CHARLESTON – The most stunning moment among many in the 2015 legislative session occurred when the Republican forced-pooling bill — pushed by Speaker Tim Armstead himself, went down on a 49-49 tie vote late Saturday night.
The House Chamber erupted as Democrats joined with some self-styled libertarians to defeat the Republican leadership’s property-grabbing bill.
Forced pooling allows gas companies to take your mineral rights whether you want to sell them or not. Because people can’t come into your living room and take your TV and sofa and then name their own “fair price,” they shouldn’t be able to do that to your land or minerals.
But a lot of oil and gas lobbyists were giving a lot of money to this new group of Republicans and asking day-in and day-out for the right to take what you’ve got, whether you like it or not.
They even had expensive radio ads — the hallmark of the session has been the multi-million dollar advertising campaigns saying that taking your property without your consent is some kind of huge favor to you. “Fair pooling,” they called it (must have worked hard on that). The lobbyists had got their way on your legal rights and on coal miners safety rights, so they had to be shocked to not get their way on something.
That’s why the House Chamber sat stunned, and then cheered, as a Republican effort to sell the rights of ordinary folks down the river finally failed. Everyone had to be amazed that industry had failed to work up enough support to get what it wanted on something. Canceling the $100,000 breakfast turned out to be a mistake, in the sense that they just didn’t sweeten the pot enough to get this deal done.
All I’ve heard since from Republicans is not to worry — they’ll be back for forced pooling. And they surely will be. Money will keep talking and the effort to take some more rights from regular people will be resuming in ten months’ time.
Now, Republicans did make a show of favoring gun rights — if you think concealed carry without licensing or training is wise. But imagine this for a second, if you liked that gun bill: suppose money came down to the Capitol and offered to buy our Second Amendment Rights?
Suppose business and industry decided “constitutional carry” is bad for business? What makes you think Republicans wouldn’t be selling?
Do you really think your gun rights are safe with them? Just wait until the bidding starts and see. Nobody’s rights are safe with the new, corporate-controlled GOP. Our property rights won for a day, but “they’ll be back” and powerful people with money will be with them.
Regan is a Wheeling attorney and vice chairman of the West Virginia Democratic Party. This column originally appeared on www.homeyesterday.com.