By H. TRUMAN CHAFIN
The 2nd Regular Session for the 80th Legislature has adjourned sine die. Of the 2,029 bills introduced into the House and Senate, 213 have complete legislation and await the Governor’s signature. A sampling of these completed bills include:
SB 211: Texting - this bill will make texting while driving a primary offense beginning July 1 and using a cell phone without blue tooth technology a primary offense on July 1, 2013.
SB 408: Graffiti: this bill will make the defacing of public property a misdemeanor for first and second offenses and a felony charge for third and subsequent charges.
SB 362: Beech Fork - this bill authorizes a bond issue of $52.5 million in 2013 for capital improvements at Beech Fork State Park in Wayne County and Cacapon Resort State Park in Morgan County.
SB 634: Municipal Pensions - this bill allows cities to adopt a “public safety assessment fee” to help pay down their unfunded police and fire pension liabilities.
HB 4015: Minority Affairs Office: this bill created the Herbert Henderson Office of Minority Affairs within the Governor’s office. It will serve as a repository of information and research about minority issues across the state.
HB 4260: Autism - this bill clarifies legislation passed in 2011 that required public and private health insurers to cover applied behavioral analysis, and important treatment for children diagnosed with the autism spectrum of neurological disorders.
In response to a rule set by the EPA last December, which set the levels of mercury and other pollutants from utility power plants, Cecil Roberts, President of United Mine Workers of American, along with other labor union leaders, sent a letter to President Obama asking him to reconsider the rule.
Trying to meet the new EPA standards would cost $10 billion, but the administration values the benefits at $90 billion. They said that even though some coal-fired power plants would have to close, they were given enough time to meet pollution control standards and find new sources of power generation. Not to mention the increased health benefits these new standards would produce.
According to Roberts, this new rule will result in the closure of a number of power plants, the loss of 54,000 direct jobs in utility, mining and rail transport sectors as well as 200,000 jobs in related industries. In addition, the standards are so severe it would discourage construction of any new coal fired power plants.
Questions have been raised on whether the administration is exaggerating the health benefits this new rule would illicit as well as making it so difficult to burn coal that all future plans to build coal fired plants will be abandoned.
According to the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy, West Virginia experienced its largest single month jobs gain in January in over three years. The state now has more jobs than it did at the official start of the recession in December 2007. Total nonfarm employment increased by 3,100, reaching 763,900, its highest peak since late 2008.
The unemployment rate also sank, falling from 7.8 percent to 7.4 percent over the last month.
On Wednesday, March 14, just two days after I related my visit with residents affected by the storm on the Senate floor, representatives from Wayne County visited the Senate and received a much needed generator from Senator Stollings (D-Boone).
Larry and Connie Castle along with Bill and Addie Liken drove up to Charleston to pick up the generator to use for cooking and preparing meals for families displaced by the severe storm that hit Wayne County several weeks ago. They also received gift cards and monies from Senator Wills (D-Mercer), Senator Kirkendoll (D-Logan) and many others.
For information on how you can help, please call Bill Liken at 304.385.4641.
In closing, remember nobody can do everything, but everybody can do something.
Please contact me or my Senate Secretary, Xris Hess, at 304.357.7808 or email us at email@example.com.