The 60 day legislative session is nearing a close. Bills that have passed the House of Delegates have gone to the Senate for consideration, and the Senate Bills are coming to the House.
The vast majority of the bills passed recently have been administrative in nature. We have passed over 1100 bills as of day 43 of the 60 day session. They have covered topics from allowing principals in public schools more ability to manage schools, providing a procedure for antique and abandoned motor vehicles to apply for title, allowing retired teachers to work in different situations without disrupting retirement and pension benefits, allowing employers expanded ability to test employees for illegal drug use, and requiring that historical founding documents, like the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States, be taught with context of the social, economic and political circumstances at the time.
There have been many tax reform plans offered for consideration over the last couple weeks. Almost all of these have had two purposes; one to fill a budget deficit of nearly $200 million, and additionally to develop a tax system that helps our economy grow. Components of different plans are: income tax adjustments, sales tax adjustments, eliminating sales tax exemptions on services like contractors, attorneys and accountants, reinstating sales tax on food, and the list goes on. While all of this may sound confusing the components mentioned above can be combined in different ways to improve upon our tax structure. We will sort it all out soon, but it is important to understand that the goal is to come up with a tax code that helps diversify our economy, and create job opportunities for West Virginians.
I have been involved in many discussions on all of the tax plans and have had some input, but I also have tried to keep an equal focus on reductions in government spending, which lessens the tax burden on every person, and every family, who has to manage their own budgets. I have been disappointed that our governor has been busy campaigning across the state for tax increases, rather than working with us to find savings in the departments that he controls. At one point in the session I had an opportunity to demonstrate that there is simply no support in the legislature for the governors introduced tax plan. I amended the Governor’s plans, word for word, in to a bill and gave every member of the House an opportunity to vote for or against them. The roll call was 0 yeas and 97 nays. The following day a Senator offered a similar amendment and not a single member of the Senate voted for the Governor’s plan either.
Specific to the 14th District, and Mason County in particular, is a consideration to privatize the Nursing Home at Lakin. This is a proposal that has been in the works for several years because under current regulatory circumstances several similar state operated nursing hospitals are costing the state millions of dollars more than the same care would cost if operated by private nursing homes. I recently toured Lakin and I have made it very clear to the Secretary of the Department of Human Services, and the Finance Committee, that the Lakin Facility is in much better condition than many of the other facilities, and it is also very well managed. I continue to work to retain Lakin as possibly one or two facilities that may need to be operated by the State because of special circumstances and needs of patients. I have met several employees, and patients there, and I appreciate their input.
We are about to wrap up the sixty day legislative session where we pass the remaining bills that have made it through the complicated process, and submit a budget to the Governor. My colleagues and I have appreciated all of your prayers, as we try to make the best possible decisions to help West Virginians.
Respectfully, Delegate Jim Butler
(Editor’s note: This legislative wrap up submitted by Delegate Butler just prior to the legislature passing a state budget.)
Jim Butler (R-Gallipolis Ferry) represents the 14th District in the West Virginia House of Delegates.