The Legislature Today

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The Legislature Today is West Virginia's source for daily legislative news and information.  The only live television program covering the West Virginia Legislature, the broadcast features reports from the Senate, House and committee meetings with in-depth interviews and analysis of the legislative process in West Virginia.

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Members of the House Judiciary Committee spent more than 9 hours debating and discussing 50 amendments to Senate Bill 373 Sunday into Monday.

The bill is meant to regulate above ground storage tanks and protect the state’s water resources in response to the January 9 chemical spill at Freedom Industries in Charleston that resulted in the contamination of 300,000 West Virginians’ drinking water.

Delegates from the House explain their feelings on how the session has gone thus far and Senators debate a bill that would establish a retirement program for private and small businesses that's backed by State Teasurer John Perdue.  Also, Phil Kabler of The Charleston Gazette and Dave Boucher of The Charleston Daily Mail discuss the state's finances, from the Governor dipping into the Rainy Day Fund to the budget hearings that will immediately follow the end of the regular session.

Three Senate Bills and Where the House Stands

Feb 28, 2014
Aaron Payne

Senate Bill 373: The Water Protection Bill

The House has had S.B. 373 for nearly a month and Thursday, a bipartisan group of delegates sent a letter to Governor Tomblin requesting a special session with the sole focus on this bill.

One senate leader was not pleased with the request. Senate Majority Leader John Unger said he and his colleagues would refuse an extended session because he feels the House has had the bill long enough.

Ashton Marra / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

The Senate Pensions Committee took up House Bill 4375 creating the West Virginia Voluntary Employee Retirement Accounts Program.

The program would be available to businesses with up to 100 employees who do not have a current retirement system.

Employers or employees could voluntarily opt into the program, automatically deducting a retirement contribution from their paycheck each month, but employers would not be required to contribute to those plans.

Bills relating to abortion, drilling waste, and the attorney general's office that were controversial in the House now make their way through the Senate. The House Judiciary Committee discusses expanding pretrial release programs. Soon-to-be-retiring Senator Brooks McCabe discusses the future of West Virginia through his thoughts on teacher pay raises, sustainable water quality, and the future fund.

Ashton Marra / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Bills that were hotly debated in the House are expected to receive just as much attention in the Senate as members of the Legislature near their final week of the session.

One of those includes a bill allowing commercial solid waste authorities to dispose of solid waste and drill cuttings from the Marcellus shale industry.

Aaron Payne

Among the seven bills discussed by the House Judiciary Committee Thursday was Senate Bill 307, authorizing community corrections programs to operate pretrial release programs. Those programs could range from work release to decreasing the cost of an issued bond.

The purpose of the program is to decrease the cost of counties having to hold these people in jails. Pilot programs have been implemented in a few counties such as Ohio and Wood.

The House of Delegates went through 60 items on their daily calendar on "Crossover Day," the last day for bills to be out of their house of origin. But, House Judiciary heard from environmental consulting firm Downstream Strategies as they examined Senate Bill 373, the bill that would regulate above-ground storage facilities. The Senate votes on 11 bills, debates three possible Constitutional Amendments, and also votes on the teacher pay raise bill.

Aaron Payne

Senate Bill 373 relating to water resources protection was sent to the House nearly one month ago to go through three committee stops. Two weeks ago the bill made it through the Health and Human Resource Committee with amendments to be sent to the Judiciary Committee. Wednesday, the second committee used its meeting to hear from Downstream Strategies President Evan Hansen.

A motion to discharge House Bill 2364 or the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act from committee and put it up for immediate vote was rejected on February 11th.

Government Fraud Prevention Act Downed by House

Feb 25, 2014
Daniel Walker

House Bill 4001 was introduced on the first day of the session as the False Claims Act. However, opponents of the bill referred to it as the “sue-and-settle” bill.

The bill offers monetary compensation to whistleblowers who bring forward information regarding fraudulent claims made against the government. That is, if the case is successful.

A proposed amendment to the Crime Victim’s Compensation Fund divided the Senate Tuesday, but not necessarily on party lines. In the House, passionate debate arises on a bill that was introduced on the first day of session: The Government Fraud Protection Act (renamed from it's original incarnation known as The False Claims Act).  Paul Daugherty of Philanthropy West Virginia and Becky Cain-Ceperley of the Greater Kanawha Valley Foundation talk funding of non-profits and foundations looking to catalyze change around the state.

More than 20 bills pass through the Senate, but a couple bills brought the upper house's leadership to the podium to discuss next steps and, inevitably, they decide to lay the bills over until Tuesday. The House of Delegates deal with the collection of debts and their statute of limitations. U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin and Captain Tim Bledsoe of the West Virginia State Police discuss heroin use around the state.

W.Va. House Looking to Double-Tap (Debt) Zombies

Feb 24, 2014
Daniel Walker

A rule (#2: Double-Tap) for dispatching zombies in the movie Zombieland is essentially being applied by the House of Delegates in regard to killing “Zombie Debts” with H.B. 4360.

Zombie debts are defined as debts attempted to be collected in which the statue of limitations has passed.

The House of Delegates deal with a bill relating to conflicts of interest with the Attorney General's office and hold a public hearing on the future of toll collections in West Virginia. Senators in the Finance Committee decide to return to Gov. Tomblin's plans of a two percent pay raise for teachers after flirting with the idea of giving them a raise of $1,000. Capitol reporters Eric Eyre of The Charleston Gazette and Erin Timony of The State Journal talk with host Ashton Marra about the bill to limit sales of pseudoephedrine to prescription only and a bill that would prevent abortions after 21 weeks.  

The House Judiciary Committee held a public hearing on a bill that would affect the way tolls are collected in the state.

House Bill 4156 as introduced would create the Safe and Efficient Parkway Act, authorizes electronic collection and enforcement of tolls.
 
The bill would only apply to the current tolls on the turnpike in regard to enforcement as it is already equipped with the technology such as photographing license plates to detect violations.

The Senate amends a bill that would protect those seeking emergency medical attention for someone else experiencing a drug overdose and also discusses a bill that aims to reduce the variance gas prices across the state. The House  Judiciary Committee takes another look at the False Claims Act. Dr. Rahul Gupta of the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department talks medical monitoring and Gov. Tomblin's request to the CDC for more studies on the chemicals involved in the Jan. 9 chemical spill.

Daniel Walker

House Bill 4001 was reported to the floor earlier in the session from the House Judiciary Committee. However, concerns from the business sector lead House leadership to request the bill be sent back to address those concerns.

The Senate tackles issues related to corrections as well as roads. The  House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee takes a look at bills related to timber theft and fertilizers. Department of Agriculture Commissioner Walt Helmick talks about farming issues around the state and Cecelia Mason highlights the work of the West Virginia Schools for the Deaf and Blind. Also, the students of those schools give a performance for Senate members to close out our show.

The Senate passes a bill that would make pseudoephedrine available by prescription only. Committees in the state legislature's upper house also took up bill pertaining to the budget and drug testing of coal mine employees who work in safety-related positions. Members of the House consider legislation allowing businesses to reduce the number of hours an employee works to avoid layoffs. Also, state Superintendent of Schools Dr. James Phares talks with Ashton Marra about a teacher hiring bill passed in the House, another bill that would limit the timeline for the state to take control of a county school system, and how schools are ensuring the safety of students after the Jan. 9 spill into the Elk River.

Daniel Walker

House Bill 4409 creates the Valued Employee Retention Program with the goal of giving employers incentive to reduce workers’ hours rather than laying them off.

It requires employers to enter an agreement to submit a plan explaining how instead of laying off their employees they would reduce their hours. In exchange, the employee could get unemployment benefits proportional to the amount of hours that they’ve been reduced.

Ashton Marra

Senators took up Senate Bill 420 Monday to amend the state P-20W Longitudinal Data System.

The system collects statistics from K-12, colleges, universities and community colleges tracking student achievement.

The bill adds child care and workforce data to the system giving a broader view of a student’s success. It also requires the information be brought to the Legislative Oversight Committee on Education Accountability to ensure transparency.

Senators vote on seven bills, reject one, and also down amendments to the prescription-only pseudoephedrine bill. The House of Delegates passes a bill to expand the hours of alcohol sales at some businesses to include Sunday brunch. Senators Mike Green and Daniel Hall talk about Wyoming County's own water issues and what they're hoping to do to solve the problem.

'Brunch Bill' for Alcohol Sales Passes W.Va. House

Feb 17, 2014
Daniel Walker

The bill that incited the most debate during Monday’s floor session was one that would allow private licensees to begin alcohol sales at 10:30 a.m. on Sundays instead of 1:00 p.m. as dictated by current code. Aaron Payne reports.

House Bill 4454 would allow restaurants and tourism destinations such as a bed and breakfast to serve alcoholic beverages as part of Sunday brunch.

Supporters of the bill said that it could boost profits from tourism in the state.

The House of Delegates approves a bill that would provide benefits for businesses working with technologies not currently in West Virginia if they locate or expand in launch pads areas in the state. The Division of Corrections is honored through a resolution in the Senate, and  Jonathan Mattise of the Associated Press & Mandi Cardosi of The State Journal speak with Friday host Ashton Marra about the latest on the status of the chemical spill bill in the House, as well as the Attorney General's actions after reports of price gouging during the water crisis.

House Approves W. Va. Launch Pad Act

Feb 14, 2014
Daniel Walker

House Bill 4343 provides economic benefits for businesses working with technologies not currently in West Virginia if they locate or expand in launch pads areas in the state.

These benefits would begin on January 1, 2015 and last until December 30, 2030 and include state and local tax relief and assistance in moving a business here.

Janet Kunicki / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

The Division of Corrections was honored in the Senate Friday with a resolution declaring February 14, 2014, Corrections day at the legislature.

Commissioner Jim Rubenstein was joined by his Cabinet Secretary Joe Thornton and other members of the Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety to receive the honor.

“On this day, it is important for this Legislature to remember that the starting annual salary for an entry level correctional professional in West Virginian is $22,584,” said Sen. Bill Laird.

The West Virginia Senate Education Committee is proposing a sweeping $1,000 pay raise for teachers.
 
The bill originally proposed a 2 percent raise.
Committee Chair Bob Plymale says they hope the raise will begin to attract highly qualified teachers.
 
He says many teachers across the state are nearing retirement and the committee wants to compete for new teachers nationally.
 
While the committee doesn't feel an across-the-board raise of $1,000 is competitive enough, Plymale says it's a start.

The House of Delegates passes a bill to make the sale e-cigarettes illegal to minors and addresses the issue of sexual abuse of minors. The
Senate deals with two issues--state purchasing and pseudoephedrine--that have been in mind since interims. Representatives of the Our Children, Our Future campaign to end child poverty discuss their legislative priorities with Beth Vorhees.

Daniel Walker

In Thursday’s House session, one bill on third reading and two bills mentioned in a speech dealt with the health and well-being of West Virginia’s children.

H.B. 4237 would protect the health of children from new products alternative to the traditional sources of tobacco.

These new products include electronic cigarettes and cigars and dissolving products such as toothpicks, gum and lozenges.

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