A lot of coverage of the legislature has focused on the increasing urgency that legislators are feeling to move bills quickly through their chamber.
This is due in large part to the deadline-filled week we are right now now in the middle of. Weeks 7 & 8 of the legislative session are chock-full of mandatory deadlines for bills moving forward.
Monday and Tuesday were the last days to introduce bills in both chambers, Sunday is the last day for a bill to be out of committee in the chamber it was first introduced in, and next Wednesday is Cross-Over Day: the day when bills have to be passed from their first chamber in order to keep moving. This is the point of the session where the cold hand of time becomes a reality check for hundreds of bills.
This is especially true because the chambers have started doing double floor sessions. This means they meet in the morning and again in the evening to discuss and pass bills. These double sessions limit the time for committee meetings.
In addition, it seems like every day there is at least one bill or resolution up for vote on the floor that sparks 30 minutes to an hour of discussion.
On Tuesday it was the constitutional convention resolution on the Senate side (with a good solid hour of heated speeches.) On the House side, there was much back and forth on both Monday and Tuesday about an ethics bill (HB 4606) that restricted local elected officials from holding a paid position for the same government they were elected to.
While these discussions are critical to intentional decision-making (and may be elongated by the increased number of single referenced bills, as has been suggested by some), it also decreases the efficiency of bills passing through the chambers.
So, where are the bills that interest us stuck? We’ve got some stuck in their second committee references, and some stuck in the opposite chamber after they passed one side.
Let’s see where things stand with community development bills on day 44 of the 2016 legislative session.
Bills that have passed one chamber…
but haven’t been taken up on the other side.
HB 2615 – The Small Business Capital Act.
Just like last year, this bill (allowing crowdfunding in West Virginia) has passed the House and is now stuck in the Senate. It’s up to Senate Finance Chairman Mike Hall to keep it moving by putting it on the committee’s agenda.
HB 4310 – Relating to the WV Institute of Technology.
This bill, allowing Tech to move from Montgomery to Beckley, passed the House on Monday after a sometimes emotional debate. It now heads to the Senate, where it has to be taken up by a chamber that is equally torn by the decision. Look for it to be discussed first in the Senate Health Committee.
HB 4347 – Providing pregnant women with priority in substance abuse treatment.
This bill passed the House and is now in the Senate Health Committee.
SB 16 – Providing tax credits for broadband expansion to certain census districts.
This has passed the Senate and is now before the House Finance Committee. We hope Chairman Eric Nelson will take up multiple broadband bills at the same time.
SB 315 – Creating a middle mile infrastructure for broadband.
After significant revision, this bill passed the Senate – making it further in the legislative process than it was last year. It may have received a heavy blow in its House committee assignment, as it was double referenced and its first reference is to the minor Political Subdivisions Committee – a committee that may not meet again.
SB 298 – The Brunch Bill.
Much celebration was made when this bill passed the Senate. It’s now stuck in a minor House committee – Roads and Transportation, which is also potentially unlikely to meet again this session. The House Speaker specifically referenced this bill when talking to the WV Press Association about bills that he’d like to avoid because they are non-priority and will take up a lot of discussion time.
SB 293 – The Neighborhood Investment Program Act.
This bill is in better shape than middle mile and the brunch bills. After passing the Senate this week, it was single referenced to House Finance.
SB 426 – Continuing the office of Coalfield Community Development.
SB 434 – The Pickle Bill.
This bill, which would allow for home-based micro-processed foods to be sold at farmers markets, passed the Senate this week and is now double-referenced in the House, first to the Agriculture Committee and second to the Health Committee.
Bills that Need to Get out of Committee
This Week to Stay Alive.
SB 12 – County Local Powers Act.
Providing additional powers to county commissioners and the Commissioner of Highways to assess fees for capitol projects and improvements. This bill passed out of its initial committee after being amended. It’s been stuck in Senate Finance for almost a month with no movement.
SB 28 – County Commission & Municipal Agreements to Tear Down Dilapidated Buildings.
We were excited at the quick movement this got during the first week of session, as it got amended and passed out of the Senate Government Organization Committee. It’s been stuck on the docket of the Judiciary Committee ever since.