Senate willing to override governor's veto
After the appointment of a Republican to fill a vacancy in the state Senate, West Virginia looks increasingly likely to become the 26th right-to-work state. That would give West Virginia the same status as Indiana, Michigan, and Wisconsin, the three states that have enacted right-to-work laws in the last four years.
Senate Bill 1, a right-to-work bill to prevent unions from having workers fired for refusing to pay union fees, is under consideration in the West Virginia House of Delegates after it was approved on Jan. 21 by the West Virginia Senate.
If passed by the House, the bill is expected to be vetoed by Democrat Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin. Senate Majority Leader Bill Cole, a Republican, would need 18 votes to override a veto, but SB 1 passed in the Senate with only 17 votes.
The West Virginia Supreme Court ruled on Jan. 22 that Republicans must provide Tomblin with a list of three potential replacements for former Sen. Dan Hall, a Republican who resigned before the West Virginia Legislature’s session began Jan. 13. Sue Cline was sworn in as Hall’s replacement on Jan. 25 and is expected to join her fellow Republicans in voting to override a gubernatorial veto.
West Virginia Democratic Party leaders sued for the right to pick Hall’s replacement, since Hall was elected as a Democrat in 2012 before switching parties in 2014. State law, the party argued, suggested a Democrat should be chosen because a Democrat was most recently elected to the Senate seat.
With one justice abstaining, the state Supreme Court ruled 3-1 that the law is unambiguous in calling for Republicans to select the resigning Republican senator’s replacement.
“We reject petitioners’ reasoning because their reading of the statute is profoundly strained and constitutes a misreading of statutory language that is clear in its meaning,” Justice Margaret Workman wrote in the majority opinion.
The court’s ruling prevented a 17-17 deadlock in the state Senate, which would have likely killed any possibility of implementing right-to-work during this year’s 60-day legislative session.
With the question of the Senate appointment settled and with Sen. Cline seated, House approval seems to be the last remaining hurdle to right-to-work in West Virginia. Activists in favor of making their state a right-to-work state are proceeding accordingly.
“We will be focusing our grass roots on the House of Delegates, continuing to call lawmakers, send letters and use social media to encourage them to support worker freedom,” said Jason Huffman, state director of Americans for Prosperity for West Virginia. More than 60 percent of West Virginians support right-to-work, he said.