The new Republican majority in the state Senate and House of Delegates has been sailing along, for the most part. They quickly passed the repeal of the alternative fuels law, advanced legal reforms, and have started to lay the groundwork on charter schools.

Credit goes to House Speaker Tim Armstead, Senate President Bill Cole and their leadership teams for their preparation. They have not wasted any time in the early stages of the 60-day session.

However, there are hints of possible storm clouds ahead.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch Carmichael (R-Jackson) is adamant about pushing legislation making West Virginia a right-to-work state. Carmichael has long lobbied for limiting the power of unions in the workplace and he wants to take advantage of the new majority to see it through this year.

Labor leaders will fight right-to-work to the last man. AFL-CIO president Kenny Perdue, a normally affable soul, was so infuriated when right-to-work lawmakers said it was an issue of freedom, he told the Daily Mail’s Joel Ebert the Republicans were “F- – – – – –  liars.” (Perdue later apologized.)

Over on the House side, Republicans are said to be unsure whether to have a bitter fight over right-to-work. Some want to use their new majority to tackle every significant issue that’s been pent up for years, while others prefer to pick their battles.

There’s a similar scenario with prevailing wage, the law that requires the state’s Labor Commissioner to set the hourly wage rates for works on public projects, like school construction.

Senator Craig Blair (R-Berkeley) believes prevailing wage drives up the cost of labor and increases the cost to taxpayers for public projects. He wants it gone, or at least modified.

That’s another rub for labor and many Democrats. Republicans could probably cobble together the votes to win, but it could be a long, hard slog.

Additionally, Governor Tomblin may not be labor’s best friend, but he’s also reluctant to antagonize. One source said Tomblin would likely veto a right-to-work bill. Legislation eliminating prevailing wage could meet the same fate at the Governor’s desk, unless it’s a compromise proposal that only modifies the statute.

These and other issues still to come this session —abortion, guns, etc.—will indicate whether the new Republican majority will be content with making some progress and finding a safe harbor or sailing headlong in the uncertainties of a storm.

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Comments

  • Mike

    "..the Republicans were “F- – – – – – liars.” Yea, he had it right. What else is new?

    • AJ

      Republicans are more like F----- C---------S. You keep doin you GOP so that every single Dem/Independent can vote you Animal House bullies OUT.

      • ViennaGuy

        Wow, AJ, what a way to reach across the aisle and get things done! Such bipartisanship! Or sour grapes, one.

        • Edward

          The word bipartisanship isn't in the Republican dictionary. But the word obstructionist is on the first page.

          • Uncle Cecil

            Democrat definition of bipartisan: Go along with our view of the world.

            Democrat view of obstructionist: Do not go along with our view of the world.

          • ViennaGuy

            You don't want to talk about 'bipartisanship.' For 80+ years, the Democrats defined 'bipartisanship' as "you vote for our bill and we'll call it bipartisanship; otherwise, you get left out."

        • The bookman

          It's the end of comfort and Good Ole Boy politics in WV. We should be diligent to ensure those same mistakes are not repeated, and cronyism is rooted out where ever it exists. Sour grapes indeed!

          • ViennaGuy

            Clarksburg Pete,

            Study the corruption - and court trials/convictions - in southern West Virginia Democratic politics and then preach to me about how the Republicans are the party of corruption.

            One party is just as guilty as the other.

          • Clarksburg Pete

            Y'all crack me up!!! Look at the campaign finance reports of these folks and you will see the same names and organizations have donated to both. These same people and organizations will want the same accommodations, as in the past. If you think the good old boy network has been demolished, you are dead wrong. It just changed some of the players.
            Also, for those if you who forget, the last Governor convicted of corruption was a REPUBLICAN. Y'all need to stop throwing stones in your glass houses.

          • Jack

            No, it's just the beginning of a new bunch of good ole boys and their agendas!

          • The bookman

            That would be our challenge, as stated above.

          • Aaron

            Is it the end or merely a change in who the good ole boys are?

          • The bookman

            Well at least you got the talking points correct that time!

          • Edward

            A Republican is a Republican. All from the same mold.

          • The bookman

            Morrisey's a carpetbagger from Jersey, right? He is in the middle of his first term, right? Good ole boy in the AG's office. Good one! Get the talking points in line next time Edward.

          • Edward

            Have you looked in the Attorney General's office lately? Or the Republican legislature's hiring of Morrisey's gang? There's plenty of Good Ole Boys in the GOP to fill a dump truck! Get real bookman!

  • Steve

    Big labor and unions had better get on board with some of these changes, because next election we are going to tack 10 more Republicans onto the majorities in the legislature - and you probably want to cut some deals while you still have a little bit of clout.

    • AJ

      K

  • Matt Miller

    What will be the last practical day to pass legislation that would allow the opportunity for the legislature to vote to override a gubernatorial veto?

    • Kandi Montini

      15 days before the end of the session. If the governor doesn't sign the bill into law within 15 days it automatically becomes law.

      • matt miller

        I assume it will take more than a few minutes to organize a vote or multiple votes on overriding a veto, so I was thinking it would have to be a few more days than that... or maybe not. Just didn't know if the republicans had thought about a deadline for themselves for any legislation that they think could be vetoed.

  • Bruiser

    I am not sure if the right to work law is necessary. Union membership is an all time low and just not sure if this measure is necessary because it will infuriate many and we want them to continue to be the majority. They are addressing some major issues and have supported their actions, but right to work is not one of them.

    • ViennaGuy

      I frankly don't see a right-to-work bill becoming state law.

      I would like to see some changes to the prevailing-wage law, however.

  • Noodle

    We elected them to turn this 50th place state around, let's hope they don't " pick their battles" and just plow through every red tape hurtle that's benn holding us back for years.

    Keep up the good work!

    • DWM

      +1

    • Kandi Montini

      Amen to that! They have been given the mandate by the WV voters and they need to stay strong, grow the set that some of them need, and use it, including right to work. No person should be "forced", and that is the key problem, into joining a union if they don't want to. If people wish to join a union then they should have that right as well. That's the "freedom" part Carmichael is talking about.

  • wvman75

    They got elected to tackle the tough issues and move our state forward for a change. Who are they battling on right to work, charter schools, prevailing wage, and other budgetary issues? Unions. They've had democrats in their pocket and have been in the pockets of the people for long enough.

  • Dennis

    Let us not overlook drug testing for welfare recipients. Let us make sure the money going out is not funding someone's drug addiction.

    • Hillboy

      Let's require a drug test for everyone who gets a farm subsidy too, even if they're a Congressman or Congresswoman.

    • Aaron

      Do you favor drug testing executives who receive corporate welfare?

    • FungoJoe

      Drug addiction? How about funding their drug dealing? It is much worse than you think.
      Medicaid funds much of the prescription pill epidemic problem in every state that has one.

    • Tim

      After hearing statistics from other states, I'm not convinced that the drug issue is a big enough of a problem to justify the new legislation and cost.

      Maybe what we should do instead is find a way to help people step up and out of the welfare state rather than just handing it out left and right.

      • Shadow

        The Scientific Approach is to test the hypothesis. Do it and see the results, including Food Stamps.

  • Bill Hill

    I was once an advocate of right to work, but, I not certain anymore. It is not that I support unions, I don't. What bothers me about the legislature enacting right to work is this. What right has the legislature to interfere on either side, labor or business.

    As an employee if I don't want to be part of a union, I can find work elsewhere. As a business if I don't want to deal with a union, I can move elsewhere.

    The prevailing wage is a no brainer in my opinion. Do away with it. Any construction company worth its salt will pay around the level of the prevailing wage to get and keep good employees.

    We rely far to much on government to make decisions for us or to give us what we want with out taking responsibility for ourselves.

    • Aaron

      I couldn't agree more which is what concerns me about the legislature taking up this action now. Neither issue is of great importance so why spend valuable time on either? It's a farce as far as I'm concerned and the way it looks not, infrastructure is going to suffer the same fate under Cole and Armstead as they did under Kessler and Miley.

    • Kandi Montini

      "As a business if I don't want to deal with a union, I can move elsewhere."

      The idea is to keep and bring jobs to WV not get rid of them.

      "As an employee if I don't want to be part of a union, I can find work elsewhere."

      Again, the idea is to get people working, not limit the jobs available to them.

      Prevailing wage agreed, however does a "flag man or woman" really have a special set of skills requiring a higher rate of pay? Seriously?

    • Tim

      You can find work elsewhere? I'm not convinced of that. Maybe in another state perhaps?

      • AJ

        You first Tiny Tim.

  • Olan

    Here is what I have seen so far. On the right to work law the labor leader has called the bill's proponents dagum. story tellers. Presumably because the proponents are running around lying that West Vieginia is a closed shop and those workers in the majority and miniotiy in an election and those joining after an election do not have the right to work for a unionized company and not join the union and not pay dues, the labor leaders and posters are saying they already have these rights. If so there should be no problem codifying those rights and everybody get behind the bill.on the prevailing wage law leaders have acknowledged that they are prepared to address the two most objectionable parts of the current law. Namely to change the process where wages are skewed much higher than market wages and not having a threshold that exempts small projects in poor counties and nor profits which in some case includes voluntary labor. If the trades would agree to changes in those parts of the law and agree not to picket and defame contractors not covered by the law then I would be in favor of reform of the law rather than repeal. The trial lawyers have carried the water for defense lawyers for decades. Any use of the state law to expand markets and upward earning potential for trial lawyers provides an equal benefit to defense lawyers because amying requires a yang.the current Justice reform package while it may hurt lawyers earnings makes the laws fairer and more just.

  • Wowbagger

    Sounds like the Republicans have hit a nerve and Mr Perdue has no leverage as he has stupidly only supported one party thinking that nothing ever changes in West Virginia. Scott Walker has faired pretty well in blue state Wisconsin with the bold approach. If these measures pass and the state starts to attract new business the Republicans will be rewarded.

    Also, these are policy issues so a simple majority can overturn the Governor's veto. Yet another mistake Democrats stupidly made during their 80+ years in power!

  • Hey hey, ho ho

    Prevailing wage has got to go!

  • CaptainQ

    The WV GOP needs to be careful now. Fighting too many battles at once could cause them to lose their House and Senate majorities in 2016 when the 'shadow of Obama' will be just a bad memory. Better to, as I heard the term used on Hoppy's show yesterday, grab all the 'low hanging fruit' first and save some of the bigger political battles for next year's session.

    I know there's over 80+ years of legislative frustration for WV Republicans here, but if they're not careful, they could wind up in the minority again quickly. Right to work, charter schools and abortion are among a number of issues that the GOP could 'win the battle but lose the war' on via Earl Ray's veto stamp. To use a football analogy, the GOP has the ball, and they're driving towards the 'end zone.' The last thing they need to do is 'fumble the ball' this close to scoring. Better to 'kick some easy field goals' than to go for the 'quick touchdowns' and lose the game in the process.

    • Just saying...

      Don't forget, the Legislature can override the Governor's veto with a simple majority.

      • CaptainQ

        Not if Earl Ray plays 'stallball' long enough. All he has to do is leave the bills sit on his desk till the maximum legal time is up, and THEN veto them. If he times it right, the regular session will end BEFORE the GOP can rally the 'troops' for the override. The Governor will gamble that the Republican leadership won't have the stomach to call a special session just to override vetoed bills.

        Don't forget, the WV Dems are experts at political 'dirty pool', they've had over 80+ years practice at it to maintain their control on this state! (Ok, to be fair, the WV GOP knows some 'dirty pool tricks' too) You better believe Governor Tomblin has already been schooled by the WV Democratic Party leadership on how to 'wait it out' to make sure the bills THEY want vetoed WILL REMAIN VETOED!

    • Tom wv

      If there afraid to tackle some hard issues because of 2016 then they won't tackle it in 2016 either. Better to get the tuff stuff now and then next year go for the lower fruit.

      • CaptainQ

        Tom wv, I think the WV GOP should take a lesson from Obama's first two years in office. Obama used every ounce of political clout he had (and a few dirty tricks) to get ObamaCare passed. After that deed was done, it got a LOT harder for Obama to get the rest of his agenda through, even with the Dem controlled Congress! The same thing could happen to the WV Republican if they use every ounce of the political 'goodwill' they got from the 2014 elections on splintering, divisive issues instead of grabbing up all the 'easier' victories they can.

        Those who do not learn from the mistakes of history are doomed to repeat them.

    • The bookman

      Why fight the most contentious battles just before the election, especially if you believe in the legislation? Go with the momentum. Get it done, and move on to the revenue and spending issues that are the daunting elephant in the room. The State of WV has waited too long to join the rest of our neighbors to the South in pushing a pro growth agenda. Time's a wastin'!

      • TD

        Bookie, you talk about joining our neighbors to the south as if that's a good thing. Google a map showing "percentage of low income students in public schools", or map showing "where fewest people have health insurance", "map showing which states receive more than they pay in to federal gov't"". I could rattle off ten more of these but I don't know why anyone would want to emulate the states of the south. If I were trying to achieve success I would look to regions where people are doing better not worse.

        • FungoJoe

          TD and the liberal loons want us to go the route of California and New York. High taxes, high over government regulation, welfare states, and TAXPAYING citizens fleeing by the tens of thousands.
          Most of us would like for WV to emulate Texas. Low taxes, right-to-work state, a natural resource backed economy, and TAXPAYING citizens (workers) flocking to Texas by the tens of thousands.

        • Wirerowe

          Td these are relevant statistics as are statistics that show more job growth and economic growth in right to work states. The most telling statistic is the population migration from non right to work statesto right to work states. Right to work is no magic bullet as are any of other reforms being discussed. Collectively as Bookman says they will make West Virginia better positioned for new investment and jobs.

        • The bookman

          Who would you have us emulate, TD? Given our identified strengths and weaknesses, what types of economic engines give us the best hope for improving our economy in the near term? Geographically, demographically, and culturally, we are a southern state. Our edge over our southern neighbors is that we are closer to the East Coast population centers than everyone else save Virginia. We can compete immediately on that level.

          What is your vision of WV's economic future, and is it realistically achievable in the near term?

          • The bookman

            I don't think RTW will unlock the economic powerhouse of Pocahontas County. And like the people in Highland, Bath and other non I-81 corridor counties in SW VA, I don't think they wish it upon themselves. But like the rest of VA, many counties in WV would benefit and become attractive to manufacturing resulting from such a pro business package of which RTW is a part.

            As a multi-generation WVian with four wonderful children, I refuse to accept your prognosis that we can never be better than we are, or have been. I owe it to them to do everything I can to make a way forward for them.

          • TD

            Our economic situation will not change, right to work or not. If you look at the border counties of western and southwestern Virginia (Bath, Highland, Allegheny and those further south/west) you will see they are very much like our state. There is little economic activity there because it's difficult to get in and out. The only businesses that will locate here will do so for our resources, timber/gas/coal.

            Maybe other industries like the cracker plant can develop along the Ohio river, maybe the new potato farming effort being pushed by Walt Helmick is a good idea, maybe growing hemp is a good idea, maybe we can find a way to become a more productive agriculture state but if you think WV is going to improve in any measurable way economically I'm afraid you're mistaken.

            My point is when I look to south I see myriad problems most worse than the rest of the country.

  • Aaron

    Neither issue does anything substantive to move the states business along. The same companies will complete the same projects with the same employees for the same money. I would much rather see our representatives working on a method to fund infrastructure construction than trying to reduce the cost at the expense of the employees who actually build our infrastructure.

    • The bookman

      Independently RTW and repeal of prevailing wage won't make a difference, but collectively the pro business package being offered up, of which RTW and prevailing wage are a part, by Republicans will make a difference. Of course, at some point, like gambling, the impact on attracting jobs will be less as our neighbors continue to advance their own pro business agenda.

      • Aaron

        When the state puts out to bid a new building at the capitol, there will be maybe a dozen companies place bids to construct it. Of those companies, most are based in WV including BBL Carlton, G and G Builders and Paramount Builders.

        When Wal Mart builds a new store, they hire a general contractor from outside the state who comes here and beats down local contractors to perform the work.

        When Route 35 lets, there will be maybe 3 companies bid it. 2 of those have a presence in WV.

        I'm sorry but I fail to see how passing these laws will promote the business of WV. Can you elaborate?

        • The bookman

          You seek to view these two issues in a narrow view, and find their singular benefit on the overall job market, and here specifically, WV contractors. There is a bigger picture involving the overall health of our economy. Labor costs on state funded projects are estimated to increase the cost of those projects by 40% due to prevailing wage constraints.

          In a state that you admit is in dire need of supporting infrastructure funds that will encourage the expansion of business, how can you argue that paying higher labor cost than markets would otherwise find legitimate is in our best interest?

          • Aaron

            When I returned to school in 2009, one of my assignments was an argumentative analysis. The instructions was to pick a topic and either prove or disprove it. My first topic was prevailing wages. I was going to write an essay bemoaning the ills of prevailing wages and how much they drive up public cost. I started doing my research and couldn't find any unbiased supporting data to either prove or disprove the statement.

            When I got into a job in which I deal with the construction industry on a daily basis, I thought I would get my answer. I have. Had I the paper to do again today, through direct interviews and public records I could find enough information to come to a conclusion but it would not support my initial agreement with the statement. Instead I would write an essay that states prevailing wages, while they do drive up the cost on some projects, they do not do so significantly and certainly not to the tune of 40%.

            One of the first cases I would cite is construction of a DOH building in Charleston. The construction firm awarded the project does both private and public work and as that was the first public project I quoted them, in getting the PO signed I ask specifically if they had to increase pay to meet prevailing wage law since this was public work. The response I got was that in order to get the type of skilled, dependable DRUG FREE employees they required for their work, their employees were paid wages that met prevailing wage demands.

            I understand the market argument and I'm sure someone could find a contractor that would do the work for less but other than wondering about the quality of the work, my experience has been that they couldn't certify that they drug test their work force because if they did, they wouldn't have a work force. If you do have something that states otherwise, I would be interested in reading it.

          • The bookman

            The 40% number was reported in an earlier story on this issue. I've not seen that number contested by anyone, including you, until now. Do your own research, and I will stand corrected. I'm sure you can find many numbers out there, and even some that say prevailing wage saves the state money. But I don't think anyone would buy that argument. Good luck!

          • jss

            Book, citation needed on your claim that prevailing wage increases project costs by 40%. Do not reference a single paper, do some homework from your mansion on the mountain.

        • Wirerowe

          On Route 35 changing the prevailing wage law would not matter if there are federal dollars in the project as Davis Bacon laws would still apply. The office building with only state money if bid out at market rather than prevailing wages would cost less and taxpayer should benefit by having their tax dollars go further. This would allow more infrastructure to be built with the same amount of dollars and make it more attractive to operate in a state where your tax dollars go further and you have more infrastructure

          • Aaron

            I don't know of any road in WV that is built without federal dollars.

  • THE MEB

    I disagree. Republicans need to keep the hammer down. The unions like the Democratic party in this state are on the skids. The voters didn't vote the Republicans, finally, in to be careful and don't sway the boat, they voted them in because they didn't like what the Democrats have done to their state in the last 80 or so years. They finally woke up to see that if WV doesn't change it's tactics then it will stay 49th or 50th in all the things that matter to people and businesses that are considering moving in or back.

    • wvu999

      Less than 40% of WV voted so WVians didn't really elect this people. They won by default

      • ViennaGuy

        wvu,

        Less that 50% of America voted for Bill Clinton - twice - so America didn't really elect him; he won by default.

        Less than 50% of America voted for Barack Obama - twice - so America didn't really elect him; he won by default.

        Do you see how empty that argument is?

        • grumpy ole' man

          Have you heard of a little thing called the electoral college??? The president is not elected by popular votes, in fact they mean nothing as the electors are actually free in most states to cast their votes for whoever they choose.

          Free civics lesson for you. Perhaps you would have never earned a high school diploma (assuming you did) if these bozos in Charleston have their way.

          • ViennaGuy

            - Free civics lesson for you. Perhaps you would have never earned a high school diploma (assuming you did) if these bozos in Charleston have their way. -

            grumpy,

            For your information, I have a high-school diploma and not one, but two college degrees. Don't preach to me about civics. I know full well how the Electoral College works; I am an advocate for it.

            My point, which you obviously missed, was this:

            wvu999 complaining that Republicans won by default because only 40% of West Virginians turned out to vote is the same as those people who complained that Democrats Clinton and Obama won with less than 50% of Americans turning out to vote in those elections (and I don't see you or wvu999 complaining about Clinton or Obama winning). The fact remains that the only votes which count are the ones which are cast; it doesn't matter how many turn out to vote, and there is no such thing as "winning by default" in contested races, which is what we had. Is that clear enough for you?

            It's funny how the people who complain about 40% of West Virginians voting in this past election certainly didn't complain in years past when the Democrats won elections with similar turnouts. I wonder why. Would you like to expound on that?

            If wvu999 wants to blame someone for the Republicans taking control of the Legislature, he has no further to look than the Democratic Party - not "Citizens United," not "the Koch brothers," not "big business," not "big pharma," not "Wall Street," not "a vast right-wing conspiracy." Remember, the Democrats controlled the Legislature for over 80 years in spite of those groups.

            Sour grapes, indeed.

  • Jeff

    Republicans are doing exactly what Democrats claimed they would if they were elected. They need to realize that West Vurginia still strongly supports unions and these social issues are going to cause them to only keep their majority for two years if they're not careful. West Virginia is still predominately hard working blue collar workers and if they start showing these pro Wall Street agendas like they have in Washington, West Virginians will kick them out on their asses!

    • ViennaGuy

      You're assuming that West Virginia will return to its blue-state past after just two years. At this point in time, I see no evidence of that happening, in part because West Virginia has been trending Republican for many years. Further, the idea that "blue-collar" and "Democrat" go hand-in-hand is no longer true. If it was true, the South would be a Democrat stronghold given the growth of blue-collar manufacturing jobs in that region.

    • WVworker

      I'll give it to 2016. Republicans will be out.