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Bill to defund West Virginia Regional Education Service Agencies passed by House of Delegates


The Intelligencer and Wheeling News-Register

WHEELING, W.Va.  — A bill to defund West Virginia’s eight regional education service agencies is now on its way to the Senate.

House Bill 2711 passed the House on Tuesday by a vote of 76-24, with local delegates on both side of the issue.

Voting “yes” on the measure were delegates Joe Canestraro, D-Marshall; Phil Diserio, D-Brooke; Mike Ferro, D-Marshall; Dave Pethtel, D-Wetzel; William “Roger” Romine, R-Tyler; and Mark Zatezalo, R-Hancock. Voting “no” were Shawn Fluharty, D-Ohio; Patrick McGeehan, R-Ohio; and Erikka Storch, R-Ohio.

The bill differs from the legislation introduced on behalf of Gov. Jim Justice, which would have defunded and abolished the RESAs this year. Amendments to the measure would now delay the bill from taking effect until July 1, 2018, giving the RESAs and county school districts more than a year to determine a plan and establish cooperatives to continue services presently provided by the RESAs.

The RESAs would lose about $3.5 million in state funding under HB 2711, equaling about 7 percent of its $50 million annual budget, according to previous testimony provided during House committee meetings.

Other activity

Other legislation to eliminate tax credits for the film industry and increase taxes on other products such as beer was soundly defeated in the House on Tuesday.

House Bill 2816 failed by a vote of 39-60. Romine and Zatezalo voted in favor, while Diserio, Ferro, Fluharty, McGeehan, Pethtel and Storch were in opposition.

On the Senate side, a bill eliminating a sales tax exemption for materials acquired for use in state highway projects is set for a third reading and vote today. On Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Ryan Ferns, R-Ohio, proposed an amendment to the bill he said was based on Gov. Jim Justice’s latest package of proposed tax increases that includes a state sales tax increase to 6.25 percent, an increase in the cigarette tax and a new tax on sugary drinks.

Senators rejected the amendment, 32-0.

“I would encourage Governor Justice — after seeing today that even members of his own party in the Senate cannot bear to attach their names to his only submitted tax increase proposal — to provide an accurate, realistic revenue estimate and a feasible plan for addressing this budget crisis that does what he promised the voters of this state it would do: not increase the burden on citizens,”Senate President Mitch Carmichael, R-Jackson, said in a press release.

Medical marijuana

Senate Bill 386, the West Virginia Medical Cannabis Act, was read the for the second time before the full Senate on Tuesday, and is expected to get an up-or-down vote today.

Underage abortion notification

The House on Tuesday also voted to revise the legal requirement to notify parents of an underage daughter’s abortion, to allow lottery winners of more than $1 million to remain anonymous, and for legislation baring teens under 18 from tanning booths. These bills now go to the Senate for consideration.

Under the current law, a doctor other than the one performing an abortion can waive the requirement to notify parents by finding that the minor is mature enough to decide independently or that notification wouldn’t be in her best interest. Under the unanimously approved amendment, a psychiatrist or licensed psychologist would have to make that determination.

The lottery measure would allow big winners of Powerball, Hot Lotto or Mega Millions to shield their contact information from the public, protecting them from harassment and new friends who would appear after learning the person has won more than $1 million, House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Shott said.

In state lottery history, it would affect only 15 people, he said.

The prohibition on tanning would apply to anyone under 18. Under a 2013 state law, children younger than 14 are already banned from tanning beds in West Virginia businesses, and those 14 to 17 need parental permission or consent.

The latest bill would ban anyone under 18, even if they get parental permission. Sponsors say medical evidence shows an increased risk of skin cancers from indoor tanning.


In the Senate, members passed legislation to let industrial plants discharge more pollution into West Virginia waterways.

The bill that passed 20-13 would authorize the Department of Environmental Protection to calculate water pollution limits for cancer-causing and other chemicals using an average-flow figure called the “harmonic mean.”

That would replace low-flow waterway volume now used to calculate dilution and determine allowable discharge amounts, and allow larger discharges from individual sites.

Backers say overall water quality standards would remain the same.

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