TODAY, Tuesday, February 21st the West Virginia Faith Table will be remembering John R. Lewis, a statesman and life-long advocate for democracy and voting rights on the occasion of his birthday. Join WVFT on social media in recognizing the life and legacy of John R. Lewis (February 21, 1940 -July 17, 2020) and stay tuned for upcoming ways to honor his legacy of ‘good trouble’.
Election & Courts Legislative Update
The WV Association for Justice has flagged two bills related to our civil justice system that are worth watching.
On Monday morning the House Judiciary Committee held a public hearing on HB 3270. The folks at 60 Days summarize for us:
- HB 3270 would “amend the ‘deliberate intent’ statute to limit noneconomic damages to $250,000.”
- ‘Deliberate intent’ is part of worker’s compensation law that gives workers a pathway to hold companies accountable for ignoring safety hazards that lead to severe injury or death.
- As the Charleston Gazette-Mail [reported on Friday], “An attempt to remove the ability of West Virginia workers and their families to file deliberate intent claims, HB 4394, failed in last year’s regular session.”
In the Senate, the Judiciary Committee is considering SB 560, which would place a $1 million cap on damages for victims of physical, mental and sexual abuse in our schools. This is because the Board of Risk and Insurance Management had to raise premiums for liability insurance at an insane rate for county boards of education because of cases against public and private schools. WV MetroNews has more here. The bill is on the Senate Judiciary agenda TODAY 2/21.
On Friday, the Senate Judiciary Committee advanced four election bills from the Secretary of State’s office on Friday:
- SB 620 – Increasing maximum number of registered voters per precinct and distance between polling places
- SB 631 – Updating administration, funding, and requirements for federal elections held in WV
- SB 641 – Clarifying when magistrate vacancies shall be filled
- SB 644 – Updating contested elections procedures
SB 620, which would give county commissions and clerks greater discretion to consolidate precincts, is concerning because it has the potential to create new barriers to voting and exacerbate existing ones. As our friends at the League of Women Voters of WV highlighted in a recent op-ed, the reasons West Virginians cited most often for not voting were:
- Too busy/had a conflicting work, family or school schedule
- Illness or disability (own or family member)
- Transportation problems
Many voters are already traveling longer distances as a result of redistricting. Without other measures to expand and improve ballot access – such as giving all voters the option of voting absentee – the result of SB 620 could be voter suppression. As usual, the Legislature has confidence in our county clerks, but mostly disdain for voters.
That’s all for now. We’ll update you next week on these and the other election and court bills we wrote about previously.