CHARLESTON — A statewide conservative policy organization says enough West Virginia legislators have committed to a special session designed to approve right-to-life legislation that such a session is “imminent.” Meanwhile, Governor Earl Ray Tomblin has urged lawmakers not to call themselves into special session on the issue.
The Family Policy Council of West Virginia, says it is “very near the minimum threshold needed on the historic petition put forth by West Virginians for Life.”
The most recent regular session of the legislature approved what became known as the Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act. Essentially, the bill would have made it more difficult for an abortion to be performed past 20 weeks of gestation. While the bill did not outlaw such abortions in cases where a physician determined the mother’s life would be jeopardized, it did include watered-down criminal penalty provisions for doctors who perform abortions without cause past 20 weeks. Tomblin vetoed the bill, claiming it was unconstitutional.
According to Family Policy Council President Allen Whitt,enough senators to call a special session have already signed the petition. He claims “only a couple more delegate signatures are needed for the West Virginia House … to meet the minimum requirement to demand the special session.”
Whitt added, “by the end of the (Memorial Day) weekend or shortly after, we expect to reach the minimum number of 82 signatures required.”
Whitt said at that time, West Virginians for Life Legislative Coordinator John Carey will call a press conference to announce the names of those who have signed the petition. That number of signatures from legislators would force the governor to call a special session to either override the veto of House Bill 4588 or enact new legislation, according to Whitt.
Many legislative observers believe a legislative veto override is not legal since the legislature adjourned in March. Others argue that there is no specific provision in the state constitution limiting the time whereby an override can be made.
Whitt said a simple majority of the legislature is required to override a veto. In the House, that would be 51 members and the Senate would need 18 votes.
But Tomblin reacted strongly to Whitt’s claims. In a statement issued late Thursday, the governor said, “As I stated on March 28, the language contained in House Bill 4588 is unconstitutional. I encourage legislators not to call themselves into a special session to revisit this same issue. Should members of the legislature take the same action again, I will again veto the bill. As I said on March 28, I am proud of my pro-life record, and I would be happy to work with members of the legislature during the 2015 regular session to pass a bill that is constitutional.”
The Family Policy Council claims to “positively influence state laws, state lawmakers, and state elections to defend the constitutional right of religious freedom for the state’s families and churches.”