CHARLESTON – The latest chapter in the soap opera saga surrounding the fate of House Bill 4588 – the Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act – features a stalemate between Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin and Senate President Jeff Kessler, D-Marshall. Tomblin insists he will again veto any bill banning abortions after 20 weeks’ gestation but Kessler continues to urge the governor to call a special session on the issue.
Kessler wisely refuses to sign a petition that has been circulating among lawmakers to call the Legislature into a special session. “The concern I have, quite frankly, is that if we call ourselves into special session, it’s not a special session, it is a general session,” Kessler said in a MetroNews radio program.
The original House of Delegates version included felony penalties for doctors performing abortions after 20 weeks. But the State Senate amended the bill to include a misdemeanor for doctors and a small fine. Women who seek abortions after 20 weeks do not face punishment.
Sen. Corey Palumbo, D-Kanawha, tried twice to amend the bill to a 24-week ban. He argued such a ban is in line with what federal courts in other states have found when similar bills have been challenged. And Tomblin referred to these court decision as the reason he vetoed the bill that had overwhelmingly passed both houses of the Legislature.
Meanwhile, House Speaker Tim Miley, D-Harrison, has consistently made it clear that he has no interest in reconvening a special legislative session between now and the regular session that begins in February.
“I understand there must be a great deal of disappointment by any special interest group when its bill is vetoed, but I am troubled by the demand that the Legislature be called back into special session, at taxpayer expense, to revisit the very same legislation that appears to be legally flawed,” Miley said last week.
He noted that Gov. Tomblin vetoed HB 4588 “because of serious questions regarding its constitutionality and has indicated he will do the same again. Though I voted for this bill and am proud of my pro-life record, I don’t believe West Virginia taxpayers will understand why lawmakers would be so eager to quickly return to Charleston at great expense to attempt to pass legislation destined for a long legal battle and a very uncertain future.”
SAFETY COURTESY PATROL SALARIES
The salaries paid to company executives at Citizens Conservation Corps of West Virginia – the company that has the contract to operate the state’s courtesy patrol – have caused members of the Legislature to raise questions.
The most recent IRS 990 filing indicates that five executives with this nonprofit have salaries totaling more than $530,000. Executive Director Robert Martin was paid $248,300 while Courtesy Patrol Director Jennifer Douglas took in $107,500.
The governor’s deputy chief of staff, Jason Pizatella, told legislators at a recent meeting on the issue that the administration considered setting salary caps for the operation of the Courtesy Patrol in the request for bids – only to discover that the state has no authority to set salaries for the executives of nonprofit corporations.
But one candidate for the state Senate in this year’s general election – Republican nominee Mike Queen in the 12th Senatorial District – said if he’s elected he’ll call CCCWV executives to testify before the Legislature to explain what he considers exorbitant salaries. “I don’t know how they can justify $250,000 a year,” he said.
VETERANS MEMORIAL REPAIRS
It’s time to make major repairs to the state’s Veterans Memorial on the state Capitol grounds and Geiger Brothers Inc. of Jackson, Ohio, will be handling the restoration at a cost of $1,509,000.
The original construction began in 1990 but wasn’t completed for nine years at a cost of about $4 million. West Virginia sculptor P. Joseph Mullins designed the memorial.
The monument also includes four statues for the outside walls of the monument that honor each military branch and major war. These are a World War I Army doughboy, a World War II Navy sailor, a Korean War-era Air Force aviator and a Vietnam-era Marine.
The two-story oval monument consists of four limestone monoliths surrounded by a reflecting pool. The names of more than 10,000 West Virginia soldiers who died in wars during the 20th century are etched on the inside walls of polished black granite.