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WV Legislative Update

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Writing this week within minutes of the adjournment of session, the immediate aftermath of the past sixty days is yet to be fully processed by anyone, including those with a ringside seat.  I’m pleased that we took action to eliminate the tax on social security benefits; made some important strides in providing a major push to repair secondary roads; and, some major second-chance legislation to help get more of our citizens off drugs and into gainful employment or training.

On the negative side, SB 622 is a horrible bill that will pour even more money into political campaigns and has no redeeming value whatsoever. But one thing is certain: the utter inability of the current legislative leadership to get a budget for two consecutive years without the threat of shutting down state government has now given rise to yet another problem.  This year, a budget was approved nearly two days before the conclusion of the session.

On the surface, that sounds efficient and productive.  The real-world implications dictate a very different outcome.  With a budget passed and on the Governor’s desk with two days remaining in the session, it in effect, killed or severely limited our chances of passing important legislation that has a fiscal note during the final two days. This excuse was used several times in the last couple days of the session, including last Saturday night.

There was a valid and relevant reason why, for years, we always finished the budget as the final bill, completing action over a two- or three-day period the week after the session concluded.  It had nothing whatsoever to do with legislators wanting to drag out the session.

At that time, on Sunday afternoon after the final night, Finance and Clerk’s office staff in the House and Senate began sorting through all bills that passed during the session right up to midnight on the last day to ascertain whether there was a cost or savings to the budget.  They also cataloged the differences in the various categories between the House and Senate versions.  Then, armed with that information, a small number of budget conference members could settle the remaining accounts; then, call member in briefly and vote out a final version of the budget.

Unfortunately, a few years ago, the current majority failed to get a budget in a timely manner for two consecutive years, costing taxpayers nearly $1.5 million and nearly shutting down state government.  Citizens were outraged and rightfully so.  Now, it has given rise to a hastily prepared budget that lacks the flexibility to add important items right up until the final hours of the session.  This is the ultimate legislative “cart before the horse”.

Case in point:  HB 2001 – the bill that passed the House 99 – 1 several weeks ago.  The bill as it left the House of Delegates exempted all Social Security income from West Virginia income tax.  The cost to the budget was around $39 million.  However, when the Senate finally took up and passed the bill after weeks of inaction, they amended it to phase-in the tax break over three years and put a cap on the federally adjusted gross income as to who may qualify.  The end result – a tax break of only $2 million in the first year, with far fewer West Virginians now qualifying.  We tried to reject the Senate version and go back to the House version, but House leadership said that since the budget was already passed, any changes may cause the Governor to veto the budget.  We were defeated in our motion to send it back to the Senate or appoint a conference committee.  I am happy to have worked for and voted for passage of the bill, but we could have done much more.  While many of our senior citizens and disabled individuals will see a tax benefit, some with not gain the full tax break and see immediate maximum tax relief.  That’s unfortunate.

The night before, the majority party rammed through SB 622 to increase the amount of campaign contributions that can be receive in an election cycle from the current maximum of $1,000 to $2,800 – nearly triple the current rate.  Other contributions from “dark money” that does not have to be declared and PAC fund contributions also were hiked substantially. The bill had a single sponsor in the Senate.  All of the minority party in the House voted against this bill.

You cannot make this stuff up.  Does anyone think more money in political campaigns will improve the political climate?  Does anyone think we need more mailers or negative radio and TV ads at election time?  A year ago, the majority made a centerpiece argument in their push for single member House legislative districts that smaller, more compact district size would cost less in which to campaign, thereby allowing more time to spend with and listening to constituents.  While I have always served in and been in favor of and voted for one hundred single member districts for the next redistricting, now they’re going against their own argument for single member districts and now on record for wanting to inject even more big money in the process.  I hope the Governor has the courage and wisdom to veto this horrible bill that will do nothing to move our State forward.

Over the next several weeks, I’ll attempt to keep you updated as column space allows regarding the positive and negative aspects of the 2019 session, along with the yet to be completed extraordinary session called by the Governor for education issues. 

During the legislative session, please send your inquiries to the Capitol office: State Capitol Building 1, Room 258 M, Charleston, WV 25305. My office telephone number is 304.340.3142; Please send your inquiries to my home office as well:  151 Park Street, Gassaway, WV 26624.  My home number is 304.364.8411; the Capitol office number is 304.340.3142.  If you have an interest in any particular bill or issue, please let me know.  For those with Internet access, my legislative e-mail address is:

You may also obtain additional legislative information, including the copies of bills, conference reports, daily summaries, interim highlights, and leave me a message on the Legislature’s web site at www.legis.state.wv.us/.  When leaving a message, please remember to include your phone number with your inquiry and any details you can provide. Additional information, including agency links and the state government phone directory, may be found at www.wv.gov. Also, you may follow me on Facebook at “Brent Boggs”, Twitter at “@DelBrentBoggs” , as well as the WV Legislature’s Facebook page at “West Virginia Legislature” or on Twitter at twitter.com/wvlegislature.

Continue to remember our troops - at home and abroad - and keep them and their families in your thoughts and prayers.  Until next week – take care.

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