CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- At one point during the session, Timberline Resort co-owner Fred Herz sought me out in a panic over a bill to authorize a rural resort casino for a proposed development on the site of the Highlands golf course near Franklin in Pendleton County (SB492).
He was convinced the bill was a done deal, and talked of big-time investors (LGI Land Ltd., out of Texas), powerful lobbyist (Nick Casey), back-room politics and "fat possums."
Herz seemed exacerbated that I did not share his concerns over the bill. I pointed out at the time it had to get through two House committees, a floor vote in a House that with 46 Republican members is far from gambling-friendly (just ask the management of Wheeling Island casino), then through a House-Senate conference committee and additional passage votes in both houses.
In other words, what Herz saw as impending doom looked to me like a long-shot pipe dream.
(I also told him it wasn't a fat possum, since that terminology refers to a substantive amendment snuck into a bill late in the session unbeknownst to all but to leadership ... a practical impossibility with today's technologies.)
The bill died Wednesday, stuck in House Finance Committee, and that evening, Herz sought me out to apologize for questioning my read on the bill.
For the record, 1,829 bills were introduced this session. Going into the waning hours of the session, 1,523 of those bills were effectively dead; 82 bills had passed and been sent to the governor; and of the 224 active bills, about one-third were rule-making review bundles or supplemental appropriations.
A far wiser observer of state politics than myself, Roger Tompkins, opined that the beauty of the legislative process is that it is designed to kill bills, not pass them.
So while some publications were filled with headlines day after day on, for instance, the bill to repeal tolls on the West Virginia Turnpike (HB3163), some of us who've been to the dance before realized we'd heard that tune over and over, and knew nothing would come of it. ... Although in recent years, the order had been reversed, with the Senate passing the toll ban, and the House letting it die.
(Sen. Truman Chafin, D-Mingo, probably should thank the Turnpike Authority for his last couple of re-elections, running stronger in Mercer County than Mingo...)
Of course, good bills are lost in the process. Two that come to mind this session include SB584, a pre-trial release bill defeated primarily because lobbyists for bail bondsmen indicated that releasing low-risk defendants without bond would hurt their "industry."