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Steve Novotney Says, "Time to Pray for W.Va. Lawmakers"

I was asked this week by one of our local lawmakers if I were planning to travel to Charleston for a couple of days to speak directly to the elected and to those attempting to sway the legislators.

My reply: "I cannot put myself under that dome if I think my head will explode."

The statement was in jest, sort of, because of the reference to an exploding skull when I should have simply said that I might lose my temper with the lack of education responsibly gathered about medicinal marijuana by the members of the West Virginia House of Delegates and because Speaker Tim Armstead places his religious beliefs in front of his legislative duties far too often. When he represented only a single vote out of Kanawha County it was far easier to digest than now when he, alone, controls the Republican agenda in the House.

I'd be the guy who asked Speaker Armstead, "Do understand PTSD and the reported benefits medicinal marijuana would provide veterans and others who suffer from the disorder?"

And I would ask, "Are you aware of what THC is and how little of it would be involved with the formula for medicinal marijuana?"

Another inquiry: "Ever hear of heroin? Do you understand medicinal marijuana could replace opioid medications that are highly addictive and often lead people to heroin?"

Then, after listening to Big Pharma lobby-assisted talking points, I would ask, "What do you think Jesus would do?"

With Armstead, it seems, the "M" word forces his head to turn away from even reading the legislation introduced by Sen. Richard Ojeda, a Democrat out of Logan County. Sadly, the two senators representing the Wheeling area failed to sign on as co-sponsors even though their district has been riddled with drug abuse, overdose deaths, and Narcan distribution to local public school systems.

Sen. Ojeda's proposal, if passed, would create a Cannabis Commission, establish the processes for physician certification, licensing growers and dispensary agents, and it would create badly needed new revenue for the state of West Virginia.

Certainly, Speaker Armstead has heard about the $500 million budget hole, right?

But, instead of investigating this proposal and others that would generate new dollars, the House leader is red-inking services and contributions offered to West Virginians while determined, apparently, to cut a half-billion dollars from the state budget. It's irresponsible, in my opinion, and for that matter, and not very Christian to erase

In reaction to the state's credit rating downgrade announced Tuesday by Moody's Investor Service, Gov. Jim Justice released the following statement to media outlets across West Virginia:

"This just makes me sick," said Governor Jim Justice. "It's going to get worse if we don't act. I didn't create this mess, but I will fix it. There is no chance we can cut our way out of this. I've put together a plan that will put West Virginia on a path to prosperity. We need to pass the Save Our State Budget to create jobs and fix our state's finances."

The governor's plan, presented to lawmakers during his State of the State Address, was a bit out of touch to common West Virginians because the revenue generation would have forced hardship on those belonging to the middle class and for the poverty-stricken, but I agreed with the approach of creating the new streams of cash to offset the steady decreases in severance taxes produced by the coal industry. The days of depending on that particular fossil fuel to fill the coffers are over and, despite the past two years with the majorities inside both chambers, Republicans like Speaker Armstead once again appear to be scrambling for budgetary solutions.

That's likely because most GOP members in the West Virginia Legislature refuse to listen to any ideas proposed by the body's Democratic membership. It would make sense if they did, of course, but that would mean acknowledging such individuals exist. That's the game, and it was played by the same rules while Democrats were in charge of setting the agenda.

But the issues concerning revenue are not going away, and this year's crisis is proof of that fact. Making budget cuts where unnecessary monies are being expended makes sense, yes, but how can those dollars be identified without thoroughly updated audits?

Now, some solutions being discussed make sense, especially when a state legislature collectively owns no idea about how many vehicles have been purchased by the taxpayers during the past 10 years, but how in the world does eliminating arts education, assigning The Bible as the state's "official book," and allowing more water pollution in our creeks, streams, and rivers help attract more residents to West Virginia?

Proposals like those three are why I believe now is actually when prayer enters into the regular-session equation … for me, anyway.

Why?

Well, because I feel it's time to begin praying for Speaker Armstead and these lawmakers to gain some common sense and to work for the people instead of outside interests.

We live here, and we reside in a beautiful state, but some legislators are making it appear pretty darn ugly.

Hail Mary, full of Grace …

Categories: Commentary