For lobbyists, W.Va. is business heaven

More than a few commentators have remarked that this year’s legislative session appears like one big missed opportunity that took 60 days to play out.

Indeed, even as lawmakers crafted a decent bill to regulate above-ground storage tanks, it took them little time to forget what larger lesson might have been learned from the toxic gumbo of bad government and the corrupting influence of big business that caused 300,000 West Virginians to be without potable water due to the Jan. 9 leak of 10,000 gallons of chemicals into the Elk River, resulting in a state of emergency that lasted more than 50 days.

Instead, as the session came to a close late Saturday our elected representatives curried lobbyists’ favor over West Virginians’ well-being and failed to pass a bill that would have limited the sale of pseudoephedrine despite overwhelming evidence that making the drug for sale by prescription-only shuts down meth labs, and also, incredibly, passed a gun bill that will allow concealed handguns into city-owned recreational facilities. Charleston Mayor Danny Jones was so desperate for that one not to pass, he was willing to gut his city’s two-decade restrictions on gun sales. Alas.

The gun and drug lobby weren’t the only winners this round. Lawmakers continue to look for the best way to approve a bill that would provide cover for a February 2013 Department of Environmental Protection memo that was intended to give oil and gas companies (and landfills) a way around pesky tonnage limits.

Meanwhile, lawmakers dithered over a cigarette tax, dawdled about what to do about the sorry state of West Virginia’s roads, and even decided in the absence of a hue and cry on the matter that there ought to be a law to allow mothers to nurse their babies when they’re out in public.

But the session is not a total loss; lawmakers did pass a resolution that makes John Denver’s “Take Me Home, Country Roads” the state song. The lobbyists must have sung it all the way back to Washington.


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