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Tomblin signs 193 bills, vetoes eight

By Phil Kabler, Staff writer

Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin completed work on all bills from the 2014 regular session prior to a midnight deadline Wednesday, signing 193 into law and vetoing eight.

Tomblin also set the stage for a brief special session, to coincide with May legislative interim meetings, May 19-21.

In signing legislation to phase in an increase in the state minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to $8.75 an hour over two years (HB4283), Tomblin indicated he will call a special session to correct issues in the bill that would greatly expand eligibility for overtime pay, potentially imposing extensive new costs on police and fire departments, among other employers.

“I will call the Legislature into extraordinary session during the May interims, beginning May 19, 2014, to address the issues of great concern to businesses large and small -- including the fiscal challenges expected to affect our local governments,” Tomblin said in a statement.

Deputy chief of staff Jason Pizatella said Wednesday the specifics of the special session have yet to be worked out, noting, “It may start on Sunday the 18th, or on Monday the 19th.”

Pizatella said current plans are to have only two bills on the special session call.

In addition to the bill to correct overtime provisions, the Legislature needs to appropriate revenue for 24 accounts that otherwise will lose funding as of July 1.

During the one-day special session March 14, the Legislature passed a bill that moves 24 accounts that previously automatically received state Lottery funding by statute to accounts that have to be appropriated by the Legislature (HB101).

Because the Legislature had already passed the 2014-15 budget bill (SB306) earlier in the day, that currently leaves those accounts unfunded beginning on July 1.

Those accounts include funding for Homestead Exemptions for senior citizens, bond funds for the School Building Authority, Higher Education Improvements, and the Economic Development Fund, Promise Scholarships, state park improvements, teachers’ pensions, the Development Office, Health and Human Resources, Tourism advertising matching grants, the state Courtesy Patrol, and an account to replenish the state’s Rainy Day emergency fund, among others.

“The Budget Office is working on the bill as we speak,” Pizatella said. “They should be getting funding estimate updates from the Lottery by the end of the week.”

Plans are for the bill to appropriate the same amount of funds each account would have received from racetrack video lottery profits under the old law, he said.

Pizatella said no other legislation lost during the 2014 regular session is likely to be reconsidered during the special session.

“That’s all we are contemplating as of right now,” he said of the two bills.

Prior to the deadline to act on bills, Tomblin signed legislation giving teachers and school service personnel pay raises (SB391), but vetoed a bill to give teachers duty-free lunches and planning periods (SB477), saying in his veto message, it would “prevent teachers and principals from working in a collaborative manner,” and would impose additional costs on county school boards.

The bill would have prohibited school administrators from requiring teachers to attend meetings, training or work-related events during their planning periods.

Another bill Tomblin vetoed shortly before the deadline was the “Project Launchpad Act” (HB4343).

As envisioned by lead sponsor Delegate Doug Skaff, D-Kanawha, the legislation would have provided tax credits to innovative, high-tech companies that locate facilities in economically distressed parts of the state.

During the session, state Revenue officials raised concerns that the proposal could result in $90 million or more in lost tax revenue annually.

In his veto message, Tomblin said the goals of Project Launchpad are admirable, but said the legislation is unworkable, in part, because it contains “a host of technical errors and inconsistencies.”

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


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