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Special session may be in works

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin is expected to meet with House and Senate leaders Tuesday to discuss agenda items for a possible special session to address bills lost on the final night of the regular session, including magistrate salaries and approval of a tax-increment financing district for a large development project outside of Morgantown.

"I'm getting positive vibes from all corners. I remain very optimistic and very hopeful we can take care of these unresolved issues from the session," Senate President Jeff Kessler, D-Marshall, said of a special session call.

Kessler said passage of the bill authorizing the sales tax TIF district to create a multi-million dollar development project near Morgantown is the "first and foremost" priority, but said he believes agreement can also be reached on magistrate pay.

Both bills died in the House at the end of the regular session when the House and Senate couldn't reach agreement on magistrate salaries.

The House wanted to eliminate a lower pay tier of $51,125, increasing salaries for 48 magistrates in less populated counties to $57,500, along with commensurate raises for their staffs. The Senate offered a more limited pay raise proposal, primarily aimed at restoring salaries for eight magistrates in four counties who suffered pay cuts January 1 because of population declines in those counties.

House Majority Leader Brent Boggs, D-Braxton, said he submitted a letter to Tomblin Monday morning, requesting the governor place three items on a special session call.

In addition to the Morgantown TIF authorization and the magistrate pay bills, Boggs said House leadership also wants the governor to revisit a bill to provide state funding to volunteer fire departments to assist with Workers' Compensation premiums for firefighters.

"I think everyone can sit down for a few minutes and come to an agreement in a very short period of time," Boggs said of the lost bills. "We can get them voted on, and passed."

House and Senate budget conferees began work on finalizing the 2013-14 budget bill Monday evening.

With few significant differences between the House and Senate versions of the budget, House Finance Chairman Harry Keith White, D-Mingo, said he believes the bill can be completed by Thursday, with a passage vote in the House and Senate on Friday.

At that point, Tomblin could call the Legislature into a brief special session to address the bills lost Saturday, as well as to correct any bills passed in the regular session that are found to contain technical errors.

Tomblin's representatives were unavailable for comment Monday.

Reach Phil Kabler at philk@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1220.


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