Session comes to an end; several bills fall short on final night

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Session comes to an end; several bills fall short on final night
By Jeff Jenkins, WV MetroNews

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The final day of the 60-day regular legislative session may be best remembered for what didn’t pass than for what did as several much-talked-about bills were defeated or weren’t considered for a vote before the clock struck midnight.

The session, the first in which Republicans have been in control of both the House and Senate since the 1930s, was full of the unexpected and the last night followed suit.

The forced pooling bill (HB2688) dealing with property owners’ rights and natural gas drilling was defeated on a tie vote, 49-49, in the House with members of the Liberty Caucus voting with Democrats to defeat the measure.

Neither the bill repealing the common core education standards (HB2934) nor the bill creating charter public schools in West Virginia (SB 14) made a comeback on the final night despite rumored attempts that the provisions would be added to other bills.

The bill that would have increased taxes on a pack of cigarettes by $1 over two years along with allowing smoking in casinos and VFWs died after a conference committee agreed on some provisions in an attempt to keep the bill (HB2646) alive. The bill was originally about regulating fireworks and helping veterans. Neither the House nor Senate took up the conference committee’s report.

Lawmakers did pass a change in DUI laws (HB2664) following a conference committee and an immunization bill (SB286) in which the House agreed to the Senate’s version of the bill after passing its own amendment earlier in the day.

The bill changing the Aboveground Storage Tank Act (SB423) was approved earlier in the day Saturday following a long debate in the House Friday. The legislature also agreed on a auto dealers supported bill (SB453) that says the electronic-automobile manufacturer Tesla will have to open a franchise to sell its vehicles in West Virginia.

House Speaker Tim Armstead (R-Kanawha) said he saw a lot of good things done during the past two months.

“We have revised our civil justice system. We have improved our education system. We’ve opened up government, made it more accessible, more accountable,” Armstead said.

Senate President Bill Cole (R-Mercer) admitted “the dust needed to settle” following the final night.

“We don’t know exactly what the governor will sign and what he won’t sign. As quick as we can analyze all of that we will begin to craft our agenda for next year. But the good news is we have 10 months to put it together,” Cole said.

Senate Minority Leader Jeff Kessler (D-Marshall) said after the gavel went down that he was glad the session was over.

“Every day I kept seeing more and more bad stuff being introduced. As I said in the beginning, a lot of it was really far out there, it was radical and it just wasn’t well-received,” Kessler said. “I think that’s obvious by a lot of the crash and burn of the new majority’s agenda.”

Lawmakers have an extended session scheduled through Wednesday to work on the state budget.

Other legislation of note to receive action Saturday:

| (SB584) lawmakers approved the transfer of the Cedar Lakes Conference Center in Jackson County to private foundation.

| (SB537) lawmakers failed to complete action on bill that would have helped county school systems struggling with the 180 instructional day requirement.

| (HB2674) House and Senate members passed the measure making home schooled students eligible for a Promise scholarship without taking the GED test.

| (SB529) a measure approved by lawmakers dealing with the impact of state retirement plans on future state workers.

| (SB434) Senators essentially defeated their own horse racing bill when they refused to accept the House’s changes that included dipping into lottery money to fund several things including highway improvements.

| (HB2005) lawmakers approved the bill allowing for those receiving alternative certification to teach in the state’s schools.

| (SB273) approved the bill relaxing regulations on the craft beer industry in regard to brewer, resident brewer and brewpub licensing and operations.

| (SB548) the House decided not to take up the measure passed by the Senate that essentially would have prevented U.S. Senator Joe Manchin from appointing his own successor if he leaves the Senate and runs for governor and wins the 2016 election.