Whatever happened to maintaining and improving secondary roads?
Whatever happened to ensuring that children in West Virginia’s public schools get the best possible education — so good that parents wouldn’t think about abandoning the public schools for private schools or homeschooling?
Whatever happened to making sure state-supported post-secondary education was available, affordable and effective?
Apparently these problems have been solved, as the West Virginia Legislature has paid scant attention to them in this regular session. The idea of providing parents with vouchers or other financial incentives to leave the public school system makes a person think legislators have given up on the idea of children getting a good education there.
A couple of years ago, Gov. Jim Justice made a good start on upgrading the state’s underfunded secondary road system, but since then it seems to have left his attention. Maybe the COVID-19 pandemic rearranged his priorities, but people who rely on the secondary road system still need roads that won’t tear up their cars and trucks. As they like to say, the state requires drivers to have road-worthy cars, but it’s slow to provide car-worthy roads.
The Republican supermajority in both houses of the Legislature could have tackled these questions this year, but instead it chose to focus on things no one outside the Capitol wanted or even thought about. Seriously, how many people were clamoring for higher sales taxes in exchange for lower income taxes? How many voters had the rulemaking authority of county boards of health as high on their list of concerns?
The problem with supermajorities at any level — state or national — is that they tend to ignore the concerns of the middle and focus on satisfying people on the edges. Forgetting the middle, they feel the need to make talk radio or woke websites happy. And they tend to arrange things in secret before the session starts so the voting public has little time to react. The fact the Capitol is closed off to the public this session further serves to cut legislators off from their constituents.
This late in the session, it’s too late to change the leadership’s priorities or the governor’s. Soon the gavels will fall for the last time, and the Senate president and the House of Delegates speaker will pronounce adjournment sine die — Latin for “without day,” meaning it’s over and done. Voters will look around and see nothing was done to improve their roads or their schools, and they will ask who the lawmakers were really working for this session.