzy over Obama's "War on Coal" (never mind that a global recession and rock-bottom natural gas prices probably did more to dampen the coal market), the gun lobby has a segment of West Virginia voters convinced that Obama wants to take their guns away.
(I've talked to legislators who've taken note of recent gun shows in their districts, with crowds so large that lines of cars have parked along the sides of the road for blocks in all directions.)
Unfortunately, I think we have to come to terms with the reality that racism is a major contributor to this level of frenzy.
Bill Clinton, a white man, had very similar views on gun control, and was instrumental in getting the Brady Bill passed and signed into law as president. While there was some disgruntlement and some backlash legislatively, there was no hysteria about Clinton's "war on guns," and no attack ads in which state politicians "morphed" into the president.
Indeed, to this day, Clinton remains one of the most popular politicians in the state, as evidenced by the adoring crowds that showed up when he campaigned for his wife, Hillary, during the 2008 presidential primary.
"The hiring criteria, I call it the friends-and-family plan. It's so they can hire their friends and family. They can hire anyone they want to." -- AFT-West Virginia President Judy Hale on the education reform bill's initial proposal to downplay seniority in teacher hiring and promotion.
I was reminded that, a couple of years ago, I wrote about nepotism within the West Virginia Federation of Teachers administrative offices.