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
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,'"
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
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
-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.
Telegram Editorial Board member