Legislature gets started on special session agenda

CHARLESTON, W.Va. —  State lawmakers got started on an ambitious special session agenda Sunday evening at the state capitol.

Gov. Jim Justice rolled out a 44-item call at 4 p.m. and by 8 p.m. the Senate and House had at least introduced each bill on the floor. The Senate gave final approval to all but 17 bills, choosing to pass nearly all of the budget supplemental appropriations bills during the evening floor session. The House chose to send those appropriation bills to the House Finance Committee for consideration. The committee will meet at 8 a.m. Monday.

One of the appropriation bills would allocate $45 million to Marshall University for a new cyber security program. Another appropriation, this one for $25 million will go toward the construction of a new aviation maintenance facility at Pierpont Community and Technical College.

There’s a bill calling for a $1 million allocation to the state police for a new security system at the State Police Academy.

State Police Superintendent Col. Jack Chambers recently said the agency was installing new security cameras at the academy after a recent controversy in connection with recordings of the women’s locker room.

The House and Senate set up bills for final passage Monday that would provide a fix for the new car tax credit, giving taxpayers the ability to get the 2024 income tax return credit who pay their car tax this fall.

There are eight separate bills that focus on the state Division of Corrections. Those include trying to boost the recruitment and retention of correctional officers. The bill leading the way is $25 million in pay enhancements.

“The Special Session I’m calling today has some really important items for our Legislature to consider, like increasing the salaries of our Correctional Officers, and a clarification to our personal property tax cut,” Justice said in a news release. “It also includes an opportunity to officially designate the first new West Virginia State Park in over 30 years at Summersville Lake, and several supplemental appropriations that capitalize on our state’s spectacularly strong revenues including investing another $150 million in our highway maintenance and equipment, bringing our total state investment in our roads since I took office to over $2 billion.”

Justice’s call did not include a bill to increase the insurance premium tax to provide additional funding for EMS and VFDs. Justice instead will propose $12 million in one-time funding and then he says he’ll call all sides to the table in the coming months to agree on a permanent fix.

“This is in addition to $10 million which has already been appropriated for EMS providers. This is one-time money we’re able to provide for our counties, so I will bring all parties to the table very soon, including the counties and the Legislature, so that we can all work together to find a responsible funding stream for our First Responders without raising taxes. We all know that our First Responders are our heroes, so I’m very proud to propose this funding,” Justice said.

The West Virginia EMS Coalition was not pleased with the move.

”The EMS community is dismayed that Governor Justice has refused to answer our call for help during the ongoing special session,” the EMS Coalition said in a Sunday evening statement.

“While we recognize the Governor and certain members of the legislature may prefer to support fire and EMS through a source other than the insurance surcharge, we are disappointed the Governor would aid fire departments with surplus funds pending a permanent solution while ignoring the equally significant needs of EMS.”

Fifteen EMS organizations have ceased operations since 2022.

The bill making Summersville Lake a state park concerns 177 acres on the lake’s north shore. It will be up for final passage Monday.

“I couldn’t be more proud to announce our newest State Park,” Justice said. “Summersville Lake is an iconic place in our beautiful state filled with a lot of special memories that span generations of families. Now, all those who travel to Summersville Lake will be treated to the greatest outdoor adventure park in the country on the shores of our state’s largest lake.”

Floor sessions in the House and Senate are set to begin at noon Monday.


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