By JUSTIN MARCUM
It is my honor to serve as the representative of the 20th District in the West Virginia House of Delegates.
The Second Regular session of the 80th West Virginia Legislature, my first session serving in the House, concluded March 10. Following the regular session, the Legislature convened for the Extended Budget Session which was immediately followed by the First Extraordinary Session. Year-round, lawmakers stand at attention to work for the benefit of West Virginians.
During the regular session, a total of 2,029 bills were introduced. Of the bills introduced, 678 were Senate Bills and 1,351 were House Bills. Two hundred bills were passed by the House and 233 bills were passed by the Senate. Two hundred thirteen bills completed legislative action. Each piece of completed legislation will be prove to be beneficial for West Virginians.
The first bill to complete legislative action this session was House Bill 4086, provides property tax breaks to businesses proposing upwards of $2 billion expenditures towards the creation of any business and would allow the establishments to be assessed at their salvage value for 25 years. This proposal improves the business climate of the state and is sure to attract forthcoming business.
Also passed early in the session was Senate Bill 469, which addresses the state’s other post-employment benefits liability. Under the bill’s proposal, $30 million a year would go into a fund to pay down the remaining $5 billion of long-term OPEB liability. Another $5 million a year would go into a trust fund to assist employees hired after July 1, 2010. West Virginia is the first state in the nation to address this type of liability in such a manner.
Passed unanimously by both bodies (100-0 in the House, 34-0 in the Senate), House Bill 4351 has been cited as one the most significant pieces of mine safety legislation in recent history by industry and labor. The bill creates a comprehensive plan to regulate mine safety.
Provisions in the bill require that mine superintendents or owner/operators to review and sign off on daily mine safety reports at least once every two weeks and also ensure that underground mine equipment shuts off when explosive gas levels rise. Governor Tomblin signed this bill into law at a special bill signing ceremony in front of the Coal Miner Memorial on Capitol grounds March 21. As a former underground coal miner, I always keep the best interests of coal miners and the coal industry in mine when supporting legislation.
Senate Bill 437, the Governor’s proposal to address the issue substance abuse completed legislative action on the last day of session. The bill regulates opioid treatment programs and updates rules for treatment program facilities. The bill also creates the Chronic Pain Licensing Act which complies with requirements developed by the Department of Health and Human Resources. SB 437. As a prosecutor, I believe this bill will fight substance abuse and promote prevention. It is my stance to always fight crime, drugs and promote prevention. We must focus on the future and protect it for our children.
Also passed on the last day of the session was Senate Bill 211. The bill addresses the increasing issue of cell phone usage while operating a motor vehicle. The bill creates a new primary traffic offense of writing, sending or reading text message while driving and also creates a secondary traffic offense of talking on a wireless communication device without hands free equipment while driving.
Both chambers adjourned for the regular session at midnight on March 10 and reconvened for the budget session the following Monday. The budget session traditionally follows the regular session and allows lawmakers to take a closer look at the proposed budget for the upcoming fiscal year.
The budget was presented that Friday, March 16, and was passed by both chambers. I am proud to report that the final budget for the upcoming year is both balanced and fiscally responsible.
Following the presentation of the budget, both chambers adjourned for the 2012 Regular and Extended Budget Sessions and reconvened for the First Extraordinary Session, which adjourned later that evening. During the extraordinary session, lawmakers quickly completed legislative action on two bills, House Bill 101 and Senate Bill 1002. House Bill 101, the “Energy Intensive Industrial Consumers Revitalization Tax Credit Act,” provides tax credit and required payment programs designed to enhance the prospects of reopening Century Aluminum, a large manufacturing facility in Ravenswood. When in operation, this plant is one of Appalachian Power’s largest customers and I am hopeful that the reopening of the plant will be beneficial to the coal industry.
Senate Bill 1002, makes supplementary appropriation of the surplus balance of the state’s General Revenue Fund for the current fiscal year to provide financial assistance for flood and tornado relief across the state. Having toured our area, I am familiar with the damage that has been done in our community. I am pleased that the funding has been made available to address the issue and I will do all that I can to assist families in need.
Governor Tomblin recently announced that West Virginia ranks second in the nation with regard to non-agriculture job growth. Job growth in the state has ballooned since last year when West Virginia ranked 37th in the country and I intend to continue to work to attract business to our state.
I will be hosting a bridge dedication ceremony to honor the life of Joe “Bug” Marcum on April 21. House Concurrent Resolution 81, which I sponsored during the regular session approved that the bridge at the intersection of U.S. Route 52 and State Route 65 near Tug Valley High School will be named the Joe “Bug” Marcum Memorial Bridge.
I would like to again congratulate the Tug Valley High School Panthers for their AA State Championship win. Job well done. Go Panthers! I intend to honor them with a formal presentation in the House of Delegates in the next legislative session.
In the future, I will continue to address issues such as substance abuse, child abuse and neglect, benefits for teachers and improvements in our educational system.
I am proud to represent the residents of Mingo and Logan counties and I have their best interests in mind as I consider legislation. I ask my constituents to please contact me with any questions or concerns regarding the issues and bills presented in the Legislature. My capitol phone number is (304) 340-3126 and my email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. Letters should be addressed to Delegate Justin Marcum, State Capitol, Building 1, Room 229-E, Charleston, WV 25305.