The Associated Press
A ballot measure giving lawmakers more control over the state's judiciary budget was overwhelmingly backed by West Virginia voters on Tuesday, while another proposal regarding abortions appeared to be headed for approval.
With 41 of 55 counties reporting, the Secretary of State's Office reported that 73 percent of voters voted for Amendment 2, which would allow the Legislature to decide each year whether to reduce the state courts' budget, but not less than 85 percent of the previous year's budget. It also would require the Supreme Court's chief justice to answer budget questions before lawmakers.
Opponents have said the measure would infringe on the courts' independence. The ballot question was approved amid questions about the Supreme Court's spending practices, including lavish renovations to individual justices' offices. That questions lead to the resignation of two Supreme Court justices and the impeachment of four of them.
The other measure, Amendment 1, would allow lawmakers to restrict or ban taxpayer-funded abortions. As of press time, 52 percent of votes were for the amendment, while 48 percent of voters opposed it.
Earlier this year, the Legislature approved a resolution that says: "Nothing in this Constitution secures or protects a right to abortion or requires the funding of an abortion." It would authorize lawmakers to restrict or outlaw state funding for Medicaid abortions. Abortions would remain legal under federal law.
Opponents say it would put the issue in the hands of the Legislature, which could ban Medicaid-funded abortions in cases of rape, incest or when a woman or girl's health is at risk.
West Virginians for Life and the group "Yes On 1 WV" led the campaign in support of the initiative.
On its website, Yes On 1 WV argued that Amendment 1 is to return to the state legislature its appropriate responsibility for control over the funding of abortion. "... following passage of Amendment 1, women in WV will still have access to abortions under the federal constitution, as always. No rights will be taken away, but Amendment 1 will prevent future judges from 'finding' in the state constitution either abortion rights or tax funding of abortions."
"Vote No on 1 WV" headed the campaign in opposition to the measure. WV Free, which describes itself as "the state's leading reproductive health, rights and justice organization," as well as ACLU of West Virginia, the Women's Health Center of West Virginia and Planned Parenthood are among those in opposition.
WV Free has called Amendment 1 "an unprecedented attack on women's rights."