Anyone who has observed the final day of a legislative session can expect some confusion and last-minute political fights, and this year was certainly no exception. This time as a legislator, I experienced first-hand some of the frustration that comes with such a flurry of activity, most notably in the passage of a budget that very many legislators, even those in the majority party, thought was irresponsible.
So it’s no surprise that Governor Jim Justice has vetoed that budget, and intends to bring legislators back to Charleston in a special session to develop a new version sometime before the end of the current fiscal year, July 1.
I am hopeful that both sides can work with the Governor on some minor revenue measures to prevent the drastic cuts included in the vetoed budget. Most importantly, it is critical that legislators move forward with the Governor’s road construction and infrastructure initiative that will create as many as 48,000 jobs for West Virginians.
As for other legislation, there were certainly many bills flying back and forth between the House of Delegates and Senate during the final days. In the end, the Legislature completed action on 132 House bills and 130 Senate bills.
With the exception of a few that have already been signed or vetoed, each of the bills will next be reviewed by the Governor, who can opt to sign, veto or let the legislation become law without his signature after 15 days.
There are numerous pieces of completed legislation worthy of detailed discussion in future columns, including bills to expand broadband access in the state, address criminal violations, improve our educational system and provide better drug treatment programs.
Unfortunately, the Legislature also wasted time on bills that hurt working families, such as Senate Bill 330 to clean up the poorly drafted 2016 “Right to Work” legislation, which the West Virginia AFL-CIO is currently challenging in court. The Legislature even went so far as to override the Governor’s veto of the bill, although just barely in the House by a 51-49 vote.
But I am pleased to report on one piece of legislation House members agreed on: House Resolution 13, which urges the United States Congress to pass the Miners Protection Act.
As is noted in the resolution, of which I am a sponsor, more than 105,000 of America’s miners have been killed on the job in the last century and more than 100,000 have died from coal workers’ pneumoconiosis, or Black Lung.
“Knowing those risks, miners have continued to go to work every day to provide for their families, build a secure future for themselves and produce the fuel that has allowed America to become the most powerful nation on earth. America has an obligation to our retired coal miners for the sacrifices they have made for our nation,” the resolution states.
We urged Congress to keep America’s promise to our retired coal miners and widows and to pass the Miners Protection Act as soon as possible in order to provide the full measure of benefits these retirees were promised and have earned. HR 13 passed by a 99-0 vote.
You can read that resolution and all other legislation introduced this session by clicking on the “Bill Status” tab on the legislative web site: www.wvlegis.state.wv.us .
As your representative, I’d welcome your input on how you think we should move forward. My office number is 304-340-3146 and my email is [email protected] . Please note however, that messages left at my office may not get attention while we are not in session. I can also be reached at 304 593-5010 while not in session.
Thank you for your trust and support,
Delegate Scott Brewer
Scott Brewer (D-New Haven) represents the 13th District in the West Virginia House of Delegates.