Exponent Editorial, March 4, 1999

When lawmakers act like children

    It oftentimes seems that the Capitol building is more of a daycare center than the center of our state's government. Case in point: Lawmakers acting like little children just because some elected officials exercised their right to free speech.
    Earlier this week, the State Troopers Association took out full- page ads in the Charleston newspapers urging readers to lobby their lawmakers to give pay raises to state troopers. Attaching their names to the ad were state Treasurer John Perdue, state Auditor Glen Gainer and Attorney General Darrell McGraw.
    The Senate Finance Committee, in response, began working on cutting the budgets of the treasurer, auditor and attorney General by $400,000 each. The committee's chairman, Sen. Oshel Craigo, D-Putnam, said that if the three want troopers to have a raise, the money can come out of their budgets.
    What makes this so sad is that the committee appears to be serious. Such retaliation is childish at best and downright mean-spirited at worst.
    Some lawmakers, it seems, forget that we have a First Amendment. If Gainer, Perdue and McGraw want to come out in favor of pay raises for state troopers, then that is their right.
    "I've heard comments from numerous members who were really upset," said House Finance Committee Chairman Harold Michael, D-Hardy. "Elected officials lobbying colleagues in newspaper ads 'is just not done,'" he said.
    It's almost laughable that some legislators would be offended at the idea of being lobbied inasmuch as they're under the thumb of so many special interests to begin with.
    Certainly people can agree to disagree. The question of whether or not the money is there for the raises is a valid one. And intelligent, mature people can have opposing viewpoints. But to vow to slash the budget of someone who takes a stand on an issue is not only juvenile behavior, it's a little disconcerting. Such actions are to be expected in Third World nations, not in the West Virginia Legislature.
    Mr. Craigo and his buddies better get a grip. We sent them to Charleston to do the people's business, not to engage in temper tantrums.

Today's editorial reflects the opinion of the Exponent editorial board, which includes William J. Sedivy, John G. Miller, Julie R. Cryser, James Logue, Kevin Courtney and Cecil Jarvis.

Telegram Editorial, March 4, 1999

March primary would worsen last-minute chaos in Legislature

    West Virginia's primary election should not be moved from May to March. Here are three reasons why:
-Moving the primary to the second Tuesday in March would mean holding an election while the state Legislature is in session.
    That is a bad idea. Not because it would be unfair to incumbents, who would have to handle legislative duties and re-election campaigns at the same time. (It's amusing to hear incumbents) they go into every campaign with a stack of government checks to hand out (complain about fairness in elections.)
    No, it is a bad idea to hold the primary while the Legislature is in session because doing so would only worsen the customary end-of-session chaos. The Legislature has a habit of creeping along for 59 days, then going into a bill-passing frenzy on the final night of the legislative session. That is a poor way to conduct the people's business: It leads to missed bills, mistakes in bills and the need to hold special sessions to correct errors. All those problems would only worsen if state lawmakers were preoccupied with running re-election campaigns during the legislative session.
-Moving the primary would lengthen state election campaigns. First, incumbents would start their primary campaigns before the legislative session begins in January. Then, after the March primary, candidates would have two extra months to indulge in campaign excesses -overspending, slinging mud and polluting roadsides with campaign signs. As state GOP Chairman David Tyson put it: "Making the campaign process longer is not a good thing."
-Moving the primary would do nothing to increase West Virginia's clout in presidential primaries. Senate Majority Leader Truman Chafin claims it would. He harkens back to the glorious 1960 primary when West Virginia helped John F. Kennedy win the Democratic presidential nomination. He suggests that West Virginia could reclaim that clout by moving its primary to Super Tuesday, when numerous southern states hold their primary elections.
    But Chafin is wrong. The 1960 primary was unique: It was a one-time test of whether a primarily Protestant state would vote for a Catholic presidential candidate. It is not going to happen again. With only five electoral votes, West Virginia is just too small to play a big role in presidential primary politics.
    The state Senate has already approved moving the primary to March. The House of Delegates should not do the same. The people of West Virginia would be best served by keeping the primary in May and keeping it focused on state and local issues.

Tim Langer
Telegram Editorial Board member


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