By Stephen Baldwin, RealWV
February 2, 2023
A reader asked this question: “We hear about the bad bills the legislature passes; have any good bills passed?”
Yes! A number of good pieces of legislation are moving through the legislative process right now. All of the following bills have passed through at least one legislative body and are awaiting action by the other.
SUMMER FEEDING PROGRAM. SB306 establishes a summer feeding program for all children in West Virginia. I introduced this bill a couple of years ago and am thrilled to finally see it moving forward, as too many children go without meals in the summertime.
TEACHER’S AIDES. HB2003 funds teacher’s aides in every classroom in grades K-3 in order to increase literacy and math scores. Several counties piloted this and saw their achievement scores literally go through the roof.
SEXUAL ASSAULT EXAMS. SB89 requires hospitals to hire qualified personnel to perform sexual assault forensic exams. No one who is sexually assaulted should be denied justice because qualified personnel exams are unavailable.
PAY RAISES. HB2828 and HB2879 raise salaries for public employees significantly, including corrections officers. Although the legislature has raised public employee salaries for the last few years dating back to 2018, we still lag behind other states comparatively and struggle to recruit/retain workers.
SEXUAL VIOLENCE PREVENTION. SB124 authorizes a child sexual abuse and sexual violence prevention program in schools. As much as we are loathe to admit it, too many children face sexual violence at home or as they begin to date in their teenage years. This bill provides for an age-appropriate educational program aiming to prevent such violence.
WV HOSPITAL REIMBURSEMENT RATES. SB127 increases hospital reimbursement rates for PEIA services provided. I mentioned this bill a few weeks ago. In-state hospitals receive absurdly low reimbursement rates for services provided to PEIA patients. Raising the rate costs the state money, but it’s a necessary next step to protect health care in our state.
CREDIT CARD RENEWALS. SB134 protects consumers against automatic withdrawals from their credit card. Customers must give explicit permission tp businesses for recurring charges.
AUTISM TRAINING. SB208 provides training for all law-enforcement and correction officers regarding individuals with autism spectrum disorders.
Hopefully, at least a few of these good bills will make it across the finish line. We will keep an eye on them.
Update on major issues
The above good bills are what we always called “crumbs.” Those in power give legislators “crumbs” to keep them happy while the leadership works on the major issues. Here is a quick rundown of some major issues facing this legislature.
INCOME TAX CUT. As I predicted last week, the governor hit the road to gain popular support for his 50% income tax cut while the Senate worked quietly behind the scenes to gain House support for their tax cut plan. It remains to be seen what the outcome will be.
BUDGET SURPLUS. In January alone, the state saw a $162 million budget surplus. For the year, we have nearly a $1 billion surplus. That’s in addition to last year’s $1.3 billion surplus. As we’ve discussed before, the surplus is inflated by low budget estimates. For example, they budgeted to take in $462 million in Jan 2023 even though they took in $575 million last year. So when they actually took in $642 million this year in a time of high inflation, it came as no surprise to anyone. But because the budget estimates are so low, it inflates our budget surplus.
THE BIG FIGHT. Speaking of the budget, that is the big fight right now. The budget. Can we afford a 50% income tax cut? A personal property tax cut? An inventory, equipment, and machinery tax cut? A pay raise? Aides in every K-3 classroom? PEIA investments? We cannot afford it all–even with inflated budget surpluses, and at some point the adults in the room will have to make hard decisions. We aren’t to that point yet, but the process will unfold in the coming weeks.
Stay tuned to The Real WV for the latest. We will do our best to provide you real news via the articles and real insight via the editorials.
That is the view from the back pew. May God bless you.