CHARLESTON – West Virginia became the 26th right-to-work state on Friday when the West Virginia Senate and House of Delegates voted to override Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin’s veto. The Senate voted 18-16 to override the veto on Senate Bill 1, the West Virginia Workplace Freedom Act. The law will take effect July 1.
Also Friday, the Senate voted 18-16 to override the veto of House Bill 4005, which would repeal West Virginia’s prevailing wage rate law. It goes into effect 90 days from passage.
“From the beginning, I have said the Senate is committed to doing what is necessary in order to move our state forward. I believe both of these bills – the West Virginia Workplace Freedom Act and the repeal of the state’s prevailing wage law – accomplish this goal,” Senate President Bill Cole said.
On Tuesday, the Senate Judiciary Committee passed eight Originating Bills designed to repeal more than 120 outdated or obsolete rules from West Virginia’s State Register.
The bills passed out of committee today repealed 124 rules between seven departments – Department of Administration, Department of Environmental Protection, Department of Health and Human Resources, Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety, Department of Revenue, Department of Transportation, and Department of Commerce. The other bill applies to miscellaneous boards and agencies.
Overall, the Senate’s regulatory reform package will eliminate 167 administrative rules, or about 12 percent of the total active rules on the State Register for which the Legislature has oversight.
Also on Tuesday, the West Virginia Senate voted 32-2 to create a three-year statewide pilot program that would provide for the drug screening and testing of applicants for benefits from the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families Program.
Senate Bill 6 would establish a process for drug testing TANF applicants if there is a “reasonable suspicion” of drug use. Upon determination of reasonable suspicion, the applicant must submit to drug testing.
“This is a compassionate approach to getting people who desperately need treatment the help they need, and it provides an incentive for them to deal with their drug addiction,” Senator Ryan Ferns, R-Ohio, said earlier this week.
Finding solutions to West Virginia’s budget woes continued this week.
“The first thing we’re dealing with is the current fiscal year’s budget that now is projected to be a $353 million revenue shortfall. Well, the Governor and his people are the ones that put that revenue number up, and then of course, we spend to that number, so he missed that by $353 million,” Senate President Cole said Friday on The Mike Queen Show on WAJR-FM. “That’s a little bit of a heavy lift all by itself, just bringing in this fiscal year which ends at the end of June, as well as taking up next year’s budget.”
“I want to make sure that we start with a real number this time. To the best of our ability, I want to make sure that we properly estimate what the revenue will be, and that’s not an easy task,” he continued. “I’m not just throwing the Governor and his people under the bus on that, but we sure don’t need to be missing by over 10 percent.”
Senate Finance Chairman Mike Hall, R-Putnam, has said the Finance Committee is looking at possible ways to cut the budget before giving serious consideration to tax increases.
By the Numbers (through February 12)
Number of bills introduced: 598
Number of bills passed: 74
Number of bills that have completed legislative action: 9
The West Virginia Senate passed 23 bills this week and advanced several others through committee.
Passed: Senate Bill 7 – Establishing wrongful conduct rule prohibiting recovery of damages in certain circumstances
Passed: Senate Bill 73 – Creating felony crime of knowingly leaving scene of crash resulting in serious bodily injury
Legislation to Watch
Senate Bill 10 – Creating Unborn Child Protection from Dismemberment Abortion Act
Coming up for a vote in the Senate next week
Senate Bill 328 – Creating West Virginia Veterans Program Fund