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W.Va. Lawmakers Want More Control

Remember when West Virginia’s Republican lawmakers were proponents of small government and supporters of local control? That seems like a long time ago, and certainly is not the case in 2022.

This year, at least three bills that would wrestle control away from counties, cities and school boards and instead centralize it in Charleston have been introduced by Republican lawmakers.

One of the bills — House Bill 4071 — would prohibit schools, educational institutions and elected or appointed officials from imposing mask mandates on students or school employees. It would prohibit mandatory testing for asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic students and staff. It would prohibit quarantines or isolation of those who have a positive COVID-19 test.

It is an appalling attempt to snatch control away from those local people best equipped to make decisions. But Republicans had no qualms passing it through the House Education committee.

The voices of reason on this matter of state versus local control are coming from Democrats.

“I think this bill goes way too far,” said Delegate John Doyle, D-Jefferson. “This bill, I think, takes too many decisions that ought to be made particularly by public health officials away from those officials and I think that is a danger not only to the structure of our society, but a danger to our physical health.”

What did some Republicans on the committee have to say in defense? The most telling comment came from Delegate Heather Tully, R-Nicholas, who actually suggested that parents concerned about the elimination of mask mandates, testing and quarantine rules “could elect to send the child to a private school,” instead.

Unbelievable.

Other bills introduced this session that seek to centralize power in Charleston include HB 2202, the “Intrastate Commerce Improvement Act,” which would prohibit a county or municipality from passing any non-discrimination ordinance, such as was done in Wheeling in 2017.

The Republican-led measure would only allow for non-discrimination laws to be created by the Legislature.

Then there’s Senate Bill 132, which would require any municipality that has imposed a 1% sales tax — such as Wheeling and Moundsville — to reduce and fully eliminate its Business and Occupation tax within five years. The B&O is a major revenue source for all cities.

What’s going on here? These measures, no matter what lawmakers may claim, are not about masks, or non-discrimination laws, or taxes; instead, they’re about lawmakers telling us that they think they know best for all of West Virginia.

Didn’t we see how badly that failed when Democrats had control in this state for 80-plus years, turning it into a Charleston-centric cesspool?

Didn’t many of these same lawmakers run on a platform to get big government out of the way, to let cities and counties control their own destiny?

Should not that be what we expect of our elected leaders?

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