Guarding Against Stealth Legislation
The last couple of weeks during the West Virginia Legislature’s annual 60-day sessions can be chaotic, as lawmakers rush to complete action on important bills. But that also creates an opportunity for stealth legislation – bills intentionally introduced late in the session, in the hope they can be rammed through to enactment before anyone can do anything about them.
On Monday alone, with less than three weeks left in the session, 59 new bills were introduced in the House of Delegates. Among them were measures relating to abortion, methane testing in coal mines, state income tax refunds for people who started new jobs after Jan. 1 and custody of children by their grandparents. There was even a bill to establish “the state Bank of West Virginia.”
In some cases, there are reasonable explanations for late introductions of bills. For example, a flood insurance measure deals with a problem lawmakers became aware of just a few weeks ago.
But all too often, late introductions are on purpose. Bills were written weeks ago, then held until they could be sprung on lawmakers and the public with little time left in the session.
Until the legislative session ends March 8, Northern Panhandle delegates and state senators should be on guard against stealth bills. Attempting to limit thoughtful consideration of and public debate on a bill ought to be viewed as two strikes against it.