CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin said Wednesday he remains optimistic that an agreement will be worked out on his bill to improve coal mine safety (HB4351).
"It could happen very shortly," he said Wednesday afternoon. "It could be by today that we get these differences worked out."
However, by Wednesday evening, a compromise had yet to be reached, as coal industry lobbyists continued pushback on several key points in the bill.
The bill, one of the keystones of Tomblin's 2012 legislative agenda, was to have been on amendment stage on the House floor on Tuesday, but the House Rules Committee moved it to the inactive calendar, after coal industry lobbyists objected to several provisions in the bill.
Closed-door negotiations continued throughout the day Wednesday, but House Judiciary Chairman Tim Miley, D-Harrison, said of the discussions, "Sometimes, it seemed like we were slipping back instead of moving forward."
He said Tomblin, House Speaker Rick Thompson, D-Wayne, and Senate President Jeff Kessler, D-Marshall, were planning to meet Wednesday evening to determine the status of the legislation.
"They're meeting to see if we can get a mine safety bill," Miley said.
Based on recommendations from investigations of the 2010 Upper Big Branch mine disaster that killed 29 miners, the House version of the governor's bill includes a number of provisions adopted from a mine safety bill sponsored by Thompson and other House leaders (HB4085).
One of those provisions became a key sticking point for coal industry representatives: The issue of surviving family members being able to select a representative to participate in the mine fatality investigations.
Tomblin said Wednesday he believed a compromise had been worked out on that issue.