Tomblin: ‘lot of concern’ from people about concealed-carry permit repeal
By Phil Kabler, Staff writer, Charleston Gazette
Being unable to run for re-election and not seeking other political office in 2016, Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin agreed Tuesday that there will be less political pressure as he decides whether to sign or veto bills passed this session – including a bill to make it legal to conceal carry a firearm without a permit, which has been generating interest.
“People are riled up about it,” Tomblin said of the bill (SB347), which would repeal legislation requiring residents to undergo a background check and complete a firearms safety course to receive a state permit needed to legally conceal carry a handgun.
Tomblin said the governor’s office has been inundated with calls and e-mails, urging him to either sign or veto the bill. However, he said much of the support for the bill’s passage is coming from out of state.
“We’ve heard a lot of concern from residents about it,” he said, adding, “Our law enforcement people are pretty much unanimously opposed to it.”
The House of Delegates passed the bill 71-29 on March 12, but it will be some time before the bill is printed, enrolled, and presented to the governor. If the Legislature adjourns its extended budget session on Wednesday as expected, Tomblin will then have 15 days, Sundays excluded, from the time he gets the bill to act on it.
Meanwhile, the longtime Senate president and Finance Committee chairman reflected on the completed Legislative session, historic in that it marked the first time the Republican Party had controlled both houses of the Legislature in 83 years.
“It was a new experience for anybody that follows the legislative process, not knowing what to expect,” Tomblin said. “The new leadership team had a lot of things on the table that would not have been considered in other years.
”While the new leadership came in with high expectations of what it could accomplish, many of the key issues on the agenda – repeal of Common Core educational standards, authorizing charter schools, raising limits on campaign contributions, creating exemptions to local smoking ordinances, and calling for a constitutional convention for a balanced budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution – all failed in the session’s waning hours.
“At the end of the day, when the gavel went down Saturday night, they realized its not as easy as it may seem,” he said, adding, “At the end of the day, you’re not going to get everything you want in the legislative process.”
Tomblin said he’s not sure why there’s been such a rash of bills sent to him containing technical flaws. To date, Tomblin has vetoed seven bills for technical errors, and has two more veto messages to send to the Legislature – with the vast majority of bills passed during the session having not yet arrived at his office. Last year, Tomblin vetoed a total of three bills for technical errors.
He said he doesn’t know if that’s because the Legislature has a number of new staffers this year unfamiliar with the bill proofing process, or if leadership’s attempt to pass an ambitious agenda with a large variety and number of bills overwhelmed them.
“Maybe it was just the number of hours they were working, and they were getting tired,” he said.
Tomblin also agreed that a major issue not addressed this session was funding for state highways and transportation.
He said it has been difficult since all states, including West Virginia, rely on the Federal Highways Trust Fund for the bulk of road funding, noting, “That fund is basically broke.”
“It is our hope Congress will see the need, and quit the bickering up there to find a way to fund the Highway Trust Fund,
”He also said the long-awaited final recommendations of the Governor’s Blue Ribbon Commission on Highways to propose new sources of state funding for highways should be released soon.
In the short term, he said, the Division of Highways will have an extra $72 million to put into paving and road maintenance this summer, funded in part through Road Fund collections that exceeded estimates by $50 million, thanks to higher-than-expected vehicle sales and gas tax collections.
He said about $30 million will go for paving, $20 million for small bridge repair, $12 million for pothole repairs, and $10 million to repair slips or slides on hillsides.
“Hopefully, by the end of the summer, people should notice a difference,” Tomblin said.