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Action kicks up in West Virginia legislature


The Intelligencer and Wheeling News-Register

WHEELING, W.Va.  — A bill prohibiting the Smarter Balanced Assessment as West Virginia’s format for standardized testing is set for its first reading before the full Senate in Charleston.

The Senate Finance Committee on Monday advanced Senate Bill 18 with a recommendation that it be approved by the full Senate. While the bill still requires that a new testing format be adopted, it no longer stipulates the new system be a product of the ACT company.

The West Virginia Board of Education would put the matter out for bid, and could contract with more than one vendor for a new standardized testing system.

The bill is among many moving in the West Virginia Legislature as lawmakers’ regular session moves into its last three weeks.

Monday was the 41st day of the 60-day session, and marked the last day bills could be introduced in the Senate. The last day for new legislation in the House was March 14.

Lawmakers have until March 29 — the 50th day of the session — to pass bills out of their chamber of origin. Bills that aren’t passed out are said to have “dropped dead.”

The regular session of the Legislature concludes at midnight on April 8.

Passing the House on Monday was House Bill 2916, which would provide authority to reserve deputies, ambulance crew members, firefighters, rescue squad members and emergency service personnel to carry firearms. It specifies the training required for them to be eligible to carry a firearm and allows them to be reimbursed for the cost of the training.

In the Senate, lawmakers passed Senate Bill 290. The measure would allow distillery or mini-distillery operators to offer liquor for purchase and on-premise consumption on Sundays beginning at 1 p.m.

Two bills of note also passed the Senate on Saturday: SB 500 would place investigations of Medicaid fraud under the West Virginia Attorney General’s Office after July 1.

SB 524 would prohibit implementation of Common Core academic standards and require adoption and implementation of certain other academic standards for a minimum of five school years after date of implementation.

Other measures to watch in the last days of the Legislature pertain to the state’s budget and money shortfall.

SB 335 would repeal West Virginia’s 6-percent sales tax and its personal income tax in favor of an 8-percent general consumption tax. The bill has been approved by the Select Committee on Tax Reform, and is before the Senate Finance Committee with recommendation that it pass.

HB 3066 would redirect money that currently goes into the Greyhound Development Fund into the state’s General Revenue Fund beginning this year. Introduced last week, the measure has been assigned to the House Finance Committee for consideration.

The overall state budget bill, HB 2018, remains before the Senate Finance Committee.

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