Opening day of 2024 Legislative Session concludes with subdued State of the State Address

By Matthew Young, RealWV

CHARLESTON, W.Va. – The first day of the 2024 Legislative Session was capped off Wednesday night by Gov. Jim Justice, who, now beginning his eighth year as the state’s chief executive, delivered his final State of the State address.

“This is my last State of the State,” Justice told some 200 delegates, senators, and invited guests gathered in the newly renovated House Chamber. “Seven years, my gosh, it seemed like an eternity when it all started. For a lot, it’s gone really fast. And I’m sure, for several of you, It’s gone really slow.”

Justice, who spoke for nearly 90 minutes, was considerably more reflective than forward-looking. Most of the speech’s run time was devoted to applauding what the governor believes to be the state’s successes under his leadership, rather than putting forth new policy initiatives. The few 2024 priorities Justice did mention centered around the next phase of personal income tax reductions, eliminating the social security tax, a child care tax credit, creating in-state tuition programs for military members regardless of their home state, and modest funding increases for various agencies and programs, such as EMS and Communities In Schools. 

“We’re a long way from being done in West Virginia,” Justice said, after complimenting the resolve of residents. “We’ve got jobs to create, schools to enhance, and communities to lift. Let’s make the last year I have, and the decades after, better and better.”

The overall tone of the governor’s speech was considerably more subdued than last year’s State of the State, when he made insinuations toward his United States Senate run. The closest flirtations Justice made with controversy this year was when he criticized lawmakers for the recently enacted high school sports transfer rule.

“I know with the transfer rule you were trying to do the right thing and everything,” Justice said. “We want choice for our parents, and I get all of that. But if you don’t watch out, what’s going to happen, and you gotta listen to a guy that’s a coach.”

“I tried to tell you before,” Justice continued. “Absolutely when you’ve got teams that are losing 93 to seven and 86 to nothing in football, it’s gotta stop.”

Justice concluded his final State of the State by telling West Virginias to “keep sawing the wood.”

Read the full text of the 2024 State of the State address here. 

Several hours prior, members of the House of Delegates began the new session by adopting a resolution to invite the governor to deliver his final State of the State address, followed by a resolution to create the new Committee on Artificial Intelligence. 

A total of 584 bills were introduced into the House on Wednesday. On Thursday, the Committee on Health and Human Resources will begin discussion of HB 4274, which seeks to rename the Department of Health and Human Resources, and HB 4593, which seeks to require specific provisions be followed by the West Virginia First Foundation. 

Much like the governor’s speech, the State Senate began the 2024 session in a significantly less aggressive manner than they did 2023. However, as both Senate President Craig Blair, R-Berkeley, and Sen. Mike Stuart, R-Kanawha, have recently stated their intentions to introduce legislation calling for the death penalty in response to the commission of certain crimes, it is likely that Wednesday’s subdued tone will soon change.

A total of 199 bills were introduced into the State Senate on Wednesday, with another 100 scheduled for introduction on Thursday. The Senate Judiciary Committee is also scheduled to meet on Tursday at 3 p.m., with 15 bills on their agenda for discussion. 

RealWV will provide updates throughout the duration of the 2024 Legislative Session. 

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