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Gov. Justice working through legislation


The Herald-Dispatch of Huntington

CHARLESTON, W.Va. – A week after the end of the legislative session, Gov. Jim Justice is about one-fifth of the way through the 262 bills approved by the 83rd West Virginia Legislature.

In total, 130 bills originating in the House of Delegates and 132 bills originating in the Senate met complete approval by members of both houses during the 60-day regular session, with a governor-issued one-day extension, that ended Sunday, April 9.

Of those bills, Justice has signed 55 and vetoed four of them. So far, no bills have become law without Justice’s signature, and 56 were pending his signature Saturday.

Before a bill can be sent to the governor, it must be proofread by House and Senate staff before being signed by six individuals. Those people are the Senate and House clerks, a Senate and House representative of the Committee on Enrolled Bills, and the Speaker of the House and Senate President.

A bill only can be sent to the governor for his approval after it’s reviewed and signed by all six of those individuals.

The timeline for that review and approval process depends on the type of bill.

For the budget and other supplemental appropriations, the state constitution requires Justice to sign or veto them within five days.

Justice vetoed House Bill 2018, the budget bill, on Thursday, four days after the Legislature adjourned sine die.

For all other bills, once the Legislature has adjourned sine die, Justice has 15 days, not counting Sundays, to decide to sign or veto a bill. Otherwise it will become law without his signature.

Naloxone in schools

Among those bills Justice approved last week was a measure to allow teachers and school staff who are certified to carry and administer opioid antagonists in school facilities.

The law will go into effect in July.

The law permits nurses and certified staff to use the treatment on any person who suffers an overdose on school property.

Under pre-existing state law, licensed school nurses were the only school personnel permitted to carry and administer opioid antagonists, more commonly known as naloxone and its brand name Narcan, if a county board of education permitted it.

The new law expands permission to carry naloxone to all 55 county districts, including private schools. It also would allow teachers who are properly certified to carry and administer naloxone.

The bill also would require school district officials to keep record of each use of naloxone.

Naloxone is an anti-opioid drug that can reverse the effects of a heroin or pain medication overdose by blocking the depression of brain and respiratory functions that are limited by those drugs.

All public schools in Cabell County have stocked naloxone since the 2015-16 school year through a waiver from the West Virginia Department of Education.

Justice vetoes

While the most notable veto of Justice’s short time as governor is that of the budget bill, the budget bill was the fourth veto for Justice so far.

On March 28, Justice vetoed Senate Bill 330, which provided some technical corrections and clarifications to definitions in the West Virginia Workplace Freedom Act, which originally passed the Legislature in 2016.

On March 30, the Senate voted to override the veto, and members of the House followed suit, overriding the veto entirely on April 7.

The law, sometimes referred to as a “right-to-work” law, currently is the subject of litigation before the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals.

The law prohibits companies from requiring employees to pay union dues as a condition of employment as part of new collective bargaining agreements.

A bill that met its end at a Justice veto was Senate Bill 347, which eliminated certain recertification requirements and expanded some prescription authority for physician assistants in the state.

The bill would have changed the law to make the recertification optional. Some want to recertify, but many PAs are in specialized fields and no longer use some of the areas the recertification covers.

Finally, Justice vetoed Senate Bill 437 on April 8, making an announcement that he would do so in front of a crowd at Independence Hall in Wheeling, where the Wheeling Island Hotel Casino Racetrack is located.

The bill would have eliminated the West Virginia Greyhound Breeding Development Fund, saving the state an estimated $13 million, which would have been transferred to the state’s Excess Lottery Revenue Fund.

Justice said saving the fund also would save an estimated 1,700 jobs in the state.

In his veto message, Justice questioned the legality of the Legislature unilaterally decoupling West Virginia casinos and racetracks since counties authorized gaming and racing as a package deal. Justice said SB 437 would also jeopardize the health of the state’s casino industry.

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