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House passes law making corrections to right to work law


The Register-Herald

CHARLESTON, W.Va.  — In a narrow 52-48 vote Thursday, the House passed a bill clarifying language and making corrections to the state’s right to work law that was passed last year.

Following a brief dispute over the bill’s title, Senate Bill 330 — or the West Virginia Workplace Freedom Act — will now go back to the Senate for lawmakers to agree to changes made in the House.

Delegate John Shott, R-Mercer, said the legislation intends to make clear that the law was always intended to apply to building and construction agencies to the extent the Legislature can do so.

According to The Associated Press, the state AFL-CIO and other unions obtained a preliminary injunction against the law last year, charging that it constitutes illegally taking union assets since they have to represent all employees in a union shop, including those who opt out of paying union dues.

Delegate Scott Brewer, D-Mason, opposed the bill, saying in his view, it weakens unions.

He said he has been in construction for 39 years and that he could “promise as a worker in a non-right to work state, you’re a lot better off.”

“This bill does nothing,” he said. “The sole intent is to weaken unions.”

Brewer said the industry relies on unions to provide manpower and to provide contractors with drug-free trained workers at no cost to the state. He also said the industry relies on unions to administer health plans.

After the vote, Delegate Mike Caputo, D-Marion, proposed an amendment to change the title to “Right of Workers to Freeload off of Unions Act.”

“I believe that’s what this bill does,” Caputo said. “This is not a warm fuzzy bill. It changes the rights of workers and allows them to freeload off of unions.

His motion was defeated in a 39-61 vote.

After the floor session, Delegate Mick Bates, D-Raleigh, asked again for an update on the budget.

Bates referenced an earlier speech by Delegate Marty Gearheart, R-Mercer, who said that the state is out of shape in terms of its spending and that the Republican leadership’s proposed budget plan, which was unveiled earlier this week, would improve the state’s health.

Bates said the state needs to watch its “Budget Mass Impact, or BMI.”

“Some say cut the fat or lose a bunch of weight,” Bates said. “I’m sure my friend in the back would agree that a good figure is in the eye of the beholder. Our budget waistline could be improve but it’s a journey not a destination. There are moving pieces that few understand it well. A quick fix is not the way to go.”

Bates said the state needs to find a balanced way to get the state on track, saying this includes enhancing revenue and addressing cuts with a scalpel, not a hatchet.

“West Virginia is at an important point of its life,” Bates said. “We need to take steps to start a better future. A Made for TV diet plan won’t fix the underlying problem. The collective body is at a decision point. The question is whether we can make the right decision.”

Bates asked about the press conference earlier this week at which Senate President Mitch Carmichael and House Speaker Tim Armstead unveiled the framework of their budget — 2 percent mid-year cuts and increasing beer barrel wholesale liquor taxes, as well as taking a hard look at things that have typically been “off the table” — the Department of Health and Human Resources, K-12 education and higher education, in particular.

House Finance Chair Eric Nelson, R-Kanawha, said the goal of the budget is to consolidate and make government more efficient. He said that it’s standard every year to receive an adjustment letter from the governor and that he has not received one this year.

“We have not received any adjustment letter,” Nelson said. “The governor proposed Budget 2.0 but this body and the finance committee in either chamber have not seen anything of Budget 2.0 as part of an adjustment letter or any adjustments related to spending. …It’s critical to have a letter before we move with our budget.”

Bates asked, “Is it safe to say that Save Our State is SOL.” to which Nelson responded that he couldn’t say that.

Bates later presented a budget clock of his own, similar to the budget countdown clock that is outside of the governor’s office.

“There is a lot to do in a short period of time,” he said. “Time is running out.”

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