And They’re Off !!

With its decision today, the WVa Supreme Court raised and fired the starter pistol on the horse race for governor.  The Legislature will no doubt erase the present party convention mechanism to select party candidates and call for a primary probably in May.  The odds on favorites right now are Betty Ireland (R) and Natalie Tennant (D).  It will be unusual and odd to watch a one race election unfold across the state.  Candidates no doubt are rushing to hire consultants, make phone calls, determine the message and start raising money. 

It is intriguing that the court’s opinion was written by Justice Benjamin who himself was the subject of an important US Supreme Court election law decision recently.

The odd dynamic is how the Legislature will function this session.  Remember the three way gun fight in “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly“?  Remember we have three announced gubernatorial candidates in charge:  Speaker Thompson, Acting President Kessler and Acting Governor Tomblin.  Please do not ask me who is the good, who is the bad and who is the ugly.  But presumably if any of them can “shoot” the other whenever “high noon” comes about Legislatively things will get so interesting.

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Predictions and Little Known Fact

1.  On the gubenatorial succession issue, I predict the West Virginia Supreme Court will rule that a special election needs to be held and that unless the Legislature passes a set of rules to do so they will take up the case after the session is over and set the rules themselves.

2.  Rich Rod will file for personal bankruptcy.

3.  WVU will finish second in the Big East basketball tournament and will make it to the Sweet Sixteen.

4.  West Virginia‘s economy will outperform 80% of other states.


Little known fact:  The office of Governor in West Virginia is a pretty weak position legislatively.  If the Senate and the House pass a bill and the Governor vetoes it, do you know what percentage of the House and Senate must vote to override the veto in order to make the bill law?  Two-thirds?  No.  The answer is A SIMPLE MAJORITY – the same vote total that passed the bill in the first place!  (In the case of the budget the veto override is two-thirds.)


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Earmarks – The West Virginia Solution

The U.S. Congress is considering eliminating earmarks – the ability of a Senator or a Congressman to mandate that federal money will be spent in a given manner in his or her state.  Presumably, the argument against “earmarking” is twofold.  One criticism is that it results in stupid expenditures (the bridge to nowhere, studies of butterfly populations, etc.).  Secondly, it results in some states (West Virginia when Byrd was alive) getting much more than others.

West Virginia had the same sort of dynamic in the “budget digest” where a few legislators allocated budget funds as a perk to those in power.  Pursuant to a court decision, our legislature changed the system.  We now have community participation grants.  When I was in the legislature that meant a Delegate or Senator could allocate state funds to a given project or organization but there was a dollar limit to how much anyone person could allocate and it had to fall into certain broad categories. 

This is a good system.  Without earmarks, the budget puts “site specific” and “timing” decisions on expenditures in the hands of the bureaucracy and the executive branch.  Unlimited “earmarking” leads to the abuses, real or perceived, discussed above.  The West Virginia solution is to allow the practice but limit the amount.

If every Congressperson can allocate up to X dollars then because the amount it limited it is more likely than not that only worthwile projects will be funded.  This also eliminates the “Bryd problem” because everyone gets the same earmarking authority so the expenditures done in this manner will “match” the population.


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