Mark Your Calendars: The Legislative Deadlines You Need to Know

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We’ve only got 17 days left in the 2015 legislative session. That means that time is running short and a number of deadlines are coming up this week. These deadlines structure the legislative session calendar to ensure that as much activity as possible occurs in the 60 day session.

This week, we are highlighting the deadlines that have recently passed or are on the horizon in the coming days.

Last Day to Introduce Bills

Senate Rule 14 and House Rule 91a state that the Senate cannot introduce any bills after the forty-first day of the session and that the House cannot introduce any bills after the forty-second day of the session.

For the 2015 session, the last day to introduce bills in the Senate was this past Monday, Feb. 23, and the last day to introduce bills in the House was Tuesday, Feb. 24.

Legislators often introduce a substantial number of bills in these final days. This year, the House introduced 126 new bills on the final day for introduction and the Senate introduced 42 new bills on their final day for introduction. While this is more than have been introduced in the final days of the last few years, it’s not substantially out of the norm.

For bills that are introduced in the final days, though, there are significant hurdles to overcome to stay alive. On average, about 10 percent of bills introduced at the very end of the session pass into law. The vast majority of the 168 bills introduced this week will never make it out of committee.

That is because a second deadline comes almost immediately after the final day of introduction deadline: the Forty-Seventh Day Deadline.

Delegates Don Perdue, Sean Hornbuckle and Mike Pushkin talk during a House Education Committee meeting earlier this week.

Delegates Don Perdue, Sean Hornbuckle and Mike Pushkin talk during a House Education Committee meeting earlier this week. Photo Courtesy of Perry Bennett/WV Legislative Photography.

Bills Due Out of Committee

House and Senate rules require every bill to have three full readings on the floor before the bill can be voted on (House Rule 102Senate Rule 19). Generally, this means that a bill must be read on the floor over a three day time period before the final vote on the third day.

In order to comply with those rules, bills must be out of committee and on the floor of their house of origin for their first reading on the forty-seventh day of the legislature. The house of origin means that bills that were introduced on the Senate side have to be out of all Senate committees by the forty-seventh day, and bills introduced on the House side have to be out of all House committees by the same day. The forty-seventh day falls on Sunday, March 1 this year. If the Legislature does not meet over the weekend, every bill will have to be out of committee by this Friday, Feb. 27.

The forty-seventh day deadline gives bills time to be read on the floor of their house of origin before crossover day, the third deadline of the coming week.

Crossover Day

Bills must be out of their house of origin by the fiftieth day of the session. To pass out of its house of origin, a bill must have three readings (or have that requirement suspended by a 4/5ths vote) and be voted for by a majority of members. Any bill that does not achieve this by March 4 will have died and will have to try again next year. Every bill that does pass this deadline moves into the opposite chamber and has 10 days to speed through passage on that side.

Last Day of Session

All activity ends at midnight on the sixtieth day of the session – Saturday, March 14. Any bills that have not passed both chambers will have died, unless they are placed on the agenda for a special session.

Special Sessions

Senate President William Cole leads the Senate floor session on Monday February 23rd.

Senate President William Cole leads the Senate floor session on Monday February 23rd. Photo courtesy of Martin Valent/WV Legislative Photography

Because of the short time period of West Virginia’s legislative session, there is normally at least one special session called following the regular session of the legislature.

Special sessions are short legislative sessions called by the Governor following the regular session. Special sessions are often used to finalize and pass a balanced budget, which the Legislature is constitutionally required to pass each year. The Governor may also place other bills on the agenda for the special session. Only bills that are placed on the agenda by the Governor may be considered during special sessions.

Last year saw two special sessions, one immediately following the legislative session and a second special session in May. Twenty-six bills were on the agenda for those two special sessions, 15 of which passed.

Because special sessions are at the total discretion of the Governor, it is generally understood that any bills that do not make it through the deadlines of the regular session will almost certainly have to be taken up in the following year.

Tensions Rise as End of Session Looms

Senate Majority Leader Mitch Carmichael speaks to press during Senate recess on Tuesday following the motion to revive the Charter Schools bill.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch Carmichael speaks to press during Senate recess on Tuesday following the motion to revive the Charter Schools bill. Photo courtesy of Martin Valent/WV Legislative Photography.

High tensions in the Senate, first vetoes by the Governor, and the clock ticking for priority legislation

You may have heard about some serious hubbub happening in the Senate chamber this week or, if you were like us and were listening in on the floor session on Tuesday, you may have heard the heated and confusing dialogue yourself.

Raised voices on the Senate floor were just part of the hubbub this week. The last few days also saw the first vetoes by the Governor and some more attention on Republican leadership priority bills. The Hub is here to help you slice through the noise and understand what hubbub matters – and what doesn’t.

Senate Parliamentary Hubbub

Tuesday saw one of the most contentious days of the session in the Senate and highlighted some of the tensions that have been boiling under the surface throughout the last 40 days.

While there was some exclamation that this is a larger issue about how the Legislature operates, what the hubbub this week really shows is the power of a voting bloc – and how that power can shift with the absence of only a few legislators.

It all started with a controversial bill that has the Senate split on party lines. The debate boiled over because of a set of obscure parliamentary actions taken in a committee meeting and then on the Senate floor.

Monday evening during a Senate Finance Committee meeting, Minority Leader Senator Jeff Kessler (Marshall Co.) moved to indefinitely postpone SB 14, the bill that would allow for the creation of charter schools in West Virginia. Indefinite postponement is a procedure whereby a committee votes to no longer consider a bill. It doesn’t vote against the bill out-right, but basically puts it into a holding area that the bill is unlikely to ever emerge from. Normally, indefinite postponement kills a bill for the remainder of the session.

Senate Minority Leader Jeff Kessler speaking to press during Senate recess on Tuesday.

Senate Minority Leader Jeff Kessler speaking to press during Senate recess on Tuesday. Photo courtesy of Martin Valent/WV Legislative Photography

Sen. Kessler was only able to succeed with his motion because three Republican senators were missing from the committee meeting that day. All three senators were out for excused medical and professional reasons but their absence gave the Democrat minority a rare opportunity to have the majority vote along party lines. The postponement motion passed because the Republicans did not have a majority in the committee and it looked like the charter school bill was dead for this year.

After checking with the Senate Parliamentarian, the Republican leadership determined that they could take the bill back up on the Senate floor on Tuesday by passing a motion to discharge the bill from the Finance Committee. While there was heated argument over whether this was a valid motion, current and previous Senate Parliamentarians made clear that the chamber has authority to undertake such an action. Democrats responded by slowing the activity on the Senate floor to a crawl on Tuesday by requiring the Assistant Senate Clerk to read every bill in full.

While this type of partisan fighting and procedural filibustering happens regularly in the U.S. Congress, it is rare for this to happen in the WV statehouse.

Tuesday served as an interesting glimpse into some of the mechanisms that lawmakers can use to shift, slow and change the legislative process – and it served as a reminder of how such a narrow split between the number of majority and minority members can create opportunities for hubbub, if legislators want to take advantage of those opportunities.

The First Vetoes

Tuesday also saw the first vetoes issued by Governor Earl Ray Tomblin for the 2015 session. While the Governor has already signed eight bills into law, he did not approve two bills passed by the Legislature that were awaiting his signature.

He vetoed SB 2201, which dealt with net metering, and HB 335, which provided first responders with access to opioid antagonists to combat drug overdoses. Both bills were vetoed because of technical errors.

Gov. Tomblin had discussed the need for access to opioid antagonists in his State of the State and encouraged the Legislature to fix that legislation and send it back to his desk before the end of the session.

It is unclear whether the Legislature will be able to fix both bills and move them back through passage before the session ends.

Leadership Priorities

The House and Senate Leadership have been working against the clock since the first day of the session and the looming deadlines of this week have caused them to ramp up their work, just like everyone else.

The Senate Majority Leader shared his party’s priority bill list with the Charleston Daily Mail and it’s an interesting glimpse into some of the hubbub that we are likely to see over the next week.

Here are bills that the Senate Republicans have prioritized to move through this year, meaning that they must be through their committee review by Sunday…

  • The asbestos reform bill, SB 411, is a tort reform bill addressing mass litigation relating to asbestos claims. This bill will be on third reading on the Senate floor on Friday.
  • The aboveground storage tank bill, SB 423, which you can read about in our blog post from last week on a number of water bills. It will be on second reading on Friday.
  • The consumer credit act, SB 542. This bill would, among other provisions, allow creditors to contact anyone to obtain a debtor’s contact information and allows creditors to contact consumers between 8 a.m. and 9 p.m. every day. It has not yet left the Judiciary Committee.
  • SB 541 received some press attention this week because of concerns raised by Senate Minority committee members about the Campaign Finance Act. This bill would dramatically change state elections by repealing a state law that currently bans corporate contributions to state candidates. Currently, corporations cannot give directly to candidates. SB 541 would remove this ban and allow unlimited contributions by corporations.
  • SB 347, also know as the “constitutional carry” firearms act. This bill would remove current requirements that require gun owners to have a license to carry a concealed weapon. While it dismantles current concealed permit requirements, it does continue state licensing for any person who wants to obtain a WV firearms permit in order to obtain reciprocity with other states. The bill will be up for a final vote on the Senate floor on Friday.
  • SB 377, or the “Learned Intermediary Defense” bill is another tort reform bill. This bill creates a legal defense for pharmaceutical manufacturers and sellers. It protects manufacturers and sellers from product liability claims so long as they provide warnings about the potential dangers of the drugs. The bill is up for a final vote on the Senate floor on Friday.
  • The Franchise Bill, SB 453, applies to motor vehicle dealers, distributors, manufacturers and wholesalers. It’s a big bill updating and clarifying the section of code dealing with these franchises. It is not the motor vehicle bill that has gotten some media attention (SB 107) which would exempt certain used cars from implied warranties. SB 453 is still in the Judiciary Committee.
  • Much attention has been paid to the Right to Work bill, SB 337. While there has much hubbub over this bill, including public hearings, rallies and a number of articles and editorials in various newspapers, the bill is currently in the Judiciary Committee and has not been taken up yet for a vote.
  • SB 291 would allow the Attorney General’s office to contract for outside legal services. It is up for final vote on the Senate floor on Friday.
  • SB 248 requires individuals involved in a car accident to provide insurance information to the other driver. Originally the bill included a provision requiring law enforcement officials at the scene of the accident to collect and distribute insurance and contact information between each of the drivers. This provision was removed in a committee meeting. The more limited version of the bill is up for a second reading on the Senate floor on Friday.
  • Finally, SB 278 is a hunting bill that would prohibit the use of night vision in hunting and would permit crossbow hunting in the state. It will be on second reading this Friday.

And that’s all the hubbub that we’re following this week at the Legislature!

 

“Property Rescue” Bill Takes Aim at Abandoned Buildings

Abandoned property in Greenbrier County.

Abandoned property in Greenbrier County. Photo courtesy Abandoned Properties Coalition.

A bi-partisan group of delegates has taken up the issue of abandoned properties in a bill introduced earlier this week.

HB 2810 would create the “West Virginia Property Rescue Initiative” to address and reduce the number of dilapidated properties in the state that pose an on-going health and safety threat to communities. 

Sponsored by the Kanawha County delegation, Delegates Nancy Guthrie, Mike Pushkin, Andrew Byrd, Larry Rowe, John McCuskey, Brad White, Chris Stansbury and Ron Walters, HB 2810 was crafted with guidance from the West Virginia Housing Development Fund.

This program requires the Housing Development Fund to work with municipalities and counties to address vacant and dilapidated structures, and to provide technical assistance, training and consultation to those entities on this subject. Additionally, the bill would create a revolving loan fund to serve as funding for cities and counties to take down structures. It requires the Housing Development Fund to deposit a total of $5 million in this loan fund over the next five years. It provides flexibility for the Housing Development Fund to structure the terms of the loan repayment program, with the option to offer no-interest loans to communities.

The bill makes no mention of access to the property rescue initiative by nonprofit housing and redevelopment groups. It also does not mention how this bill will intersect with the Affordable Housing Trust Fund and programs that are offered through that entity.

The bill is double-referenced to House Judiciary and Finance committees. It will be a heavy lift for the bill to move through both committees prior to the March 1st deadline. If you are interested in this bill, want to know more about its progress, or have ideas about potential changes or improvements to the bill, consider contacting the lead sponsor Delegate Nancy Guthrie at 304-340-3156 or nancy.guthrie@wvhouse.gov.

 

New Laws Would Cut Red Tape for WV Nonprofits

Companion bills are moving through the House and Senate that would impact non-profits across the state.

SB 351 and HB 2716 would increase the level at which nonprofit institutions would be required to undertake a professional audit or financial review. Currently, organizations that raise more than $200,000 in contributions (outside of grants from agencies and private foundations) have to provide an annual audit to the Secretary of State and organizations that raise between $200,00 – $500,000 per year in contributions have to submit a financial review statement to the Secretary of State.

The proposed laws would increase that threshold limit to $500,000 in contributions to trigger an audit requirement and a range of $200,000 – $500,000 in contributions to trigger a financial review statement requirement.

The change is being advocated for by the Secretary of State’s Office, the WV Nonprofit Association, Philanthropy WV and the WV Society of CPAs.

The senate bill passed by a vote of 34 to 0 on Wednesday February 25th. The house rule passed House Finance Committee on Wednesday February 25th and will be moving to the floor for a final vote later this week. If you would like more information on this bill, and information on how you could help, contact the WV Nonprofit Association, www.wvnpa.org.

One-Stop Shop: Bill Proposes Electronic Portal for Business Admin

Whitesville Farmers DaughtersThe West Virginia Chamber of Commerce is working with the Secretary of State to advance HB 2878, which would create a one-stop electronic business portal.

This bill would increase the efficiency of businesses in completing administrative requirements mandated by various state agencies in order to incorporate in the state.

The intention of the bill is to consolidate and improve the process for starting and maintaining a business in the state, reducing the burden on business owners for administrative filings.

The one-stop electronic portal would consolidate administrative requirements from the various departments that businesses must complete administrative filings with each year. The one-stop shop would include all permit, licensing and form requirements as electronic documents that could be completed and sent remotely, and would include an online payment provision.

Most critically, the Secretary of State’s office would also set up an online help center and a call center to provide real-time and continuous assistance to businesses in filing the various administrative forms required by state agencies.

The bill has bi-partisan support and was advanced out of the House Small Business, Entrepreneurship and Economic Development Committee. It is currently waiting to be taken up in the Government Organization Committee.

If you support this bill and want to see it taken up before the deadline passes, contact the House Government Organization Chairman, Delegate Gary Howell at 304-340-3192 or gary.howell@wvhouse.gov. If you are interested in learning more about this bill, contact the Chamber of Commerce at forjobs@wvchamber.com.

Broadband Bill a Business Stimulus for West Virginia

Graphic Courtesy of CivSourceOnline.com

Graphic Courtesy of CivSourceOnline.com

West Virginia ranks dead last in the country in terms of technology and near the bottom in broadband competition. Limited access to fiber optic broadband hampers business development and especially impacts rural regions of the state which are basically cut off from high speed internet access.

SB 459 would provide for the construction of a statewide fiber optic broadband infrastructure network, owned and operated by the state. This network would create the “middle mile” infrastructure for broadband development in West Virginia.

While we’ve spent a lot of time in our state talking about the need for broadband development and expansion has been undertaken by private companies, many areas in the state still lack substantial access to high-speed broadband. 

Nationally, 17 percent of Americans do not have access to broadband. In West Virginia, 56 percent of residents lack access to broadband in metro areas, and 74 percent of rural residents do not have access to broadband. In short, most West Virginians don’t have broadband.

SB 459’s sponsor, Senator Chris Walters (Putnam Co.) is advocating for the bill as a job creation and revenue generating mechanism. A study completed by West Virginia State University stated that this bill would create 4,000 construction jobs, increase the state GDP by $919 million, and cost the state $78 million for completion.

A number of groups identify this infrastructure development as critical to encouraging businesses – especially those that depend on technology and remote tele-work – to locate in West Virginia.

The bill was passed by the Senate Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and is currently waiting to be taken up by the Senate Finance Committee. For the bill to pass, it must be passed out of the Finance Committee by Sunday.

If you are interested in this bill and would like to see it move forward, contact the Finance Committee Chairman, Senator Mike Hall at 304-357-7901 or mike.hall@wvsenate.gov. For more information on the bill or to find out how it is progressing between now and Sunday, contact Generation WV, which is advocating for passage of the bill, at natalie@generationwv.org.

From WV Public Broadcasting – What Opportunity Ginseng for State Economy?

Ginseng harvest

Photo courtesy Glynis Board

Last year’s Ginseng crop brought $5.5 million into the state.

“The miners use that ginseng to pay bills, give them a Christmas, and that kind of stuff,” said West Virginia Division of Forestry’s Ginseng Coordinator, Robin Black. “So in southern coalfields, that’s big extra money that they can get during a small time period.”

But can ginseng play a more significant role in our economy? To answer that question, we have to understand some of the driving economic factors – the most important being that the most valuable ginseng roots are those that grow in Appalachian forests.

Hear the full story at wvpublic.org/post/can-ginseng-help-diversify-wvas-economy-part-i

From the Register-Herald – Summers County looks to tourism, agriculture

The employment rate in Summers County is expected to remain steady in 2015, thanks to a core of private sector jobs in health-care service and distribution/warehousing and some new infrastructure construction jobs, according to data supplied by New River Gorge Regional Development Authority (NRGRDA) officials.

Agriculture is likely to see an increase through a renewed focus on agribusiness and reinvestment in small farms.

“Tourism could see an uptick through the combined public and private partnership between the New River Gateway Convention and Visitors’ Bureau and Mountain MountainPlex properties,” said NRGRDA spokeswoman Lillian Graning.

Full story at www.register-herald.com.

 

 

From the Gazette – WV Farm-to-Table Pioneer Marks Milestone

Stardust Cafe, in Lewisburg, celebrated 10 years of business this week. The cafe was one of West Virginia’s first farm-to-table establishments. The cafe gets food from local farmers in Greenbrier, Pocahontas and Monroe counties.

EP-150219609LEWISBURG — Sunday dinners were a big deal for Sparrow Huffman growing up. Her family and friends gathered at the family’s Pocahontas farm to enjoy what Huffman calls real food.

Huffman and her mother, Elizabeth Destiny, bring that same concept of farm fresh food made with love to their Lewisburg restaurant, Stardust Cafe. It’s one of West Virginia’s first farm-to-table establishments and it celebrated 10 years of business on Valentine’s Day with a special six-course menu…

See more at: http://www.wvgazette.com/article/20150215/GZ03/150219609

 

 

 

The Charleston Gazette | Town pulls together to open grocery store

When Alderson’s only grocery store closed three months ago, the small town’s residents could have shrugged their shoulders, thrown up their hands and resigned themselves to the fact that their nearest grocery store would now be a 30-mile round-trip.

But they didn’t.

Instead, as word spread that Gadd’s IGA would be closing, members of the local nonprofit Alderson Community Food Hub fast tracked a strategic plan — in the works for more than a year — to open a not-for-profit grocery store.

 

 

 

Curated from The Charleston Gazette | Town pulls together to open grocery store