2014 Capitol Update Day Forty-Eight: Clinging to Power


Last week was the busiest week of the 2014 session so far on issues impacting faith, family and freedom. Our previous update detailed the efforts of the Republican minority leadership to move a pro-life bill forward through the House of Delegates by a rarely used procedure called a discharge motion. The surprise tactic by the minority caught the majority Democrats resting on their laurels and the motion barely failed in a tie. But that event exposed the bi-furcation within West Virginia’s Democrats. That rift is between the pro-abortion Delegates (30 or more) and a small handful of Democrats that need to appear as if they are pro-life to their Republican-leaning districts in order to stay in office.

For some time the state’s media outlets have provided cover for the majority party’s antics but the cat was let out of the bag last week. Several media sources reported on a three-hour Democrat-only meeting that included yelling and screaming and, according to some Democrat delegates, nearly broke out in fistfights multiple times.

A Democrat delegate from the house last week said that the pain-capable bill would pass the floor by perhaps even a 70-30 vote. So how in the world do we go from a 48 – 48 defeat last week on a pro-life bill to a forecast of a landslide victory on pretty much the same bill this week? The State Journal wrote about that this week and here’s what a commenter had to say:

So the Dems fail to advance this particular pro-life bill in 2012, 2013 and so far in 2014. But on February 11th the Republicans surprise motion to move this bill to the floor fails on a stunning tie vote with 48 Democrats voting to kill the forward motion on HB 2364. Pro-life groups like the Family Policy Council, West Virginians for Life and a growing militia of conservative bloggers and tweeters start to go after the “pro-life” Democrats who voted no. Stuff hits the fan. Dems scramble. So 6 days later on February 17th the Democrats replaced HB 2364 with a brand new bill called HB 4588 that does pretty much the same thing. HB 4588 was introduced, referred to the Health committee, got on the agenda, passed to Judiciary in less than sixty seconds, all in one day. It then passes Judiciary in less than thirty seconds with no discussion in either committee. That’s highly unusual.

For six years the Policy Council and pro-life West Virginian’s have begged the Democratic leadership to pass a pro-life bill. But the mood changed after all 46 pro-life Republican delegates voted yes on a pain-capable bill and embarrassed the Democrats. The moral high ground had been wrenched away from the dozen or so “pro-life” Dems that had voted no. And not being allowed to stand for it would certainly spell disaster in several conservative districts where these Democrats must explain their no vote to their pro-life communities.

So now the Democrats are backed into a corner. Many must now hold their pro-abortion noses and pass at least something pro-life to save face and hopefully cling to their ebbing majority in the House of Delegates this November. So they write a whole new bill? Out with the embarrassing pain-capable bill that recorded five Democrat sponsors voting no. That was just a bad dream, lets just forget all about that silly no vote. Now we’ll just replace that smelly old thing with a fresh new pro-life bill gutted of funding and with no pesky Republican sponsors.

The new pain-capable bill HB 4588 straight off the showroom floor has 11 Democrat sponsors, all polished up with a new air-freshener ready for the campaign trail this fall. But for the multitudes of West Virginia’s unborn perhaps in utero, it’s still too soon to celebrate. A deal’s been cut with the Senate leadership so they won’t take up the House’s 20-week abortion ban even if they pass it this week. Without a change of heart by Senate President Jeff Kessler and about seven more Democrat Senators the bill will die just like many of our newest citizens in their 39th week of life.

There’s lots of moving parts to this and we’ll update you later in the week so you can decide the laws that will and won’t govern your family.

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The Family Policy Council faithfully influences West Virginia’s laws, lawmakers and state elections to defend the constitutional right of religious freedom for families and churches. Family Policy Council of West Virginia is affiliated with Focus on the Family and CitizenLink.