West Virginia Legislature

Legislature wraps up long list of bills in long second day of special session

MORGANTOWN – It was a herky-jerky day at the Capitol on Tuesday, as the House and Senate worked to wrap up the special session that began Monday.

The House started its 9 a.m. Floor session at about 10:30, and with periodic breaks, worked through its list of bills just before 6:30. It then took another break to wait for Senate action on its bills.

While the Senate was set to start at noon, it waited until the House concluded and then plowed through the bills that came over – finishing at about 7:45 and taking a break to await possible House action on two bills it amended and sent back.

Two higher education bills drew the most House debate.

SB 1029 devotes $25 millon to Pierpont Community and Technical College for a new hangar at the North Central West Virgnia Airport in Bridgeport for its avionics – aircraft mechanic – program, which has outgrown the current hanger it shares with Fairmont State’s pilot program.

Delegate Clay Riley, R-Harrison, said FSU’s program has 40 students while Pierpont’s has 120 and can’t expand in the existing space. Business growth at the airport holds the promise for 800 mecahnic jobs – 275 of them immediately.

Delegate Brandon Steele, R-Raleigh, was the first to object, saying Raleigh County voters didn’t send him to Charleston to give $25 million to Pierpont when there’s a corrections crisis that needs money.

Objections from others included parochial division, lack of understanding of the bill and lack of urgency to decide in a two-day session.

Supporters cited potential job, economic and industrial growth.

Riley said, “It’s a school that facilitates jobs and good employment for blue collar workers, the fabric of West Virginia.”

It passed 67-30 and returned to the Senate where they re-passed it and sent it to the governor’s office.

HB 117 devotes $45 million to Marshall University to expand its cybersecurity program with a new building for a full institute with 13 labs to serve as a hub for the 13-state Appalachian region.

Delegate Evan Hansen, D-Monongalia, offered ann amendment to also provide $45 million for WVU.

“It’s no secret WVU is in a crisis right now,” he said. He detailed some of the factors. “I think there’s blame to go around. I think we as a Legislature share some of that responsibility.” And while WVU is in Morgantown, WVU’s budget cuts pose a statewide issue.

Hansen’s amendment died when Speaker Roger Hanshaw, R-Clay, declared it not germane to the bill.

While some complained about spending the money, Delegate Daniel Linville, R-Cabell, pointed out that it’s a one-time expense. But the Department of Defense has pledged $5 million to outfit the building and $15 million for each of the next two years to support the institute. “West Virginia has an opportunity to lead for once on something.”

It passed 65-29. The Senate also passed it and sent it to the governor.

Other bills

  • SB 1009 prohibits the use of state funds for certain medical procedures on corrections inmates that are not determined to be medically necessary. The House amended it and passed it 86-10. The Senate concurred and sent it to the governor.
  • SB 1010 authorizes the state Supreme Court to develop pretrial release programs for people charged with nonviolent misdemeanors. The House amended it and passed it 93-3. The Senate concurred and sent it to the governor.
  • SB 1003 and 1004 are a pair of bills to – with House amendments – provide two one-time retention payments of $2,294 to non-uniformed corrections employees: one at hire and one in March. The Senate agreed to the House amendments and sent them to the governor.
  • HB 125 provides the needed fix for the automobile personal income tax credit. It says property tax payments that would otherwise be eligible for certain tax credits are still eligible even when the payment for the tax is received before Jan. 1, 2024. It goes the governor.
  • SB 1031 provides money for the consolidated state labs. The original allotted $175 million. In consultation with the governor’s office, the House reduced it to $125 million. The Senate concurred and sent it to the governor.
  • SB 1037 allots $1 million for 120 new beds at the Department of Veterans’ Assistance nursing home. It goes to the governor. It was noted the current beds are 15 years old.
  • SB 1039 shuffles money to provide $15 million for deferred maintenance at regional jails and goes to the governor.
  • SB provides $21,121,273 for pay raises for corrections officers and juvenile services officers. It goes to the governor.
  • SB 1007 increases the number of days counties may seek reimbursement from municipalities for regional jail fees from one day to up to five days, if certain conditions are met. The city must have more than 4,000 residents. And the charge leading to incarceration could have been brought in municipal court but was brought in magistrate court. There are 31 such cities in the state. It goes to the governor.
  • SB 1027 provides $150 million to the Division of Highways: $100 million for maintenance of secondary roads not eligible for federal funds and $50 million for equipment.
  • A trio of related bills to provide funding for fire and EMS services were up in the air until the final minutes of the evening. SB 1021, 1022 and 1023 provide a total $12 million in three separate funds to the counties for volunteer fire departments and EMS. SB 1021 and SB 1023 passed quickly, After a long, last-minute debate, the House agreed to Senate amendments to its own amendments to SB 1022. The Senate had yet to receive the House message on SB 1022 at deadline, but it will head to the governor.

Email: dbeard@dominiopost.com