“Extraordinary” Legislative Session moves ahead with suspension of transparency rules

By RealWV staff,

CHARLESTON, W.Va. – After Gov. Jim Justice followed through with his highly anticipated call for a Special Legislative Session to continue work on West Virginia’s budget, state lawmakers picked up right where they left off in March.

In the state’s upper chamber, and despite a more than 90-minute delay to their scheduled start time, the Senate wasted little time in adopting more than half of the 15 agenda items the Governor set forth Sunday night. In what has become par for the course in the Senate Chamber, constitutional transparency rules requiring that bills be read on three different days were suspended, and votes were cast. However, in what has also become par for the course, the Senate’s adoption came at the cost of increased legislative control over the state’s Department of Health. 

SB 1001 – a bill intended to provide the funding to the Departments of Health and Human Services that lawmakers failed to appropriate during this year’s Regular Session, now includes additional reporting requirements, and affords more financial control to the legislature. 

In addition, through an amendment proposed by Finance Chair Eric Tarr, R-Putnam, the bill now also calls for legislative oversight of nearly $200 million of Health Department funds. . 

“The amendment to the supplemental restores funding into the Department of Health and the Department of Human Services that was reduced during the 2024 Regular Session,” Tarr said from the Senate floor. “A new Department of Health Reserve Appropriation of $5,013,844 is created within the Department of Health central office.”

“The language also requires the department to submit a monthly report to the Joint Committee on Government and Finance detailing the circumstances of any transfer made out of the Department of Health Reserve Appropriation,” Tarr added.

Tarr’s amendment also calls for a new reserve appropriation within the Department of Human Services. According to the re-written bill, this appropriation will be in the amount of $183,437,463. 

“These funds come from the remaining unappropriated balance of fiscal year 2025,” Tarr added.

Further bills adopted by the State Senate through Sunday’s rule-suspension include:

  • SB 1002: supplementing and amending appropriations to DOT, Division of Highways.
  • SB 1003: supplementing and amending appropriations to the Governor’s Civil Contingent Fund.
  • SB 1004: supplementing and amending appropriations to the Posey Perry Emergency Food Bank fund.
  • SB 1005: supplementing and amending appropriations to the State Department of Education.
  • SB 1006: supplementary appropriation to the Bureau for Medical Services.
  • SB 1014: clarifying the procedure of a political party’s nomination process of presidential electors.
  • SB 1015: amending the amount of surplus funds deposited into the Revenue Shortfall Reserve Fund.

Monday saw more of the same, as transparency rules were again dispensed with. Bills adopted Monday include:

  • SB 1007: supplementing and amending appropriations to the Higher Education Policy Commission.
  • SB 1008: supplementing and amending appropriations to the Department of Veterans Assistance.
  • SB 1009: supplementing and amending appropriations to the State Board of Education.
  • SB 1010: supplementary appropriation to the Department of Administration.
  • SB 1011: expiring funds from the Department of Revenue, PEIA Rainy Day Fund. 
  • SB 1012: expiring funds to the Department of Arts, Culture and History.

In the lower chamber, House members took Sunday evening to introduce each of the Governor’s agenda items to the floor, before gaveling into recess. By Monday afternoon, however, Delegates followed the example of their colleagues across the hall by suspending transparency rules, and passing the Senate’s adopted legislation. 

RealWV will provide additional updates of the Special Legislative Session as it continues to unfold. 

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