The budget remains the main topic of discussion in the Legislature. I am on the Finance Committee and ninety percent of my time is spent working on something related to it. As you probably know federal regulations imposed over the last decade has severely harmed West Virginia’s coal-related businesses, and has played a big part in causing huge budget shortfalls. We are going line by line through the spending reports and we are going to have to determine where funding is really necessary, and where funding can be reduced. We are also examining ways to reform our tax structure to encourage new job creation, which increases revenue to the state. Tax reform may not solve the immediate problem though. The easy short term “fix” is to raise taxes; I remain committed to pushing my colleagues to do the hard work to reduce excessive government spending.
Remember as I write these updates that these are my duties and experiences, and that other legislators may have overlapping duties, or entirely different ones. We all vote on every bill that comes up for final passage and we network with our colleagues to help us make the best decisions. I am reporting on issues that are occurring in the House of Delegates; on the other side of the Capitol the Senate is working on different issues. In a few weeks the bills passed by the House will go to the Senate for consideration and the bills passed by the Senate will come to the House. If each body passes a bill it goes to the governor to be signed into law or vetoed.
Last week we passed legislation to prevent people who are convicted of certain crimes from acquiring another’s property. An example would be if an adult child intentionally does something to kill their elderly parent, that adult child would not be able to inherit the parent’s property. That was HB 2404 and I voted yes.
We also passed a bill to strengthen and establish criminal offenses relating to human trafficking. In other words strict laws and punishment for people convicted of kidnapping and forcing others into prostitution or some kind of slavery. It is sad to think that we even need such a law, but these offenses are more common than I ever thought possible. That bill was HB 2318 and I voted yes. We also passed a handful of other bills; they were of an administrative nature.
In the Homeland Security Committee which I chair, we heard testimony from a Charleston resident who has a tremendous amount of information related to foreign refugees who are being located in West Virginia. In recent years those of us in the legislature have been told that West Virginia was not accepting refugees, but that is obviously not true. The fact is that we have accepted at least 50 refugees recently, and during the committee meeting the state department that is responsible for the refugee program could not even tell us how many refugees are here, or where they were located; clearly that is not acceptable. This meeting was just for informational purposes. I intend to follow up with more hearings, and possible legislation to insure that your representatives and local officials know what is happening in your neighborhoods; first from a safety standpoint and secondly as an economic concern.
Mason and Putnam County Students continue to represent us very well in the Page Program here at the Capitol; it is always a pleasure to meet them. Please keep me and all of my colleagues in your prayers.
It is an honor to serve you,
Delegate Jim Butler
Jim Butler (R-Gallipolis Ferry) represents the 14th District in the West Virginia House of Delegates.