Red Wave In West Virginia….What?
November 11th, 2020
Update from NASL member Edward George:
West Virginia was created in 1863, one of only 2 states established during the Civil War (Nevada was the other one). West Virginia has historically been a state wed to the Democratic Party. But the party of Sens. Robert C. Byrd and Jay Rockefeller has been waning in recent years, and 2020 saw a shift of unparalleled proportions, delivering a severe blow to the party.
Lead by Sen. Shelly Moore Capito, who retained her U. S. Senate seat , the Republican Party retained all 3 Congressional seats and managed to take all the Board of Public works offices. While pollsters were predicting a slight increase for the Republicans in the House of Delegates, no one saw the tsunami wave that increased their numbers by 19, giving the Republicans a super majority of 78-22, meaning they can suspend rules, etc., if they can hold all their votes. This is the largest number of Republicans ever in the House. In the 1921-22 session, there were 73 Republicans. The WV Senate also saw an increase of 3 Republicans for a 23-11 split.
What does this mean for lobbyists such as Edward and me? Our session does not begin until February, since this was a gubernatorial election year. Our Governor, who was re-elected this week, has said one of his top agenda items is the removal of the state income tax. That revenue will have to be replaced by other sources, so we will be guarding against any increased taxes for our clients. The Speaker of the House indicated he is interested in removing the tax on machinery, equipment and inventory, which is about 170 million in revenue. There is no way West Virginia can absorb elimination of both taxes. We may also anticipate introduction of social issues dealing with guns, life choices, etc. Broad band expansion will be on the minds of legislators as the state has seen an uptick in home sales in the state as people discover they can work remotely from anywhere and West Virginia’s outdoor economy is seeing growth spurred by interest in the amenities we offer such as white water rafting, rock climbing and skiing for example.
It also remains to be decided just how sessions and committee meetings will be conducted, with social distancing being observed. In non COVID times, committee rooms are often overcrowded and the halls of the Capitol can be overflowing with John Q. Public wanting to exercise their right to influence and be a part of the process.
2021 will bring challenges never imagined a year earlier, but as lobbyists, I’m certain we will find a way to meet the needs of our clients!