The 2017 Regular Legislative Session promises to be filled with challenges, excitement, intensity and suspense . . . fueled by the commitment and tireless efforts of our dedicated public servants “Under the Dome.” Visit us for weekly updates.
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2017 Legislative Session Summary
The 83rd legislative session finished up on April 8, 2017. During the session, Governor Jim Justice presented two major budgets that relied on nearly $400 million in tax increases and about $30 million in spending cuts. His plan included raising the sales tax by 1 percent, as well as increasing taxes on tobacco, soft drinks, DMV fees, and gasoline.
Both Houses approved HB 2018, which was crafted primarily by the House Finance Committee led by Delegate Eric Nelson. This budget included $110 million in spending cuts, mostly to higher education and the DHHR. This budget included $90 million from the rainy day fund. The House version broadened the tax base on various services such as barbers, funeral home activities, and telecommunications. This version also would have placed before voters a bond issue for an approximately $1.5 billion road plan.
However, on April 13, Governor Justice vetoed this budget. He was surrounded by business leaders, higher education officials, and others. Speaker of the House Tim Armstead has led the charge to balance the budget without tax increases.
A special session will be called in the near future to work out a budget deal. Unlike the federal government, West Virginia must have a balanced budget by July 1, 2017, or face a potential government shutdown. This year’s budget was “fixed” by sweeping $60 million from various accounts, as well as using $47 million from the rainy day account.
Other bills that passed both houses and await the Governor’s action include those relating to state flood protection planning, the use of medical marijuana, Sunday hunting, education reform legislation, and broadband enhancement. SB 576, which allowed oil/gas companies wide latitude to develop gas reserves at the expense of private property rights, failed to get support in the House Energy Committee.
A total of 262 bills were passed by both houses. Several others got entangled in last-minute budget negotiations and failed to be approved. Some items will receive further study, including the transfer of Forestry to the Department of Agriculture.
WVFB members are to be commended for their grassroots efforts to contact legislators on various topics during the 2017 regular session.
The following bills were introduced February 8-10:
SB 84 By Senator Maynard. Agriculture rule relating to livestock care standards. Sent to Judiciary. HB 2219 companion bill passed House Agriculture, sent to Judiciary. Passed Committee Substitute HB 2219. Passed full House. Sent to Senate Judiciary. Passed full Senate. Awaits Governor’s signature.
SB 85 By Senator Maynard. Agriculture rule relating to captive cervids. Sent to Judiciary. HB 2234 companion bill sent to House Judiciary. Reported in Committee Substitute HB 2219. Passed full House. Sent to Senate Judiciary. Passed full Senate. Awaits Governor’s signature.
SB 163 By Senator Maynard. Board of Veterinary Medicine rule relating to standards of practice. Sent to Judiciary. HB 2296 companion bill sent to House Judiciary. Reported in Committee Substitute HB 2219. Passed full House. Sent to Senate Judiciary. Passed full Senate. Awaits Governor’s signature.
SB 183 By Senators Blair, Sypolt, Gaunch, Rucker, and Trump. Transfers the Division of Forestry from the Department of Commerce to the Department of Agriculture. Sent to Agriculture & Rural Development. Held over for consideration. Passed. Sent to Senate Government Organization. Second reference dispensed. Sent to Finance. Passed Committee Substitute. Sent to full Senate, on third reading. Passed Senate. Sent to House Government Organization. Committee Substitute sent to Finance. Directed to study resolution. Similar HB 2790.
The following bills were introduced February 13-17:
SB 278 By Senators Beach, Boso, Cline, Gaunch, Ojeda, Romano, Smith, Stollings, Takubo, Weld, Woelfel, Plymale, Maroney, and Blair. Removes restrictions on Sunday hunting and voids results of any county ballot measure prohibiting Sunday hunting. Permits Sunday hunting on private property throughout the state with written consent from landowner. Similar to HB 2136, HB 2152, and HB 2642. Sent to Natural Resources. Similar bill SB 345, Committee Substitute passed. Sent to Judiciary. Passed full Senate. Sent to House. Sent to House Agriculture & Natural Resources. Passed. Sent to House Judiciary. Passed House. Awaits Governor’s signature.
HB 2451 By Delegate Sobonya. Purpose of bill is to establish a specific valuation of managed timberland, as well as non-managed timberland, for ad valorem tax purposes. Sent to Finance. Died in Committee.
HB 2453 By Delegates Eldridge and Butler. Purpose of bill is to expand the list of persons that the Commissioner of Agriculture may license to grow and cultivate industrial hemp. Sent to Agriculture & Natural Resources. Passed with amendment. Sent to Judiciary. Passed full House. Sent to Senate Agriculture & Natural Resources. Passed full Senate. Awaits Governor’s signature.
The following bill was introduced February 20-24:
SB 369 By Senators Sypolt, Miller, Boso, Maroney, and Smith. Permits surface owners to purchase mineral interest that lay below the property when the mineral interest becomes subject to tax lien. Bill establishes procedures and public notice requirements. Bill modifies notices to redeem that are sent to property owners. Sent to Energy, Industry, & Mining. Passed Senate. Sent to House Energy. Died in Committee.
The following bill was introduced February 27 – March 3:
SB 484 By Senators Carmichael and Prezioso. Governor’s tax bill as presented describes proposed changes to various parts of tax code. Under West Virginia Code section 11-15-8, bill provides for many exemptions, including dentists, surgeons, and other medical professionals. However, the professional services of veterinarians will be taxed. Sent to Finance. Committee Substitute passed Senate. Ordered to House. This bill will be used as a vehicle to set proposed budget. Budget bill replaced with HB 2018. Vetoed by Governor.
The following bill was introduced March 6-10:
SB 531 By Senator Sypolt. Purpose of bill is to permit annual renewal date for apiary certificate of registration to be by June 30 of each year, beginning in 2018. Sent to Agriculture & Rural Development. Passed on first reading full Senate. Amended and passed full Senate. Sent to House Judiciary. Passed on third reading special calendar. Passed House. Awaits Governor’s signature.
The following bills were introduced March 13-17:
SB 576 By Senators Trump and Blair. Purpose of bill is to provide an exception to waste for certain oil and gas development. Bill provides co-tenants are not liable for damages when accounting is provided on pro rata shares. WVFB has suggested several changes to this bill that protects private property rights in regard to surface use agreement and post-production expenses. Sent to Judiciary. Similar HB 3094. Committee Substitute 576. Passed Committee Substitute full Senate. Ordered to House. Bill failed to be taken up in Committee.
SB 586 By Senator Sypolt. Purpose of bill changes annual registration fee for custom slaughterers, processors, and distributors to triennial fee. All other inspections remain the same. Sent to Agriculture & Rural Development. Passed. Second reference dispensed, on first reading. Passed full Senate. Sent to House Finance. Died in Committee.
SB 609 By Senators Fern, Azinger, Rucker, and Cline. Purpose of bill is to create additional flexibility for school systems in use of school aid funds. Passed full Senate. Sent to House Finance. Died in Committee.
HB 3020 By Delegates Harshbarger, Howell, Cowles, Ambler, Boggs, Paynter, Atkinson, Kessinger, Eldridge, and Statler. Amends West Virginia Code 20-7-9 relating to criminal penalties for offenses of hunting or trapping. Bill sets the penalty to match offense of criminal trespass. Passed House Agriculture & Natural Resources with amendment and sent to Judiciary. Passed by substitute on second reading special calendar. Passed full House. Sent to Senate Natural Resources. Passed full Senate with amendment. Senate requested House to concur. Time expired before action could be taken.
The following bill was introduced March 20-24:
SB 647 By Senators Jeffries, Beach, Miller, Ojeda, Plymale, Prezioso, and Stollings. Purpose of bill is to repeal 8A-12-21, which imposes an additional county tax to fund farmland protection and replace the same by amending 11-22-2 which provides for additional county excise tax on transfer of real property for the purpose of farmland preservation. Sent to Agriculture & Rural Development. Comm. Sub to Finance. Second reference dispensed with, on first reading full Senate. Passed full Senate. Sent to House Finance. Died in Committee.
All bills introduced may be found at www.legis.state.wv.us.