Three Major Bills Coming in 2016
While Governor Earl Ray Tomblin's legislative proposals this session focus largely on the budget, it will be legislators who make the final decisions on what gets approved. And members of both the House and the Senate have some pretty big issues they want brought to the table.
While proceedings for the first day mostly deal with housekeeping issues, nearly 300 bills were introduced between both the House and Senate, many that contained the Republican majority’s top legislative priorities.
1. Charter Schools
Newly appointed House Education Chair, Paul Espinosa of Jefferson County, says the way to a successful charter schools bill is through good quality legislation and strong accountability.
“I really see a good strong public charter school bill of not only being to establish public charter schools that will fit the unique needs of school districts around our state, but it will provide that engine for change that I think’s very important to our students,” Espinosa said.
2. Forced Pooling
A bill that caused a major fuss on the final night of the 2015 session is already generating a lot of discussion around the rotunda.
Forced pooling allows companies to force owners to sell their minerals if they can get 80 percent of the owners in a specified land area to agree to the drilling. Last year’s bill died on a tie vote.
“We already have forced pooling on the books today," said House Energy Chair Delegate Woody Ireland of Richie County, "If we don’t do something to modify that, we are leaving millions and millions of dollars on the table that will flow out of state as opposed to come to the mineral owners of the state.”
Ireland noted lawmakers didn't understand what last year's bill was attempting to do, and he said he hopes lawmakers hear him out this year.
3. Right to Work
Right to Work laws prohibit certain types of agreements between labor unions and employers. The most commonly used example would prohibit a union from collecting dues from people in a workplace who do not wish to be part of the union.
“I don’t see the real reason for controversy," said Senate President Bill Cole, "I mean we’re looking for solutions; we’re looking for ways to put people to work in West Virginia. We lead the nation in unemployment; we’re last in workforce participation at 48 percent of our adult able-bodied workforce working, so, you know, if this is an opportunity to induce companies to want to be here and bring jobs here, then I think it’s something we ought to look at.”
Lawmakers have sixty days to pass bills during the 2016 legislative session.