Delegate’s bill calls for secession election
Delegate Larry Kump has introduced a bill in the West Virginia Legislature calling for residents of Morgan, Berkeley and Jefferson counties to hold a referendum on whether they want to secede from West Virginia and join Virginia.
Kump, a Republican, lives in Falling Waters, Berkeley County, but his district includes several precincts in southern Morgan County.
House Bill 2698 would be a non-binding referendum in which the voters of Morgan, Berkeley and Jefferson counties could show whether they wish to remain as part of West Virginia or join Virginia.
“Virginia treats its citizens much better” than West Virginia does, Kump told Associated Press in a widely circulated article late last week.
“Many if not most, if not a super-majority of people, are aware of the differences in economic prosperity between here and surrounding states,” Kump said.
In an email message, he said his purpose in introducing the measure was “to take decisive and deliberate action to lift our citizens out of poor wages, scarce jobs and reduced personal liberty. West Virginia has abundant talent and natural resources, but our state government policies stifle our prosperity and freedom.”
County bears costs
Under the proposed bill, the county commissions of the three counties would be responsible for setting the election date and paying any costs.
The ballot would offer a choice of “for” or “against” secession from West Virginia.
Introduced on January 21, the bill is now in the House Judiciary Committee. If it should be voted out of the committee, it would then go to the House Finance Committee before it could reach the House of Delegates floor for a full vote.
None of the other legislators representing Morgan County responded to emails requesting comment.
No local support
Morgan County Commission president Stacy Dugan told The Morgan Messenger that she couldn’t believe Kump had introduced such a bill.
Dressed in West Virginia sweatpants and sweatshirt, Dugan said, “We are true blooded West Virginians and Charleston needs to hear that.”
While she doubted that Kump’s bill had a chance of passing, she wondered what would happen if Virginia wasn’t interested in having the Eastern Panhandle returned to the Old Dominion.
Dugan was concerned that Kump would be seen by state officials
as representing a majority of Morgan Countians and that this would hurt the county’s efforts in Charleston.
“He’s supposed to be there to support us, but he’s making it more difficult for us,” she said.
Commissioner Brad Close said the Legislature’s attention should be drawn to the needs of the Eastern Panhandle, but added: “I do not agree with this bill and the approach taken to raise this awareness.”
“We are West Virginians, we will always be West Virginians, and simply because we may not agree with the way we are being treated does not mean that we cut our ties and leave.” Close said.
He compared the bill to “telling your parents thanks for raising me, thanks for all of your time, but now I want new parents. In my opinion, not a good idea.”
“Quite honestly, I find Larry Kump’s bill to be so ridiculous that it is hardly worthy of any comment,” said Commissioner Brenda Hutchinson.
Associated Press quoted Delegate John Doyle of Jefferson County as saying that while Panhandle residents may joke about seceding, “there are very few people who actually want to do it.”
“That is worse than nonsense,” Doyle said. “It comes across to a lot of West Virginians as if people of the Eastern Panhandle are saying, ‘We’re too good for you, we’re better than you.’ That’s not how we feel.”
Kump, in turn, labeled both Dugan and Doyle as advocates of the kind of policies he blames for West Virginia’s economic problems.
Kump, who was elected in November, is retired after a career that included work in public administration, criminal justice, full-time lobbying and counseling sex offenders as a therapist.