Lawmakers debate intelligent design, forced DNA sampling, and drug testing politicians during first full week of Legislative Session

By Matthew Young, RealWV

AUTHOR’S NOTE: I began writing this with the intent of straightforward news reporting. However, as I worked, I found it increasingly difficult to maintain unbiased neutrality, and at some point I gave up. My frustrations got the better of me. So while the information contained here is factual, and I’ve only written about things that have happened in the State Legislature over the past week, It contains a lot of my personal opinions, as well as my sarcasm. Since this isn’t my usual news reporting, please consider it an op-ed. I promise you won’t agree with everything I say, but maybe you’ll at least get a laugh. 

 CHARLESTON, W.Va. – Despite the foul weather, lawmakers closed the book on the first full week of the 2024 Legislative Session Friday. And while the proceedings haven’t descended into happy town-crazy pants quite yet, the slope is becoming more and more slippery by the day. 

As of Friday, the Senate has passed 33 bills, while the House of Delegates has passed four. Most are administrative in nature, and not particularly controversial. However, several bills were passed which have to do with law enforcement. Senate Bills (SB) 154 and 158 increase the penalties for simple drug possession and fleeing an officer, respectively, while House Bill (HB) 4252 allows for the recognition and enforcement of Canadian domestic violence protective orders. No bills have as of yet been adopted by both houses. 

Although legislators are off to a conspicuously mundane start, the temperature in Charleston is slowly beginning to rise. Finding themselves feeling rather warm on a very cold week are the state’s newspaper publishers, as well as an information-hungry public. SB 264, which was proposed by Sen. Jack David Woodrum, R-Summers, was adopted Tuesday by the Senate Committee on Government Organization. It seeks to put a limit on the per-word rate newspapers can charge for printing legal advertisements. 

“A publisher or proprietor of a qualified newspaper in West Virginia may charge and receive four cents per word for a single or first publication of any legal advertisement,” the bill states. If enacted, newspapers of less than 1,000 physical-edition subscribers would be forced to accept the four cents per word as payment, or decline to print legal advertisements. The bill allows for rates to increase as high as 11 cents per word for newspapers with a larger physical-edition circulation. 

HB 4621, which was proposed by Del. Geoff Foster, R-Putnam, and co-signed by Del. Joey Garcia, D-Marion, seeks to reduce the public’s access to its own information by concealing mugshots of individuals who have been arrested until such time as they are convicted. HB 4627, another proposal of Foster’s, which basically says, “Protection from self-incrimination is for losers,” seeks to forcibly collect DNA samples from persons convicted of unrelated crimes just because they’re, you know, handy. Under the leadership of new Chair Tom Fast, R-Fayette, both bills were passed by the Judiciary Committee and referred to the full House. With the passage of the bills, the House Judiciary Committee is demonstrating its firm commitment to all of the Amendments of the United States Constitution, except for the first, fifth, and probably the fourteenth. Happy town-crazy pants, here we come.

Counsel Cindy Dellinger explains SB 450 to senators during the Health and Human Resources Committee meeting Wednesday.

The Senate Health and Human Resources Committee, on Wednesday, spent a whole lot of time deciding to spend a whole lot of money to put photographs on EBT cards in the name of “fraud prevention.” While it’s universally understood that this very expensive flexing of legislative muscle won’t actually prevent fraud of any kind, it is a singular stone which can kill the birds of both embarrassing people, and looking jazzy on a campaign poster. Not to be outdone in the race to advance pointless legislation, only necessary for campaign speeches, was the Senate’s Education Committee. 

Committee Chair Amy Grady, R-Mason, did a spectacular job of making the case for the teaching of critical race theory this week when she once again pushed her creationism bill (excuse me, “intelligent design” bill) – SB 280 – as the first piece of education legislation taken up this year. 

A couple of the special gems introduced this week were HB 4898 from Del. Jonathan Pinson, R-Mason, and HB 4866, from Del. Geno Chiarelli, R-Monongalia. HB 4898 says that if you’re a bigot or prejudiced toward people who look, act, or believe differently than you do, and you want to adopt a kid – wait for it, I promise it’s worth it – it’s discrimination if the agency denies the adoption and the subservient kid has to adapt themselves to your moral superiority. I told you it was worth it. It’s just so good.

HB 4866 is a really common sense approach to battling the drug crisis. Basically it would outlaw all needle exchange programs. The bill is very straightforward. It tells the world that here in West Virginia, we don’t want to help people struggling with addiction. We want them to get sick with Hepatitis and HIV because those diseases are just like super cheap to treat. There’s no way this plan can fail. Rock solid.

Alright, we’ve arrived at the best part. I was really trying to decide who the stand-out rockstar of the week was, and it came down to a two-way tie. On the one hand we have HB 4873, sponsored by Del. Evan “Dude, Where’s My Car?” Hansen, D-Monongalia. Under this bill, much like a similar bill introduced in the Senate last week, the recreational indulging of the funny cigarettes would be legal for adults. 

On the other hand we have HB 4844, sponsored by Del. Larry “This is Your Brain on Drugs” Kump, R-Berkeley. His bill does exactly what you think it does – random drug testing for state legislators. Can’t make it up.

You know what would be really funny though, if Kump and Hansen get into a big debate in the House Chamber where Kump’s like, “Who showed you how to do this stuff?” Then Hansen would get up and say to Kump, “You, alright! I learned it by watching you!” If you don’t get that joke, it’s because you’re too young. Trust me, it’s funny. 

But you know what’s not funny? West Virginia remains one of the poorest, unhealthiest, and least educated states in the country. Our people are dying everyday from poverty, addiction, and treatable diseases, and our representatives are spending the day worrying about pennies for legal ads and pictures on EBT cards. Anyway.

I’m sorry, I needed to get that out of my system. I’m good now, and your normal coverage can resume.

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