West Virginia’s Four Ballot Measures

Elections in the United States involve selecting the men and women who create and execute the laws and policies of the land.  However, we sometimes forget that state legislatures will sometimes refer an issue directly to the people for their approval or disapproval.  In West Virginia, citizens must ratify any changes to the state’s constitution.  This November, four important amendments will appear on the ballot.  Two of the four would bear serious repercussions if passed.  Let’s take a look … 

Amendment 1 —  Impeachment proceedings amendment

What is the future of the Mountain State?

This measure would amend the state’s constitution to read that no court in the state would have any authority to intervene in impeachment proceedings.  This stemmed from the impeachment of State Supreme Court judges a few years ago over the misuse of nearly $1 million (anyone remember the infamous $32,000 couch?). 

After the State Legislature initiated impeachment proceedings in 2018-19, the temporary officials on the State Supreme Court ruled that the Legislature was violating the separation of powers doctrine.  

This amendment would give sole authority of impeachment and trying impeached officials.  The benefit of this change would be that the courts cannot intervene to save an official who rightfully deserved to be impeached and removed from office.  In the cases of former State Supreme Court Justices, this would have been helpful.  However, the problem is that it would allow the Legislature to potentially impeach and remove officials on a whim with no other entity preventing them from using that power.  This means one party could potentially abuse that power.

Despite the potential for abuse, I would encourage West Virginians to vote FOR this measure.  Not voting for this amendment would potentially allow the Supreme Court to protect its own institution and shield its justices from removal for actions like misusing funds.  The link of the specific measure can be found here.

Amendment 2 — The State Property Tax Amendment

Without question, this ballot measure is the most controversial.  The state’s constitution currently prevents the Legislature from altering the forms of property subject to taxation.  Republicans within the Legislature wish to change the constitution so they may exempt  “… tangible machinery and equipment personal property directly used in business activity, tangible inventory personal property directly used in business activity …” from taxation.

Supporters of Amendment 2 claim that exempting these items from property taxes would alter the way potential businesses see West Virginia.  In theory, businesses would be more prone to establishing themselves within the state if various forms of equipment and inventory were subject to taxation.  The Republican members of the Legislature also claim a tax reduction would benefit consumers in this economic climate of high inflation.

While this iteration of supply side economics makes sense on paper, it leaves a looming question relating to the state’s budget.  How will the state government recoup lost tax dollars from cutting taxes?  The GOP doesn’t seem to have a response for this other than, “we have a plan.”   

The possibility of losing out on these tax dollars would create havoc for state emergency services, police protection, public education, and every other facet of state funds which trickle down to county and local governments. The estimated loss of revenue is approximately $500 million.  The West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy does not seem optimistic about the state’s ability to maintain its current services or the economic investment which might come from the tax cuts.

Governor Jim Justice (R) broke with his party and has encouraged citizens to vote against the measure.  For once, I agree with Big Jim.  Please vote AGAINST Amendment 2.  The edit to the constitution’s text can be found here.

Amendment 3 — Church Incorporation 

This would amend the state’s constitution to allow the Legislature to make laws regarding the incorporation of religious institutions.  This would permit churches and other religious groups to register as non-profit entities, entitling them to certain legal benefits / privileges.  Currently, West Virginia is the only state that does not permit this practice.  

The measure has support from members of the Legislature and is endorsed by the ACLU.  There is no discernible opposition from what I can tell.  Vote FOR this measure.  Here is the text of the measure.  

Amendment 4 — Education Policy Control

This measure would require that the State Board of Education submit its rules and policies proposals  to the State Legislature for its approval of those rules and policies.  Currently, the State BOE creates and implements its own rules and policies over education.

This measure creates a headache for schools in terms of taking power away from educational professionals and placing schools at the whims of legislators who are elected every two years. Supporters of the measure believe it makes education policies more accountable to the people.  

However, it’s important to note that the State BOE is already accountable to the people.  These individuals receive appointments from the governor, who is elected by the people.  

Republican supporters of this amendment are attempting to exert more control over education policy for political reasons rather than educational.  The ability to torpedo educational policies enacted by experts in the field acts as a political for Republicans.  They possess a supermajority in both houses of the Legislature and they want the ability to claim they are ‘protecting’ children from unpopular ideas or controversial books.  These members of the Legislature rail against concepts like critical race theory without ever studying them.  They also prefer a whitewashed form of history and government which ignores America’s past indiscretions and failures as a nation. 

Giving the Legislature the authority to approve, amend, or outright reject educational policies from the State BOE signals the governing authorities do not trust the very people tasked with educating children.  

Please vote AGAINST this power grab and allow experts in education to make decisions about our schools and students.  Feel free to examine the text of the amendment here.

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