CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Most of the 221 bills passed in the 2013 regular session and a two-day special session that followed are awaiting action by Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, who has until the end of the week to sign or veto pending bills.
Through Monday, Tomblin had signed 49 bills into law, including legislation making failure to wear a seat belt a primary traffic offense (HB2108), as well as the 2013-14 budget bill (HB2104).
Failure to wear a seat belt has been a secondary offense since 1993, enforceable only after a driver has been stopped for another traffic violation. After July 1, officers will be able to make traffic stops for failure to wear a seat belt, a violation that carries a $25 fine, but no court costs or driving record points.
The budget, which sets out how state agencies are to spend $11.41 billion in revenue from taxes, fees, Lottery profits, and federal appropriations, frequently is the last bill signed into law following each legislative session.
However, Tomblin signed the bill April 22. It is also the only legislation subject to line-item veto, allowing the governor to delete portions of the bill before signing it, but Tomblin did not exercise that veto power in a tight budget year.
A number of key issues are pending action by Tomblin, including four of the five bills passed in special session.
That includes bills to authorize a sales tax increment financing district for a major development project outside of Morgantown (SB1001), and to provide pay raises for magistrates and staff from smaller counties (SB1003).
Key bills pending from the regular session include the governor's legislation to curb prison and regional jail overcrowding by implementing a system that encourages early release of non-violent offenders but mandates post-release supervision for all released inmates (SB371).
Also pending are bills that would limit the Higher Education Policy Commission's financial oversight of Marshall and West Virginia University (SB444), permit the merger of Bridgemont and Kanawha Valley community and technical colleges (SB438), establish rules for filling vacancies in statewide elected offices and Congressional seats (SB527), as well as the Feed to Achieve Act -- which would allow school systems to seek private contributions to help fund programs to provide free breakfast and lunch to schoolchildren (SB663).
So far, Tomblin has yet to veto any bills passed during the session -- other than three he vetoed for technical errors prior to the start of the special session. Those bills were corrected and re-passed by the Legislature during the special session.
Once the Legislature adjourns, the governor has 15 days, excluding Sundays, to either sign bills into law or veto them.
The process of enrolling bills and presenting them to the governor is slow and arcane.
All bills that pass the Legislature have to be proofread before final versions are printed.
To become law, each bill must be signed by six people, in addition to the governor: The Senate president, the House speaker, the clerks of the House and Senate, and the chairpersons of the House and Senate Enrolled Bills committees.Reach Phil Kabler at ph...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1220.