Tomblin's bills win; Monongalia TIF bill fails - Business, Government Legal News from throughout WV

Tomblin's bills win; Monongalia TIF bill fails in final legislative hours

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The final hours of the 2013 regular legislative session may have kept a stop-and-start pace, but 125 bills were passed in the final day flurry.

The 60-day session adjourned at midnight April 13 with a total of 215 of the 1,829 bills passing the full Legislature.

Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin was keeping track of his 32 proposals, many of which passed without much debate.

Tomblin said he was not disappointed with anything from the session, and was confident the work on the budget next week would proceed smoothly because of careful groundwork already laid.

"There's a couple of little things I'd have liked to have seen, maybe some percentages in our Rainy Day Fund to free up some money for Medicaid programs and so forth, but overall, the major pieces have been passed, and I'm very pleased with that," Tomblin said. "I really do appreciate the cooperation we've had from the House and Senate; they've been great to work with this session, and I commend them for wanting to do what's right for West Virginia."

Tomblin's sweeping education reform passed early in the session after much debate with all the stakeholders. He already signed it into law.

His second major reform measure, dealing with prison overcrowding, passed in the afternoon of the final day.

Another of Tomblin's measures, which would increase the civil penalties on pipeline safety violations passed late in the session, and a bill targeting drugged drivers passed in the session's final hours.

But a bill to allow Monongalia County to create a Tax Increment Finance project did not make it out of the House of Delegates. Its lead sponsor, Sen. Bob Beach, D-Monongalia, said he plans to approach Tomblin soon to request a special session to deal with the issue.

"Tonight a big game of chicken was played, and the residents of West Virginia lost, plain and simple," Beach said in the final moments of the session. "North-Central West Virginia lost out on 2,000 jobs and infrastructure development, and it's a shame."

Senate President Jeff Kessler said the TIF bill failed as well as a bill that would have lowered the table game license fee for the state's four casinos, including Wheeling Island Casino in his district, which is struggling. But Kessler said he's proud of both the education reform bill and the prison overcrowding bill.

Other bills that passed during the session include: making the failure to wear a seat belt a primary traffic offense; allowing the sale of wine at certain fairs and festivals on Sundays; requiring teens ages 14 to 16 to get a parent or guardian's consent before using a tanning bed; the creation of a juvenile offense for sexting, or sending sexually explicit text messages; and a requirement for counties to provide bulletproof vests for deputy sheriffs.

An expansion of the state's home rule project passed the Legislature near the end of the session, but it took several back-and-forth meetings to find that compromise some senators called "home rule lite."

"I can't say I disagree with some of the comments with some of the aspects of home rule," Kessler said. "It got mutated into a gun bill."

Other measures that died during the session include: housing and employment non-discrimination; the creation of a casino in Pendleton County; and drug testing for welfare recipients.

House Minority Leader Tim Armstead said his party's biggest disappointment in the session was a lack of jobs bills, something the Republicans said they would push for from day one.

"We needed to do more to stimulate our economy, and we had a lot of good ideas, particularly our Republican members worked very hard to get those things moving," Armstead said just after the session had ended. "We have a lot of work to do in terms of economic development and job growth in our state, and we really need to center on that."

The Legislature will meet April 15 for work on its budget bill. 

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