The year 2012 has been an interesting one in West Virginia because of actions taken by the state Legislature earlier in the year and decisions made by voters in two elections afterwards.
A failure by lawmakers to take action to reduce the state’s growing prison population was one of several disappointments at the 60-day regular legislative session that began in mid-January and ended in March. The state Senate passed a proposal that died in the House of Delegates when the leadership there took it off the active calendar during the final days.
Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin submitted a proposed amendment to the state Constitution in February that — if it had been ratified by voters — would have allowed him to run for a third term as governor in 2016. The Constitution currently limits a governor to two successive terms even if one of the terms is less than four years, and the Legislature chose not to put this proposed change on the ballot.
A controversy about new boundaries for the state’s three congressional districts beginning with the 2012 election was stalled after a U. S. District judge rejected a congressional redistricting plan enacted by the Legislature in 2011. The five justices on the State Supreme Court temporarily blocked that decision so that the new plan, which moved only one of the state’s 55 counties into a new congressional district, could be used for this year’s elections. Advocates of the new plan cling to a faint hope the U. S. Supreme Court will reverse the lower federal court ruling.
The Institute for a Competitive Workforce released a report in July that revealed West Virginia was one of only four states in the nation where students at four-year colleges and universities received a failing grade of “F” for not meeting standards employers require from four-year institutions. The state’s two-year colleges were not much better, getting a “D” grade. The bottom line is those who earn a bachelor’s degree in West Virginia only earn $12,700 more per year than high school graduates do.
Secretary of Revenue Charles Lorensen warned many state agencies in early August they would have to reduce spending beginning July 1, 2013 by 7.5 percent after several years of steady tax revenue increases. The following month some legislators suggested it was also time to put the brakes on any more business tax “incentives” until they can see tangible results from these tax cuts.
In October, the long-sought creation of a separate business court in the state’s judicial system became a reality, launched in the Eastern Panhandle with Circuit Judge Christopher Wilkes as the administrator.
And, finally, despite their status as the minority party in this state, Republicans fared better than usual in the November general election with GOP candidate Allen Loughry winning one of the two seats on the five-member Supreme Court and Republican newcomer Patrick Morrisey defeating incumbent Democrat Darrell V. McGraw in the race for attorney general.