The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

Local News

January 31, 2009

Proposal: Substitute Virginia’s code

One sheet of paper packs enough clout to revolutionize the way government is run in West Virginia.

What Delegate John Overington has in mind is a one-page bill that would substitute Virginia’s code for West Virginia’s, except for some minor alterations.

“We would just adopt Virginia’s statutes,” Overington, R-Berkeley, said. “By adopting Virginia’s laws, we would get capital punishment, right to work, tort reform — a whole raft of issues.”

Overington and some other members of the Republican caucus tried that tack a couple of years ago, prompting a humorous rejoinder from new Speaker Rick Thompson.

“We can pass that and go home,” Thompson, D-Wayne, quipped.

Overington, however, is serious, and intends to offer it again in the upcoming session.

“We would make adjustments in some areas where we’re not going to adopt their state flag, their state bird or their state tree or that type of thing,” he said.

Given the slim-and-none chance such legislation has of seeing the light of day, Overington is offering some backup bills, one at a time, that would make West Virginia the 23rd state with a right-to-work law and revive capital punishment in a limited form.

“When you talk to business consultants, they tell you that a lot of companies won’t even look at a state that doesn’t have right-to-work,” he said.

In the last gubernatorial race, Gov. Joe Manchin said no one had ever inquired about right-to-work and whether it was a factor in making decisions to locate a business here.

Overington says more than half of the business firms have done their research before reaching any such decisions and won’t consider West Virginia over its lack of such a law.

Allowed under the Taft-Hartley Act, right-to-work laws are on the books in largely southern and western states. Basically, they provide that employees cannot be coerced into joining a union or paying dues as a condition for holding a job.

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