WVSPS Legislative Update – March 2019
The following is not a political message. It is a legislative update from our government relations consultant. It is not intended to promote or oppose any political party, idea or agenda. It is simply intended to factually inform the society of current issues and conditions that exist in the legislature, so we can most effectively gauge our legislative activities going forward.
Please allow this correspondence to serve as an update regarding the first session of the 84th West Virginia Legislature. I have linked a list of bills which may be of interest on the WVSPS website.
Today is the forty-seventh day of the sixty-day legislative session. At this point, 1,810 bills have been introduced. 36 bills have completed legislative activity (13 House bills and 23 Senate bills), with 10 of those bills already having been signed by Governor Justice. With the overwhelming majority of bills still pending and at various stages in the legislative process, deadlines become increasingly important.
Bills are due out of each committee in their respective house of origin by today in order to ensure three full days for readings as set forth in the West Virginia Constitution. In a similar vein, February 27, 2019, is the last day to consider a bill on third reading in its house of origin. This rule does not apply to the budget or to supplementary appropriation bills. So, if a bill originating in the House doesn’t pass the House by February 27 (excluding supplemental appropriations and budget bills), it is dead.
I wanted to extend my thanks to the WVSPS membership for allowing me to speak at your annual convention. The discussion was spirited but I hope it was also enlightening. I take very seriously the duty you all have given me.
Along these lines, I successfully amended HB 2802 (the Uniform Partition of Heirs Act) to include language which would require a partition in kind to be performed by a licensed West Virginia Surveyor. The big takeaway from my discussion and the amendment accepted this week is that this process works well to protect the surveying profession.
Budget/Coal Severance Tax Reduction
On Friday, the House Finance Committee originated a bill to provide a reduction in coal severance taxes. The bill would lower the coal severance tax from 5 to 3 percent.
The potential coal severance tax reduction has broader implications when considering other spending bills which have passed and how they impact the budget. Other severance taxes have seen smaller reductions, and various subsidies have been reinstated for the horse breeders in the Eastern Panhandle. Finally, the Senate has passed a bill that the House is considering which would provide free tuition to community and technical college students under certain circumstances. While West Virginia is running a surplus, the surplus isn’t likely enough to support all of these programs, so lawmakers will have to choose which ones are truly a priority.
The ongoing discussion at the Capitol regarding teacher pay and education policy changes came to an impasse this week. The various teachers’ unions authorized a strike which lasted through Tuesday and Wednesday of this week. Teachers took to the Capitol in much the same fashion they did last year so as to protest school choice options, education savings accounts, and so-called “paycheck protection” which would prevent a union from automatically deducting a teacher’s union dues from their paycheck.
The West Virginia Senate embraced comprehensive education reform, but the House of Delegates did not share the same level of enthusiasm. The House ultimately tabled the bill indefinitely, essentially killing the bill for the session. Shortly thereafter, the House Finance Committee advanced a bill which contained only pay raises for teachers and school service personnel. Senate Finance Committee Chairman Craig Blair has vowed to not run the pay raise bills, so where things go from here remains to be seen.
HB 2519, the Campus Self Defense Act, more commonly referred to as “Campus Carry,” would allow students to carry firearms on college campuses. Despite opposition from certain institutions in West Virginia higher education, the bill continues to advance and will be on first reading in the House on Monday.
Should you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact me.
William M. Swann, Esq.
Kay Casto & Chaney PLLC