It’s hard to step back and take a look at the West Virginia Legislature and Governor’s Office at the moment and form any sort of cohesive assessment of what is happening. It’s a good way to trigger an anxiety attack, though.
West Virginia has a controversial education bill coming out of the GOP-controlled Senate and heading for the Republican-controlled House of Delegates next week, although the lower chamber is almost certain to make changes the Senate won’t accept.
Democratic leadership is asking Republican Gov. Jim Justice and House leadership to call the special session off, pointing out that it will likely only result in protracted head-butting with the Senate at the taxpayers’ expense. Meanwhile, some Senate Republicans are calling for Justice to resign.
Toss into that mix Justice’s persistent legal problems regarding his businesses and one Democratic lawmaker hammering away at the governor in court because Justice continues to refuse to live in Charleston (as the state constitution requires). And those are just the highlights of the past 10 days, to say nothing of the actual education legislation being discussed, which would create massive changes — punishing teachers for striking and moving toward privatization are only two of a hundred or so bullet points.
There has been no shortage of official statements and political ads over the past few days throwing haymakers in all directions, with the one word used more than any other being “chaos.” It’s fitting. The last week and a half feels as if it has passed in dog years, with several fresh indignities occurring daily, usually before lunchtime.
It’s less of a dumpster fire and more of a warehouse fire at this stage.
Taking a breath, what is there to make of all of this? For starters, the state GOP is a wreck, and the governor’s residency problem is something finally both sides of the political spectrum find exasperating, and it’s not going to go away.
As for the Democrats, the logic for wanting to end the special session is understandable but would halt a process that is half done. The House should view the “Student Success Act,” (Senate Bill 1039) and subsequent bills and make the changes it will inevitably make. If it goes back to the Senate and the upper chamber refuses to negotiate in good faith (as Senate leadership did during the regular session), then it’s time for the House to call it a day and wait for the 2020 regular session, when the issue will undoubtedly resurface.
There’s the chance that all of this will look different in a day or two, after the next crisis, court ruling or public barb makes waves. But we’d urge the Legislature and the governor to get it together. The rest of the state is exhausted and seasick.