Lawmaker’s first week sees Tom Clark named as Caleb Hanna’s replacement in the House, death penalty bill introduced to the Senate

By Matthew Young, RealWV

CHARLESTON, W.Va. – Lawmakers wrapped up a shortened week-one of the 2024 Legislative Session on Friday. A rather subdued final State of the State address from Gov. Jim Justice, complete with a significantly less ambitious budget proposal than was presented in 2023, set the tone for the young session’s first three days.

“This is my last State of the State,” Justice told lawmakers and guests in the newly-renovated House Chamber Wednesday night. “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.”

Gov. Jim Justice enters the newly-renovated House Chamber Wednesday night to deliver his eighth and final State of the State address.

Justice’s Fiscal Year 2025 budget includes just under $50 million in tax breaks – a far cry from the $800 million presented last year. The elimination of the social security tax, the creation of a child and dependent care tax credit, and the expansion of the senior citizen homestead tax credit account for the majority of the $50 million. 

On Tuesday, mere hours before the official start of the session, Justice appointed Charleston attorney JB Akers to replace Moore Capito (R-Kanawha) in the House of Delegates. And on Friday, Justice appointed former Webster County Commission President Tom Clark to replace Caleb Hanna (R-Nicholas). Both Capito and Hanna recently resigned to pursue higher offices, those being governor and state auditor respectively. A replacement has yet to be appointed for former Del. Anita Hall (R-McDowell), who resigned last week. 

With Capito’s departure from the House comes the appointment of a new Judiciary Committee Chair. House Speaker Roger Hanshaw, R-Clay, this week, announced that Del. Tom Fast, R-Fayette, would be serving in that role going forward. And with the House’s Wednesday creation of the new Select Committee on Artificial Intelligence, Del. Jarrod Cannon, R-Putnam, has also been placed into a leadership position as the committee’s inaugural chair.

Newly appointed House Judiciary Committee Chair Tom Fast, R-Fayette, presides during Friday’s meeting.

A total of 682 bills were introduced into the House of Delegates by its members over the first three days, including the governor’s budget proposal – recorded as HB 4025. While some initial committee work has begun, as in the case of HB 4593, which would require certain provisions be adopted by the West Virginia First Foundation, deeper deliberation is expected to begin this week.

The Senate, while moving forward at a somewhat more aggressive pace than their House colleagues, is still off to a far more reserved start than in 2023, having sent some 70 bills across the hall over the first three days. 

Sen. Mike Caputo, D-Marion, introduced SB 386, a bill which calls for the legalization of recreational-use marijuana, in the Senate Chamber Friday.

Legislation calling for the reinstatement of the death penalty, and the legalization of marijuana for recreational use are among the 443 bills introduced into the Senate thus far, as is a bill seemingly designed to remove the state’s near-total abortion ban from constitutional accountability. And while Sen. Mike Caputo’s, D-Marion, proposal to legalize marijuana use will most likely not appear on any committee’s agenda, it’s a safe bet that discussion of state-sanctioned executions and the revisiting of abortion legislation will. 

RealWV will provide continual updates throughout the 2024 Legislative Session. 

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