Ready or Not, Here it Comes!

By John McFerrin

We are in the season of preparation.  Whether we use the Wal-Mart calendar (where we have been in full bore preparation for Christmas since at least October) or the Christian calendar (where we are at the beginning of Advent, the four Sundays before Christmas, the time of preparation for Christmas day and the Christmas season), this is a time of anticipation and preparation.

            Yet Christmas is not the only event for which preparation is required.  The Twelve Days of Christmas are barely over when we find ourselves face to face with a more ominous event: the opening of the 2020 West Virginia Legislative session on January 8, 2020.

Much of this issue of The Highlands Voice is devoted to that preparation.  There are several stories about proposals which may well be taken up by the Legislature.  Whether they are never taken up, taken up and immediately dropped, or actually become law depends upon a host of factors:  whether the Governor proposes bills that overshadow them; how much enthusiasm the Legislators (and particularly the powerful Legislators) have for the proposals; the effectiveness of the lobbyists both for and against the proposals; the visible enthusiasm of citizens for the proposals.

These are just the factors that are visible, the ones we know will make a difference in the fate of these bills.  Lurking in the background are questions of campaign financing, a system which can both generate immediate enthusiasm for a proposal or dampen any enthusiasm that may exist.  

Most of the lobbying for the West Virginia Highlands Conservancy is done by the lobby team of the West Virginia Environmental Council.  The Environmental Council has gone through an elaborate process of setting legislative priorities.  The lobby team hopes to spend its time advocating for the items on the list of legislative priorities that came out of that process.  

All these carefully laid plans could easily be upended if the Governor or some powerful Legislator proposes something contrary to the interests and values of the Environmental Council.  If that happens, the lobby team would shift gears and work to oppose that proposal.

So here we are.  The following pages have some of what might happen.  Nobody knows what will happen.  The only thing we can do is prepare the best we can and grab on for the ride.