Democratic Candidate 'Dragged' from Legislature For Exposing Corruption 'Guilt'

Democratic Candidate ‘Dragged’ from Legislature For Exposing Corruption ‘Guilt’

West Virginia House of Delegates security personnel forcibly removed a woman from the House floor on Friday. Lissa Lucas went to the state capital in Charleston to participate in public testimony regarding a piece of pending legislation. The bill that was under debate, HB 4268, would weaken consent laws and facilitate drilling by energy companies on private land. Current law requires ALL landowners of a shared parcel to consent. The proposed legislation would reduce that to 75% of owners.

What did a woman like Ms. Lucas do to warrant being dragged away by the arms by two male security personnel? She used her allotted testimony time to read a list of donations that each lawmaker on the panel had received from oil and gas companies. Apparently, in the minds of the committee members, publicly airing such information (which is openly available anyway) amounts to “personal attacks or comments” about the House Judiciary Committee members.

Is public comment now limited only to those Speaking in favor?

Video of the incident is below, although the audio is not very high quality.

HB 4268 is ostensibly an infrastructure and jobs bill. The sponsors of the legislation no doubt thought it was a handy workaround to include such a change tucked into a more significant bill rather than introduce it as a stand-alone item. On her website, Ms. Lucas describes the tactics proposed in the bill as “forced pooling” and “right to trespass.” Perhaps Ms. Lucas can change those less-than-forthright tactics for implementing policy if she makes it to Charleston next January? Yes, she is a candidate for the 7th House of Delegates District in West Virginia. She is running unopposed in the Democratic primary.

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Ms. Lucas’ political future aside, she raised some valid points. She wasted no time when taking the microphone:

“I have to keep this short because the public only gets a minute and 45 seconds while lobbyists can throw a gala at the Marriott with whiskey and wine and talk for hours to the delegates.” 

“The people who are going to be speaking in favor of this bill are all going to be paid by the industry, the people who are going to be voting on this bill are often also paid by the industry.”

Political website Common Dreams reported Lucas was referring to the Whiskey, Wine, and Policy Winter Legislative Reception at the Charleston Marriot Hotel. The event was hosted February 7 by the Shale Energy Alliance, a pro-fracking advocacy and lobbying group.

Lucas was silenced, then removed, but nevertheless, she persisted

After her removal from the chamber, Ms. Lucas posted the full text of the prepared remarks she intended to read. They can be found on here website. She also raised a question as to why the assembled lawmakers felt HER reading of THEIR donors constituted a personal attack?

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“Refuse any donation that, if someone mentions it, makes you feel personally attacked. Because that’s not an attack. That’s guilt. And you SHOULD be feeling that. Let that guilt about who you’re really working for inform your votes; don’t let the corporate money do it.”

In an interview with Newsweek, Ms. Lucas explained the opposition position in more detail:

“West Virginia property rights are split–you might own surface rights, but someone else might own your mineral rights. At the moment, we have the right to say no or hold out for a better deal. This bill is essentially giving corporations the ability to enact eminent domain.”

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in West Virginia, change will need to come at the polls

The bill passed the House Judiciary Committee on a party-line vote, with 16 Republicans in favor and 9 Democrats opposed. It now moves to the full House and Senate where it is expected to pass. Per the Newsweek interview, West Virginia Governor Jim Justice (R) has indicated he will sign the bill into law if presented.

Featured Image screenshot, WV Legislature.