WVEC Action Alert

HB4615: An Update + Action Needed

West Virginia Environmental Council
West Virginia Environmental Council
Action Alert
 
Mar 5, 2020 View / Comment Online

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On Wednesday, HB4615, the anti-protest bill targeting the little guy standing up for their rights, was heard in Senate Judiciary after passing the House a few weeks ago. The bill was amended in the committee, lessening penalties, and making limited exceptions, but we still OPPOSE THIS BILL

To view the committee’s discussion and vote on the bill, click here. The conversation begins at 4:59 PM. We had testimonies from Neal Laferriere, Beth Laferriere, and Karan Ireland. 

Changes: Trespassing on a “critical infrastructure” is now a misdemeanor, with a fine of $250-$1000. If a person or organization conspires to trespass, it is now a misdemeanor, not a felony. The felony charge remains for damaging etc. a critical infrastructure remains. 

The bill disproportionately affects land owners where a pipeline right of way has been placed on their land. In this instance, the land owner still OWNS the land, while the corporation LEASES, yet the landowner is guilty of trespassing. For example, Becky Crabtree was arrested for protesting a pipeline on her family farm. Under this bill, the penalties would have been much harsher.

Protest was a foundational tenant for American democracy, and since our foundling days, protest has been essential in raising awareness about injustices to bring about social reforms. From the Sons of Liberty at the Boston Tea Party to Rosa Parks, our history is full of civil disobedience that shaped our country. 

This bill seeks to further marginalize and criminalize those who dare to try right wrongs. This bill seeks to protect corporations over people, aims to protect those whose pollution trespasses on public health and safety, whose pollution trespasses into our air, water, land, and bodies, and whose actions trespass upon our property rights, and who, with this bill seek to trespass on our right to protest those very trespasses.

Bills like HB 4615 have been popping up in State Houses around the nation. The templates for these types of bills come from a group called ALEC, American Legislative Exchange Council. The Koch brother billionaires are huge funders of ALEC. Many other corporations also fund ALEC.

WHAT NOW?

Now the bill heads to the Full Senate and likely will be on First reading today, Thursday. We believe this bill will come down to the wire on Saturday night. 

We urge you to reach out to the full senate and urge rejection of this bill. Make your voices heard and stand up for all West Virginian citizens, who matter more than large corporations. Find phone numbers and emails here.

We are prepared for several outcomes of this bill, most likely a Conference Committee, as the House will have to concur with the Senate changes to the bill. We will keep you updated!  

Mar 13 2020  Newsletter article
Action Needed – Tell Governor Justice to VETO HB4615
Feb 14 2020  Newsletter article
HB4615 – ALEC Funded Anti-Protest Bill Passes House

7 Comments

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  1. For the citizens, protest is often the only recourse, and sometimes the last resort to the taking of private land for corporate gain. It is wrong to limit or criminalize protest.
    The pipelines are a prime example of the misuse of eminent domain.
    Eminent domain was initially intended to serve the PUBLIC good.
    How else can a citizen defend their own property, if not through protest?

  2. Government should be protecting us! Not the other way around. This bill flies in the face of democracy. When people protecting their own property from environmental devastation are put in jail,
    We are in a fascist country.

  3. Unfortunately our regulatory agencies are now in the hands of the corporations and they are no longer serving citizens, their constitutional rights and protecting the resources we all need to live. Protest is the last response when people are not being heard through the public process of the regulatory agencies. It is only through protest that change ever happens. It is the end of what little democracy we have left if we criminalize it.

  4. This bill seems to go again the right to free speech.

  5. The right to protest the taking of private property is a control to assure that a government will not and cannot mandate without
    a fair hearing. Corporate control and greed will arise if we the people cannot speak against any issues that affect us. Freedom of speech must never disappear from our lives. If that fundamental right is ever taken away then our freedom is gone too. God bless America where freedom stands strong.🙏🙏🇺🇸🇺🇸

  6. We must not accept this slow taking of our rights. Every day it is one more thing, piece by piece, shackling us and diminishing our power. This is moving in a very dangerous direction.

  7. The trespass is in so-called eminent domain wherein there is no “public good”, only corporate profit involved.

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