By JOSELYN KING
The Intelligencer and Wheeling News-Register
WHEELING, W.Va. — West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice will come to Wheeling Saturday morning to make a major announcement regarding the future of the greyhound breeders industry, according to information provided by Wheeling Vice Mayor Chad Thalman.
Justice’s words will come just hours before a deadline to veto Senate Bill 437, legislation defunding the local greyhound breeders fund.
He is slated to speak in the third floor courtroom at West Virginia Independence Hall at 11 a.m. Doors open at 9 a.m.
Clark Barnes, clerk of the West Virginia Senate, said Justice has until 6:47 p.m. Saturday to veto SB 437 — five days exactly to the time stamp when the bill was sent to his office for signature.
If Justice vetos the bill while in Wheeling, his staff will communicate the message to the House and Senate, Barnes said.
After this, members in each chamber could ignore the message, allowing the veto to take place. They also could decide to take action to override the veto, and a motion to override would have to pass a simple majority in both the House and Senate.
Any effort to override the veto would not have to take place before the regular session of the Legislature ends at midnight Saturday, according to Barnes.
Justice has extended the session one day for the sole purpose of addressing the state budget, and Barnes said the House and Senate will be able to address and act on messages submitted to them on Sunday.
SB 437 passed the Senate on March 27 with a vote of 19 to 15, and it was approved by the House on April 1 by a roll call of 56-44.
“It’s not assured members will vote the same way on the veto,” Barnes said. “Just because they voted for the legislation doesn’t mean they will vote to override a veto.”
Thalman said Wheeling Mayor Glenn Elliott traveled to Charleston on Monday to meet with Justice so the two could discuss the negative economic impact the Wheeling area would experience if the greyhound industry left the state.
“I believe that this meeting with the governor was crucial in potentially saving the greyhound industry and encouraging the governor to travel to Wheeling on Saturday,” Thalman said.
Thalman sees it as a positive move for Wheeling and the greyhound industry that Justice is coming to Wheeling.
“A lot of local jobs are tied to the greyhound industry,” he said. “They city receives a significant amount of revenue from the racing and casino industries. We’re fighting to keep those jobs here in Wheeling.”
The legislation passed by the Legislature abolishes the requirement that West Virginia’s two dog racing tracks — the Wheeling Island Hotel-Casino-Racetrack and the Mardi Gras Resort and Casino in Cross Lanes, W.Va. — continue to offer greyhound racing if they wish to keep their video lottery license.
The measure also would permit the tracks to move their operations to another location in the county if it is approved by the West Virginia Lottery Commission.
Thalman estimates Wheeling receives over $1 million in overall tax revenue from the track.
“I have not heard directly from them they would move, but we would lose $1 million a year if they did,” he said.
Kim Florence, president of Wheeling Island Hotel-Casino-Racetrack, did not immediately return calls seeking comment.
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