Special session follows budget deal

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By Shauna Johnson
WV MetroNews

Less than a week after the close of the 2014 Regular Legislative Session, lawmakers were called back into a Special Session at the State Capitol in Charleston on Friday.
Governor Earl Ray Tomblin included at least eleven bills that, he said, largely had support from members of the both the state Senate and state House of Delegates during the 60-day session on the Special Session call.

“They worked them during the session.  Both Houses have worked them and, in may cases, approved them overwhelmingly, but just because if the actions of the 60th night, they fell through the cracks and there’s a lot of interest in them,” said Tomblin.

Those Special Session bills included the following:

- The bill dealing with lottery distributions, also called the “bucket bill” or “haircut bill,” to save $20 million that will go into the Rainy Day Fund.

- A bill addressing local shares in county school systems within Lincoln, Monongalia and Wyoming counties since there have been penalties tied to improperly assessed properties.

- A proposal that deals with a land account within the state Department of Agriculture.

- The bill that would establish regulations for the disposal of cuttings from natural gas drilling.

- Proposed legislation that would correct problems with the Chesapeake Bay bond issue.

- The bill that would clear the way for pay raises for county elected officials.

- A proposal dealing with the Sexual Assault Nurses Network.

- Four supplemental appropriations bills — two for the current budget and two for the next budget year.

The Special Session started on Friday afternoon, soon after lawmakers approved a more than $4 billion budget bill.

To balance the budget, lawmakers included $142 million in that budget from the Rainy Day Fund.  The bill dealing with distributions of lottery funds, set to be taken up in the Special Session, could replace about $20 million of that amount.

Tomblin had originally proposed pulling about $83 million from the Rainy Day Fund.  He said he was not opposed to using his line item veto power to further cut spending to reduce the impact on the reserve account.

“It concerns me, getting above the figure that I had proposed.  These are numbers we’d laid out when we met with the Wall Street rating agencies and they did not have a concern at the level,” he said on Friday’s MetroNews “Talkline.”

Additionally, the new budget takes $9 million from Attorney General Patrick Morrisey’s Consumer Protection Fund to help balance the budget and fund programs for senior citizens and people with disabilities.

Tomblin said he’s confident better budget days are ahead for West Virginia, possibly after next year.  “To get to that level, we’ve got to be prudent and try to not start any new additional base building programs in our state budget.”