|The House Judiciary Committee considered a strike-and-insert amendment to SB7, the bill placing additional limitations on political activity by public employees. Specifically, in addition to any other restrictions on political activity by state and federal law, a public employee or a public official may not engage in political activity:· While on duty; or
· While using any vehicle owned or leased by the State of West Virginia or any agency or political subdivision thereof.
The strike-and-insert amendment removed the section that contained legislative findings.
There were several questions surrounding “political speech” and whether it violates the First Amendment to the US Constitution that ensures free speech. And there was discussion regarding determinations of whether an elected member of a public works office (Auditor, Treasurer, Secretary of State, etc) is performing duties of the office or engaging in political activity.
The committee amended the bill to remove the exemptions for judicial officers and employees of the judicial branch, and removes the requirement that a publicly elected member of the Board of Public Works who is engaging in political activity shall announce that he or she is engaging in political activity and not official activity. The bill will be reported to the House as amended with the recommendation that it pass.