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Toned-down education bill likely to pass

February 10, 2019

Is there a chance the West Virginia Legislature will pass what has come to be known as the “big education bill”?

While one might question the political wisdom of passing a bill that is clearly offensive to employee unions, I think the bill will pass in one form or another. Passage may come after the offensive provisions have been removed or modified, but it will happen.

For one thing, legislators want to claim being a part of employee pay raises. If Gov. Jim Justice is allowed to simply toss 5 percent increases into his budget proposal, legislators will get less credit than they think they deserve.

Do I think Republican leadership wanted to rub teacher noses in the figurative mud by coming up with this bill? No doubt some of them did.

There’s two lines of thought for Senate President Mitch Carmichael. One, he and his advisers may figure that teachers already hate him as much as possible. He may believe he loses no votes by being fiscally tough and, in fact, cements his support among tea partiers.

On the other hand, there is also this theory: Leave your enemy alone. Maybe he’ll forget about you and not be determined to smash you at the first opportunity.

As to the second, when Republicans eventually went along with last year’s pay raise and did nothing to further irritate public employees, the “Remember in November” 2018 campaign lost steam. The “big bill” may have assured that union members will have better memories this time.

I have written that those who were outraged at Carmichael for giving Republicans credit for last year’s raise were basically wrong. The GOP controlled both houses of the Legislature and could have stopped any raises. They did not, which was clearly the right thing to do, politically and otherwise.

It’s still a bit early to predict what the final version of the bill will contain, but we know the parts Justice says would lead him to veto it. If he sticks to his guns (a doubtful scenario), none of those will be in the final bill.

As mentioned in an earlier column, it seems election cycles get longer and longer, just like holiday time down at the Walmart.

Now, Monongalia County State Sen. Bob Beach already has thrown his hat in the ring for agriculture commissioner in 2020. Evidently a gentleman farmer, Beach represents the liberal wing of the Democratic Party.

He and many other Dems are convinced the West Virginia turn to Republican is just a temporary thing.

Incumbent Kent Leonhardt worked tirelessly for six years to get elected to the job in 2018 (he ran and lost in 2014). He will likely work just as hard in 2020.

While Beach and I do not see eye-to-eye philosophically, I respect his hard work and dedication to his district. There’s no doubt he has brought home big money in grants and loans through his significant clout. He carefully studies legislation for its impact on his constituents and the state at large.

Yet another observation I wish was not true. Compassionate liberals honestly believe, I guess, that a conservative and/or Republican can not really be concerned about poor people, low pay for public employees, etc.

They see every conservative as sitting back in a mansion concerned about only themselves. What an insult to millions of good people.

A case in point is the big education bill.

That bill, SB 451, picked up opposition from two Republicans when it passed the Senate, 18-16.

That immediately led to social media recommendations that those two Republicans should switch their party allegiance to Democrat, “the caring party.”

What a misguided point of view that one must be a Democrat to demonstrate compassion.

The two, who were elected as Republicans, always appeared caring to me. I suspect that they are.

So Bill Hamilton and Kenny Mann vote “right” on this and still get union criticism.

If I was either, I’d tell the labor unions it’s possible to be Republican AND care about people.

Contact Ron Gregory at 304-533-5185 or ronjgregory@gmail.com.

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