By Matthew Young, RealWV
MOUNT HOPE, W.Va. – Gov. Jim Justice, on Monday, signed seven bills into law; including three to increase funding for the West Virginia Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (DCR).
At a ceremony in front of Mount Hope’s Gene Spadaro Juvenile Center, Justice signed SB 1003, SB 1004, and SB 1005. A product of last week’s Special Legislative Session, the three bills will work in concert to increase the salaries of current correctional workers, increase the starting wages for newly-hired employees, and establish a bonus-program for certain non-uniformed staff members.
With Babydog by his side, Justice began the ceremony by proclaiming, “Today is a good day!”
“Today is a really monumental day,” Justice said, before referencing the state’s ongoing correctional-staffing shortage. “We have been dealing with this situation for way too long.”
According to Justice, after two failed bills in as many years, the “public outcry” became too much for state lawmakers to ignore.
“So here we are finally,” Justice said. “In many ways, government often never works as quickly as what we want it to. But thank God we’re here today, because now we’re on a pathway of making things better for a lot of folks that are here. But not only that – we’re on a pathway to hopefully be able to have adequate staffing to where everybody can do their job safely and correctly, and do their job humanely in every way.”
“So with all that being said, it’s a big day,” Justice added. “I do salute the legislature for all their hard work. At the end of the day, that’s what this country is founded upon. It took way longer than it should have, and we should’ve just responded right off the get-go, and we didn’t. But now we have, and so let’s celebrate now.”
Prior to Justice’s remarks, Cabinet Secretary Mark Sorsaia, in just his eighth working-day as head of the W.Va. Department of Homeland Security, said, “This is my first public opportunity to personally thank Gov. Justice for allowing me to serve in this very important position.”
Also offering his thanks to Justice was W.Va. DCR Commissioner William Marshall.
“I really appreciate this effort you all put towards us, and many, many hours of work that went into this,” Marshall said. “We’re greatly appreciative of this, and we know that this is going to put us into the future, and we’re going to continue to do the job.”
“I’ve often said that the outside noise is for everybody else,” Marshall added. “The real work will be done inside DCR, and I appreciate you, governor, for helping us get this first step off the ground.”
During the ceremony, Justice also signed SB 1006 and SB 1039.
The former allows for the expansion of the temporary identification card program for released inmates. The latter, SB 1039, grants authority for the DCR’s special revenue fund to be utilized for deferred maintenance projects.
Additionally, while at the Spadaro Juvenile Center, Justice signed SB 1009. Under this bill, the use of state funds “for certain procedures or benefits not medically necessary for persons in the custody of DCR” is prohibited.
The text of the bill states, “No funds authorized or appropriated by state law shall be expended, directly or indirectly, for any medical procedure that the Commissioner of Corrections and Rehabilitation, or his or her designee or agent, after consulting with a medical professional determines is not medically necessary for any individual who is in the custody of the DCR.”
On paper, SB 1009 seems perfectly logical, and within the scope of rationality. In application, however, the governor’s signature has effectively established the Commissioner of the DCR – currently William Marshall – as the final decider of what is, and what is not, medically necessary.
A ceremony for the day’s seventh bill signing was held at the W.Va. Division of Forestry (DOF) Region Four Headquarters in Beckley. Justice, once again with Babydog in tow, signed into law SB 1032 – which provides the DOF with $4 million in new funding for fire-fighting equipment.
During the ceremony, Justice further announced that the Region Four Headquarters will soon be rechristened as the “Cody J. Mullens” Region Four Headquarters. Mullens died in April of this year while fighting a fire in the Montgomery-area.
“We mourn the loss of this brave West Virginian who gave his life to protect our state and our people,” Justice said. “Today we honor his life, his service, and his sacrifice.”