Legislature overrides vetoes of right to work, prevailing wage repeal bills
By Pamela Pritt Register-Herald Reporter
A day after Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin vetoed legislation high on the GOP agenda, the state Legislature took action to override his disapproval of the measures.
The vote to override in the State Senate was an 18-16 party line vote on both right to work, SB1, and the repeal of the state's prevailing wage rate, HB 4005.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch Carmichael, R-Jackson, said the measures were "not a right wing conspiracy."
Carmichael pointed out state statistics that say West Virginia has lot more population and more jobs than any other state in the nation.
"We have the lowest income per capita in America," he added.
Democrats spoke against the override to no avail.
Sen. Ron Miller, D-Greenbrier, said senators should stop and think before they cast a vote to override Tomblin's veto, and about the consequences of their actions, particularly the repeal of prevailing wage, which many construction company owners opposed.
"We think of the salaries of the workers, we think of the small construction companies we are about to destroy," Miller said.
Every Democrat in the House of Delegates voted against the override of both bills. Eight Republicans crossed the aisle for a 54-43 vote on the right to work veto override (three members not voting), and 54-44 vote on the veto override of the repeal of prevailing wage.
A majority of members of both chambers can override a veto according to the state's constitution.
In his veto message Thursday, Tomblin said right to work is not necessary in West Virginia.
"I do not believe West Virginia needs a right-to-work law, a law that would lead to little if any economy growth and may lower the wages of West Virginia workers,” the governor said.
On the repeal of prevailing wage, Tomblin said because new calculations were devised last year, the state has not had time to know if they work.
"We don’t need to pass bills that lower the wages of West Virginia workers and do little, if anything, to stimulate our economy,” Tomblin said.
But Senate President Bill Cole, R-Mercer, stood firm that right to work would "move our state forward."
"I'm relieved to have it behind us," he said. "We have to do something different if we, in fact, want those different results. My goodness, it's time for different results; we have to put West Virginians back to work. We have to increase the quality of life for the people that live here and we've got to quit saying goodbye to our young people. I believe these things are part of a bigger package to make West Virginia a place where businesses, where job creators want to locate."
Right to Work will become law on July 1; the repeal of the state's prevailing wage, the hourly rate paid to workers on a public project, takes effect in May.