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WV Legislature: Report from the House of Delegates for week ending Jan. 13

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By Ann Ali, WV House of Delegations Communications

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — When members of the West Virginia House of Delegates took the oath of office Wednesday, Jan. 11, to kick off the first session of the 86th Legislature, it marked the first time in history the state will be represented by single-member House districts.

West Virginia Supreme Court Chief Justice Beth Walker administered the oath of office to all members after Secretary of State Mac Warner delivered the certified election results of November 2022, and members then elected Roger Hanshaw, R-Clay, to his third term as Speaker of the House.

“He is a man of faith; he is a man who is committed to his family; he is probably one of the most disciplined men I have ever seen, and he is a servant,” Delegate David Kelly, R-Tyler, said in nominating Hanshaw. “He is humble. He doesn’t boast about his status or his accomplishments, although he could. But he is more interested in boasting about our status and our accomplishments. He is a man of vision.”

Speaker Hanshaw then addressed the members from the podium, thanking them for the honor and reminding them of the honor to occupy one of the 100 seats they collectively share in the House of Delegates representing 1.8 million West Virginians.

“This body, actions taken by this body have made it possible for over six billion dollars of investment to have been made in our state in the last five years,” Hanshaw said. “We are talking about economy transforming jobs into communities across our state; we did that. We did that together.”

Hanshaw revisited the goal he set as Speaker when he spoke to members as he assumed the position two years ago, saying it would be his priority to make West Virginia the easy choice.

“I am very proud to say the work we have done here has helped put us on the right path to make it easier to choose West Virginia,” he said. “We have a lot more opportunity ahead of us, we have a lot more responsibility on our shoulders now that what we have done has been working, we simply now need to keep our foot on the accelerator.”

Members then elected Stephen J. Harrison for another term as Clerk of the House, Marshall Clay as Sergeant-at-Arms and Robert Stewart as Doorkeeper.

The House welcomed Gov. Jim Justice to address a joint session of the Legislature for his State of the State address and to present his budget, which proposes a 50% reduction in the personal income tax to take place in three phases over three years. The legislation to carry out that plan, House Bill 2526, advanced from the House Finance Committee Thursday, Jan. 12, after members made a change that included the Personal Income Tax Reserve Fund in the bill.

“You are touching every wage earner in the state of West Virginia with this bill,” said House Finance Committee Chairman Vernon Criss.

The measure would begin with a 30% reduction in state personal income tax rates beginning with the 2023 tax year, and then reduce the original rates by another 10% the following year, and another 10% the year after that.

The newly elevated House Technology and Infrastructure Committee reported out two bills this week, HB 2218, a potential expansion and modernization of current distracted driving laws, and HB 2310, which would allow the West Virginia Division of Motor Vehicles to develop an “antique fleet” program to utilize a single registration plate for a person to rotate among multiple antique motor vehicles.

The House Health and Human Resources Committee also advanced two measures this week: HB 2016, which would allow specific information to be shared among child agencies or facilities when making referrals or providing services on behalf of the child, while still keeping the information private; and HB 2002, which would increase support for families through several methods, including increasing the adoption tax credit and allowing adopted children of West Virginia residents to participate in the Department of Health and Human Resources’ early intervention services for children with developmental delays.

“We know this bill will require more work and fine-tuning, but this House is committed to supporting life and supporting families, so I’m happy we were able to get it moving early to allow for all those discussions,” said House Health Committee Chair Amy Summers, R-Taylor.

A total of 548 bills have been introduced in the House, and the 60-day, regular legislative session ends at midnight March 11.

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