WV Legislature

West Virginia Department of Transportation

The West Virginia Legislature has authorized issuing up to $800 million in bonds for road repairs and construction over the next seven months, followed by another $800 million in the following three years.

That follows the recent approval by voters for the state to issue $1.6 billion of new bonds to repair and build roads and bridges.

Cecelia Mason / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Members of both the House and Senate Energy Committees took up a bill Thursday repealing a law that’s commonly been referred to as West Virginia’s cap and trade law.

The Alternative and Renewable Energy Portfolio Act of 2009 requires electric utilities in the state to produce 25 percent of their electricity with alternative and renewable energy sources by 2025, meeting benchmarks of ten percent in 2015 and 15 percent in 2020.

Ashton Marra / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Mercer County Sen. Bill Cole was elected to the Senate Presidency by a vote of 19-15 Wednesday with one Democrat crossing party lines to vote with the new Republican majority.

Sen. Bob Plymale of Cabell County voted for Cole instead of former Senate President and now Minority Leader Jeff Kessler, the Democratic nominee. Plymale declined to comment on the vote.

Liz McCormick / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Lawmakers were presented the final recommendations Tuesday from a national group that’s been studying the state’s magistrate court system for years.

The National Center for State Courts began the study in 2013 after lawmakers approved a pay increase for a small group of magistrates across the state. The study is focused on realigning the system so the number of magistrates in each county is based on the time spent on cases instead of the county’s population.

Ashton Marra / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

A debate that started during the 2014 legislative session continued during interim meetings in Charleston Sunday. State lawmakers are still questioning if a 1939 law affects today’s gas prices.

Jan Vineyard, president of the West Virginia Oil Marketers and Grocers Association or OMEGA, addressed lawmakers during a Joint Government Organization and Operations meeting in the House Chamber about the state's Unfair Trade Practices Act which has been in state law for more than 70 years.

Ashton Marra / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Republican Senators and Delegates met with members of the National Conference of State Legislators for a detailed look into something they participated in, but never been in charge of before: committees.

In-coming House Speaker Tim Armstead and Senate President Bill Cole invited the group to Charleston to lead a morning session taking Republican leaders through the ins and outs of organizing and running a committee meeting, setting agendas and managing not just time, but also the committee members.

Ashton Marra / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

The Legislature's Joint Committee on Finance traveled to Fayetteville Monday evening to hear from area residents about their concerns about the financial implications of a newly approved Constitutional Amendment.

The amendment, which was approved in November by West Virginia voters with 62 percent of the vote, will allow the Boy Scouts of America to lease their Summit Bechtel Reserve to private organizations while maintaining their property tax exemption. 

Ashton Marra / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Lawmakers were updated today on the security measures the state is taking to protect employee information in the OASIS system. 

WVOASIS stands for Our Advanced Solution with Integrated Systems. The computer software system is designed to integrate all functions of state government into one and has been rolled out in phases since 2013.

Ashton Marra / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

As lawmakers return to town this week for their final interim session of 2014, they'll learn more about a practice in the natural gas industry companies want them to approve through legislation: forced pooling.

Kevin Ellis, president of the West Virginia Oil and Natural Gas Association, explained to lawmakers during a November meeting, when companies prepare to drill a well they create a giant rectangle of land parcels and then negotiate with each mineral owner within that rectangle for their gas rights.

By pooling these owners together, companies can drill a well and then pay out mineral owners proportionally by land acreage for the gas produced.

West Virginia Legislature

A state Senate panel seeking to revitalize the struggling southern coalfields has awarded a $20,000 grant to a trail project.

At a Thursday meeting in Princeton, Senate President Jeff Kessler and task force members gave the grant to the Piney Creek Trail Committee.

Perry Bennett / West Virginia Legislative Photography

West Virginia Public Service Commission Chairman Michael Albert appeared before a Joint Judiciary Committee meeting Tuesday at the Capitol to respond to a report the committee received last month. That report accused the Public Service Commission of having too much regulatory power.

Ashton Marra / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

State lawmakers were updated Monday morning on a study the Department of Environmental Protection began earlier this year. That study focuses on the level of radioactive material in drill cuttings from horizontal fracking sites.

The West Virginia DEP has tested 15 sites for levels of radioactivity in drilling waste. The test sites included Wetzel County’s landfill, an Ohio water treatment plant, and multiple drilling sites in counties in North Central West Virginia.

Martin Valent / West Virginia Legislative Photography

Wyoming County Senator Daniel Hall made the political switch from Democrat to Republican this week giving the GOP an 18 to 16 majority. On Viewpoint Friday, Hall said he made the switch to keep his district relevant.

Martin Valent / WV Legislative Photography

Updated Wednesday, November 5, 2014 at 7:45 p.m. 

State Senator Daniel Hall has switched from Democrat to Republican, switching the balance of power.  For more, see this story.

Original Post from Wednesday, November 5, 2014 at 3: 51 p.m. 

After Tuesday’s mid-term elections, Democrats in the West Virginia Senate are living with a new reality.  There are 17 of them and 17 Republicans, leaving the upper chamber in a dead even tie.

The results mean control of the Senate, and Senate President Jeff Kessler’s position of power, hang in the balance, but it’s not one that’s likely to be decided any time soon.

Sen. Donna Boley
West Virginia Legislature

Senator Donna Boley of Pleasants County was the only Republican member of the West Virginia Senate in the 1990's. 

Now, she is the longest serving member of the upper chamber and will preside as Senate President pro-tem.

After Tuesday night's mid-term election, Boley's tenure also means she will preside over the next Senate President election in January. 

Ashton Marra / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

A special West Virginia Senate committee, known as the Southern Coalfields Revitalizing its Economy or SCORE for short, made its first stop in Beckley Wednesday evening to hear from community members ways lawmakers can help diversify the region's economy and put people back to work. 

More than two dozen people shared their thoughts with the eight panel members in attendance. Here is what some had to say.

Infrastructure:

Ashton Marra / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Lawmakers were updated Wednesday on the roll out process of the state's new software system designed to integrate almost every function in government. 

The first phase of WVOASIS, or 'Our Advanced Solution with Integrated Systems, was implemented in August of 2013. It's latest phase took effect July of this year, but wasn't necessarily the smooth transition many state officials had hoped for.

Ashton Marra / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Lawmakers received the latest numbers Monday on miners who have tested positive for drugs under a fairly new state law.

The law went to effect on January 1, 2013, that, among many other provisions, required coal mining operators and certain employers to implement a substance abuse screening program for miners and mine safety professionals.

AP

When the legislature passed Senate Bill 373, they mandated the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection create a program to register and inspect all above ground storage tanks, something the state had never done before.

The bill came in response to January's chemical spill in Charleston that left 300,000 people without drinking water for days, but for months storage tanks owners have been left with only some vague guidelines about having their tanks registered and inspected by the dates mandated in law. 

Dave Mistich / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Stakeholders met with the governor’s office and the Department of Environmental Protection Friday to discuss possibly calling the legislature into a special session. The session would be focused on fixing some unintended consequences both Senate and House leadership see in the above ground storage tank bill passed earlier this year.

Friday’s meeting was the second this week focused on Senate Bill 373, legislation that came as a response to January’s chemical spill in Charleston. The spill contaminated 300,000 people’s drinking water for as many as ten days.

Ashton Marra / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

  State lawmakers wrapped up their August interim meetings Wednesday, but legislators decided to take the show on the road this month, meeting in Bridgeport and touring parts of North Central West Virginia.

While some of their interim meetings were held in conference rooms around long tables just like in Charleston, many had delegates and senators out exploring the area.

Quinn Dombrowski / flickr.com/photos/quinnanya/

After a bill to make pseudoephedrine available only through a doctor's prescription died on the final night of the legislative session this year, two pharmacies are announcing their intentions to stop selling the drug.

Cody Kwok / www.flickr.com/photos/49859500@N00/

When you hear the phrase “dangerous wild animals,” what image pops into your head? A lion? Tiger? Bear?

State officials are working to define what a dangerous wild animal is in order to restrict West Virginia residents from keeping them as pets. It’s an effort Sen. Bob Beach of Monongalia County said started for him in 2004 as chair of the House Agriculture committee.

@Doug88888 / http://bit.ly/1vAKcAI

The public has an opportunity to weigh in on the state's proposed list of dangerous animals.
 
The list developed by the Wild and Dangerous Animal Board includes chimpanzees, crocodiles and giraffes.

Ownership of animals on the list will be prohibited. But residents who already own creatures on the list can keep them if they get a state permit.

Ramses Coly / en.wikipedia.org

In the weeks following the 2014 legislative session, a group of activists proved that standing up for what you believe in can sometimes make a difference. After letters, meetings and rallies at the Capitol, organizations that provide children and family services got their funding restored by the legislature during a special session.

Despite the ability of those groups to get their funding back after gubernatorial cuts, not every agency or organization was able to do the same. For instance, a program that won’t be expanding this year due to a lack of state money, the West Virginia State Police Crimes Against Children Unit.

Ashton Marra / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Over the past two years, lawmakers have implemented two pieces of legislation intended to drastically decrease the population in state prisons in the face of a growing overcrowding problem.

In 2013, the Legislature passed Senate Bill 371, the Justice Reinvestment Act. Among a long list of provisions, the bill allowed the Division of Corrections to develop and implement a cognitive behavioral restructuring program for DOC inmates being housed at regional jails due to overcrowding in the state prisons.

West Virginia Legislative Services

In between debating special session bills this week, lawmakers managed to have a few of their regularly scheduled interim meetings. During one of those meetings, legislators were updated by a national group on a study of the state's magistrate system.

The study of the state’s magistrate system started following the 2013 legislative session during which lawmakers faced some debate over magistrate pay.

Governor Tomblin released a statement Thursday discouraging lawmakers from calling themselves into a special session to take up previously vetoed abortion legislation.

House Bill 4588 would have created a statewide ban of abortions after 20 weeks. Both the House and Senate passed the bill, but Tomblin vetoed the legislation calling it unconstitutional. Several courts in other states have knocked down similar bans.

"Should members of the Legislature take the same action again, I will again veto the bill," Tomblin said in a release.

"I am proud of my pro-life record, and I would be happy to work with members of the Legislature during the 2015 regular session to pass a bill that is constitutional."

Ashton Marra / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Lawmakers will spend one more day in a special session in part because of Republican members of the House.

Delegates returned for morning floor session Tuesday, passed all six bills forward from second to third reading and adjourned for the day, a move that was a little unexpected by both chamber leaders.

Ashton Marra / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

The question of gubernatorial power in West Virginia was forced into the spotlight after two decisions by Governor Tomblin following the 2014 legislative session; two vetoes, to be more specific. Now lawmakers, the Governor’s Office and even the Attorney General are trying to figure out what’s next for these rejected bills.

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