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Legislature roundup

The Dominion Post

Bills introduced on Feb. 27

CHARLESTON, W.Va.  — Here are some bills introduced Feb. 27. Local lead sponsors and co-sponsors are noted.

SB 446, a governor’s bill to authorize him to furlough state workers in the wake of the budget crisis. Part of the budgetary chess game between the governor and Legislature.

SB452, another bill to create a state Earned Income Tax Credit. Sen. Roman Prezioso, D-Marion, co-sponsor.

HB 2710, adds unborn child or fetus to statute criminalizing child neglect resulting in death.

HB 2711, a governor’s bill, to abolish RESAs.

HB 2712, to allow people with permits to carry concealed weapons on the Capitol Complex.

HB 2713, to allow people with permits to carry concealed weapons on state higher education campuses.

HB 2714, to allow people with permits to carry concealed weapons on school campuses.

HB 2715, to establish procedures to carry out the death penalty.


Committee studies tax reform bill

CHARLESTON, W.Va.  — The Senate Select Committee on Tax Reform got its first look at SB 335, the bill to revamp the state tax system, on Feb. 27.

Mike Carl, a former state tax commissioner and now consultant hired to help draft the bill, walked the members through a revised committee substitute for the introduced bill.

As Carl nutshelled it, the 62-page bill repeals the sales, service and use taxes (a use tax is levied on items purchased or leased for use in this state but not taxed at the point of sale), effective July 1.

It enacts an 8 percent general consumption tax — also effective July 1 — with a list of 31 exemptions.


Water bill hearing draws complaints

CHARLESTON, W.Va.  — A Feb. 27 public hearing on a bill to change how drinking water standards are applied to discharges into rivers drew three times more opponents than supporters.

Supporters said the changes will draw new industry to the state. Opponents said it will open the doors to more pollution and drive people away.

HB 2506 is on second reading on the House floor Feb. 28. The hearing, held by the Judiciary Committee, drew 25 bill opponents and seven supporters.

The three-page bill adds six new, highly technical, lines to state code regarding how the Department of Environmental Protection determines human health criteria for National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permits.

The bill proposes to change the standard to “harmonic mean flow,” which projects a lifetime exposure to pollutants based on average annual flow.

While the EPA allows this type of measurement, opponents say it poses more danger because pollutant concentrations are higher when flows are low.


Justice tweaks budget plan

CHARLESTON, W.Va.  — Impatient with lack of legislative progress on a budget proposal, Gov. Jim Justice unveiled on Feb. 27 an alternate plan to ease the state out of its $500 million budget hole, create jobs and pay for roads.

The plan keeps many of his original proposals in place. But it creates a 1 cent sugary drink tax to raise $85 million and increases the cigarette tax another 50 cents per pack to raise $47.8 million. Wealthy West Virginians will pay an additional tax: $500 for incomes above $200,000; $750 for $250,00; $1,000 for incomes above $300,000.

He would lower his proposed .2 percent Commercial Activities Tax on gross receipts to .00075 percent, to raise $80.4 million. And he would lower his half cent sales tax hike to a quarter cent: 6.25 cents per dollar.

Those changes plus some others would lead to a $63 million surplus.

His roads plan makes the West Virginia Turnpike free to all in-state motorists, who can opt for an $8 EZ Pass for travel elsewhere. The turnpike tolls rise to $4 for all other drivers, with half of the revenue going to other roads.

The proposed DMV fee hike from $30 to $50 would be offset by reducing annual vehicle inspections to once every three years, resulting in a net annual increase of $10.23 per motorist. He reduced his proposed 10 cent gas tax hike to 4.5 cents.

Justice said he will amend his current budget bill with his new ideas and hopes it will gain traction in the Legislature.

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