West Virginia Senate Majority Leader Ryan Ferns wields significant power in the West Virginia legislature. As Majority Leader, he serves as a spokesperson for his party and as a “liaison for the leadership will full membership and members” of his party (read more about WV legislative floor leaders here).
Among his other duties, Ferns is also tasked with:
- Communicating and promoting his party’s positions on a bill
- Delaying consideration of a bill
- Speeding up consideration of a bill
- Moving to recess or adjourn the Senate
On Thursday, March 1, the West Virginia House voted 98-1 in favor of legislation negotiated between Governor Justice and public employees’ union leadership which would raise education workers’ and state troopers’ salaries 5%. That same day, instead of voting on the bill immediately to help end the statewide school closures, the senate voted 20-14 to send the bill to the Senate Finance Committee.
On two occasions since that vote, Minority Leader Roman Prezioso has made motions to discharge the pay raise legislation out of Senate Finance for consideration before the full senate. Ryan Ferns has moved twice to table a full senate vote on the bill– and each time the senate has voted in favor of keeping the pay-raise bill hidden away in committee.
In his public role as a liaison between the Republican party and the citizens of West Virginia, he has been glib and dismissive about teachers and public employees’ concerns. For example, instead of working with state leadership to end the pay-raise standoff– by encouraging votes on negotiated legislation– he chooses to post defensive infographics on social media with claims about how helpful the senate has been so far. In the face of public criticism, Ferns has even claimed to forget one of his own grade school teachers.
Many people have been wondering why Ferns is blocking action on legislation which thousands of people across the state support– legislation which could potentially end the 55 counties’ school closures and get kids back in the classroom, or which could help fund employee insurance and compensation. He seems to be indicating that senate leadership is invested in slowing down the process to avoid being “wreckless.”
Some speculate that he is acting on the behalf of his campaign donors rather than the people of West Virginia.
We decided to investigate those donors, and here is what we found. Below are the top five traceable groups who have funded Ryan Ferns’ time in office. We’ve added a sixth category– candidate contributions and self-funding– simply because it represents so much of Ferns’ total campaign donations. Anyone willing to spend over $200,000 trying to get a Senate seat has earned an extra bar.
Ryan Ferns put a lot of his own money into becoming a West Virginia Senator, but is he working for you? You be the judge.