To date, more than eight hundred bills have been introduced in the House of Delegates. In general, they are assigned to committees, once there they can be put on the agenda to be considered, or they can be left sitting on a desk. This decision is in the hands of the Committee Chairmen. A bill either passes or fails in the committee that it is assigned to. If it passes in the committee it usually gets to the full House for a vote where it passes or fails. If it passes the full house it still has to get through the State Senate and of course be approved by the Governor. While the House is working on bills, the Senate is doing the same with their own bills. If they pass the Senate they come to the House and to the Governor. This is a simplified explanation, but it will give you an idea of the process.
In this third full week of the legislature, which began on March 4, the full house passed bills that greatly increase the fines on gas companies in the event of failures such as the one that resulted in a massive explosion in Sissonville. We passed a bill to continue to monitor selenium levels in mine discharge water, while allowing West Virginia coal mines to operate, and HB 2760 passed out of House Judiciary. This bill is an attempt to standardize the firearms concealed carry laws. It is scheduled for a full house vote. Other lower profile bills provide for funding indigent burials, and give additional authority to assistant attendance directors in schools. This is where I got my first amendment passed through the education committee, and the full house. It was a minor chance in language that replaced the phrase “adjust the attitude of parents” to “encourage attendance.” This just seemed like a more respectful way to communicate with parents.
The main initiative for this session is still the Governor’s education bill, SB 359. It is an attempt to better prepare West Virginia graduates for work or college. The bill is being discussed and amended in the Senate; it was taken up there again this week.
I am hesitant to comment on this bill because it is a work in progress, being amended just about every day, but I will try to address a couple of myths. One was that holiday pay for teachers was being taken away, and another was that seniority would no longer be considered when hiring or transferring employees. I have answered and returned phone calls and e-mails from dozens of teachers. I would like to assure you that I will consider all of your concerns, and voice them when this bill finally gets to the House. I will also keep an open mind in hope of having the opportunity to improve education policy for students and teachers.
Finally, I have signed on to bills that are not on the schedule yet. One would capture additional revenue that is expected to be generated from severance tax on natural gas production for the purpose of providing a revenue source to fund counties. This could allow us to lower punitive taxes on job creators. Private sector jobs are vital to the future of our state.
(Note: On March 11, the House of Delegates, with support from Delegates Butler and Scott Cadle did pass HB 2760 to standardize firearms regulations in West Virginia.)
Jim Butler, House of Delegates, 14 District
Room 150R, Building 1, State Capitol Complex
Charleston, WV 25305
(304) 340-3199, firstname.lastname@example.org