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Today in the Legislature

Monday, November 23, 2009 - 10:20 AM

Fourth Special Session Covers Municipal Firefighter and Police Pension Plans
A measure to shore up West Virginia municipal police and firefighters’ pension plans was passed during the Fourth Special Session of the 79th Legislature, among nine other bills which transfer agency monies, authorize the use of federal stimulus dollars, address credits awarded under the Alternative and Renewable Energy Portfolio Act, continue the motor fuel excise tax freeze, address Uniformed Services and Overseas Voter Pilot Program, clarify expungement orders, and make technical corrections relative to the IRS Code.

Many West Virginia municipalities have created pension plans for their police and firefighters. Currently, those existing plans have a steadily increasing combined unfunded liability well in excess of $600 million. Cities throughout the state are obligated to pay increasingly larger contributions to the plans each year which are straining their operating budgets significantly - some to the point of bankruptcy.

To provide them with much needed assistance and financial security, Senate Bill 4007 would allow these cities to continue their existing pension plans for current members but provide the option of placing all their future police and firefighters in a new pension plan administered by the state’s Consolidated Public Retirement Board.

Each city will decide separately whether to use the new pension plan, which is similar to the state’s recently created Emergency Medical Services Retirement System. The state assumes no liability for the obligations of the new plan.

Currently, most existing pension plans for police officers and firefighters are not on a definite amortization schedule which is the cause for the ever increasing larger contributions yearly. Those choosing to participate in the new system will be on an amortization schedule to pay off unfunded liabilities in 40 years or less.

The bill does not impose any additional tax but reallocates one tenth of one percent of premium tax money previously diverted from the existing plans to pay unfunded liabilities of the Teachers Retirement System.

The new plan will go into effect January 1, 2010. No member of the new plan may retire until January 1, 2013. Cities will be required to buy disability and death benefit coverage under private insurance to cover employee claims arising before Jan. 1, 2013.

Two supplemental appropriations bills were also passed.

House Bill 410 moves $2.5 million from the general revenue fund to the Bureau of Senior Services. These dollars are directed at supporting aged and disabled programs.

House Bill 411 moves The remaining $27 million from the State Road Fund to the Division of Highways. The Division will use the money to repair secondary roads in the state.

Approximately $25 million in federal funding has been authorized for agency expenditures with the passage of House Bill 409 . The Department of Health and Human Resources will receive $13 million. That department continues to make timely payments but people with special needs continue to remain on a waiting list and do not receive help for years. Agencies receiving money provided by the federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) are now authorized to apply it to services they render.

The purpose of Senate Bill 4002 enables West Virginia counties to use the federal allocation of recovery zone bonds also authorized by the ARRA.

Recovery zone bonds are split into two separate categories of bonds: recovery zone economic development bonds and recovery zone facility bonds.

Recovery zone economic development bonds are a type of taxable Build America Bond that allow state and local governments to obtain lower borrowing costs through a new direct federal payment subsidy, for 45% of the interest, to finance a broad range of qualified economic development projects.

Recovery Zone Facility Bonds are a type of traditional tax-exempt private activity bond that may be used by private businesses in designated recovery zones to finance a broad range of depreciable capital projects. These bonds may be used in "recovery zones," which include any area that has been designated by the bond issuer as having significant poverty, unemployment, home foreclosure or general distress, or any area affected by military realignment, or any area that has been designated as an empowerment zone or a renewal community.

West Virginia has been allocated a bond limitation of $90,000,000 for recovery zone economic development bonds and $135,000,000 for recovery zone facility bonds. These bond limitations, or volume caps, must be reallocated to certain West Virginia counties, based on their decrease in employment compared to the state's decrease in employment.

Counties need not use their volume cap, and may waive their allocation. The bill provides that counties may also sub-allocate their volume cap to other eligible bond issuers.

This bill also provides a procedure to certify to the Governor that counties are using, or sub-allocating, their bond allocation. In accordance with IRS guidance issued regarding recovery bonds, any bond allocation that is waived by counties may be reallocated by the state. This bill provides that the Economic Development Authority will develop a procedure to reallocate such waived allocations. Roads and transportation projects are also on the list.

House Bill 408 amends a definition in the Alternative and Renewable Energy Portfolio Act, to permit the Public Service Commission (PSC) to utilize an independent and industry-recognized alternative and renewable energy resource credit tracking system, and to permit the PSC to utilize an independent, industry recognized entity to verify and certify greenhouse gas emission reduction or offset projects, among other provisions.

Senate Bill 4004 eliminates the reduction of the flat rate portion of the motor fuel excise tax in 2013. The flat rate will continue to be assessed which will freeze the state's gas tax at 32.2 cents per gallon.

Under current law the gas tax was scheduled to decrease 1.7 cents per gallon on Jan. 1, 2010 and another five cents in 2013. This law will change that, freezing the gas tax at it's current 32.2 cent per gallon level through December 2010. This action will allow West Virginia’s communities to benefit from millions of dollars in additional funding for roadway paving. This will especially help with secondary roadways that are ineligible for federal stimulus road funds.

The bill terminates the Motor Fuel Excise Tax Shortfall State Road Fund and transfers all moneys remaining in the fund ($27 million) to the State Road Fund for the purpose of paving secondary roads. (See House Bill 411 mentioned above)

House Bill 406 creates the Uniformed Services and Overseas Voter Pilot Program which authorizes pilot projects allowing the use of certain voting systems by membe

›› Completed Legislation

Friday, November 20, 2009 - 01:31 PM

10 Bills Complete Legislative Action During Special Session
During the 4th Extraordinary Session, a total of 10 bills completed legislative action.

Those bills include:
House Bill 406, which creates the Uniformed Services and Overseas Voter Pilot Program.

House Bill 408, relating to definitions and the tracking of credits awarded under the Alternative and Renewable Energy Portfolio Act.

House Bill 409, a supplemental appropriation to various spending units.

House Bill 410, a supplemental appropriation for the Bureau of Senior Services.

House Bill 411, which supplements, amends, and increases an item of existing appropriation from the State Road Fund to the Department of Transportation, Division of Highways.

Senate Bill 4001, clarifies certain records pertaining to pardons are not subject to expungement orders.

Senate Bill 4002, relating to federal recovery zone bonds.

Senate Bill 4003, relating to compliance of state retirement systems with certain provisions of IRS code.

Senate Bill 4004, relating to motor fuel excise tax.

Senate Bill 4007, relating to retirement benefits of professional police officers and professional firefighters.

Both the House and Senate have adjourned Sine Die.

›› Completed Legislation

Friday, November 20, 2009 - 12:38 PM

Senate Passes Two Bills, Adjourns
This afternoon, the Senate passed House Bill 408, relating to the definitions and the tracking of credits awarded under the Alternative and Renewable Energy Portfolio Act and House Bill 411, a supplemental appropriation amending, and increasing an item of existing appropriation from the State Road Fund to the Division of Highways.

Both bills have now completed legislation and now await the Governor's signature.

The Senate then adjourned Sine Die - officially ending the chamber's 4th Extraordinary Session.

›› Completed Legislation

Friday, November 20, 2009 - 12:27 PM

Legislature Invests in State Roads, House Passes Gas Tax Freeze
The House passed Senate Bill 4004, which relates to the motor fuel excise tax. After much debate on the House floor, members passed this bill that will freeze the state's gas tax at 32.2 cents per gallon.

Under current law the gas tax was scheduled to decrease 1.7 cents per gallon on Jan. 1, 2010 and another five cents in 2013. This law will change that, freezing the gas tax at it's current 32.2 cent per gallon level for the foreseeable future. This action will allow West Virginia’s communities to benefit from millions of dollars in additional funding for roadway paving. This will especially help with secondary roadways that are ineligible for federal stimulus road funds.

The House also passed House Bill 411, which is a supplemental appropriation companion bill to Senate Bill 4004 This bill will now head to the Senate for consideration.

The House concluded the nearly two-hour session by passing House Bill 408, which related to definitions and the tracking of credits awarded under the Alternative and Renewable Energy Portfolio Act. This bill will also be sent to the Senate for consideration.

After a brief recess, the House reconvened to receive messages from the Senate and to adjourn Sine Die - concluding the business of the 4th Extraordinary Session.

›› Completed Legislation

Thursday, November 19, 2009 - 02:22 PM

Senate Receives Amended Call, Adopts Resolution Supporting Coal
This afternoon, the Senate reconvened in order to accept an amendment to the Governor’s call that adds Senate Resolution 407, which continues the support of the coal industry in West Virginia.

The Senate also passed three bills, Senate Bill 406, Senate Bill 409 , and Senate Bill 410. These bills have completed legislative action and now awaits the Governor's signature.

The Senate will reconvene tomorrow at 11:00 a.m.

›› Completed Legislation

Thursday, November 19, 2009 - 02:12 PM

Four Bills Complete Legislation, House Passes Four Bills on to Senate
The House received a message from the Governor this afternoon that amended and added a resolution to the call.

The House adopted House Resolution 402, showing its support for the coal industry and vowing to help coal remain a viable industry in West Virginia.

The House then completed legislation on four bills, passing Senate Bill 4001, Senate Bill 4002, Senate Bill 4003 and Senate Bill 4007, which relates to retirement benefits of professional police officers and professional firefighters.

The House also passed four bills to the Senate for their consideration. Those bills include House Bill 405, House Bill 406, House Bill 406, House Bill 409 and House Bill 410.

The House will reconvene tomorrow at 10:00 a.m.

›› Completed Legislation

Wednesday, November 18, 2009 - 05:27 PM

House Advances Bills in Brief Evening Session
The House met briefly this evening, advancing 11 House bills to second reading while reading the nine bills that passed the Senate this afternoon a first time.

The House Government Organization committee will meet tomorrow at 9:30 a.m. in room 215E.

The House will reconvene tomorrow at 12:00 p.m.

›› House bills introduced on this date


Wednesday, November 18, 2009 - 04:38 PM

Senator Byrd's Congressional Tenure Celebrated at Capitol
Already the longest serving U.S. Senator, the Honorable Robert C. Byrd is now the longest-serving member of the United States Congress with 56 years, 320 days of continuous service, surpassing Senator Carl Hayden of Arizona.



House and Senate Resolutions were adopted by the respective chambers honoring Senator Byrd as a distinguished public servant and dedicated statesman, and designating November 18, 2009 as "The Honorable Robert C. Byrd Day."   A celebration began today at 3 p.m. in front of Senator Byrd’s statue in the Capitol Rotunda.  In addition to various speakers, the ceremony featured a live bald eagle and exhibited photos and memorabilia from throughout the senator's career - including his beloved fiddle.

Speaker Richard Thompson was on hand for the event.   "Senator Byrd's roots in public service are here in these halls, in our very own House chamber - where he first came to serve after his mountain music touched the hearts of so many in Southern West Virginia," Thompson said. "His beginnings are humble and inspirational, his knowledge is vast and unmatched, and his service is faithful and historic. I congratulate him on this extraordinary milestone."

Though Byrd himself was not in attendance, hundreds of lawmakers and citizens turned out in support of the state's senior Senator.  Many fondly recounted their past involvement with the 9-term Senator.

Among them was Senate President and Lieutenant Governor Earl Ray Tomblin, who said, "It has been one of my greatest honors to work with Senator Byrd throughout my legislative career. An impassioned defender of the Constitution and fighter for West Virginia, his contributions to both the nation and our Mountain State are simply unrivaled - and forever exemplary. I believe we, as a state, will always be better because of his service. And I wish him, our West Virginian of the 20th Century, the very best on this historic day."

The event ended with the Governor issuing an executive proclamation marking each Nov. 18th as "The Honorable Robert C. Byrd Day".



Wednesday, November 18, 2009 - 02:52 PM

Senate Passes Nine Bills, Adopts Resolution Honoring Senator Byrd
State Senators met, received committee reports and suspended rules on the floor of the Senate in order to pass nine of the 11 introduced bills from this session in a afternoon floor session.

Senate Bill 4009, Senate Bill 4010, and Senate Bill 4011, all relating to supplemental appropriations of state funds, were passed and have been sent to the House for their consideration.

The Senate also advanced to the House of Delegates Senate Bill 4002, which relates to Federal Recovery Zone bonds, Senate Bill 4006, which would establishing an absentee voting pilot program for uniform services members and certain other citizens and Senate Bill 4007, which relates to the retirement benefits of professional police officers and professional firefighters, among other bills.

Senators also adopted Senate Resolution 403, honoring Senator Robert C. Byrd as the longest serving U.S. Congressman in our nation's storied history.

The following committees will meet today:

Confirmations - 2:00 p.m. - 219M
Judiciary - 2:30 p.m.- 208W

The Senate will reconvene today at 5:00 p.m.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------

Evening Update
This evening, the Senate met briefly to accept the report for Confirmations and consented to all appointees.
The Senate will reconvene tomorrow at 12:00 p.m.



Tuesday, November 17, 2009 - 05:42 PM

Senate Continues Special Session in Evening
After recessing earlier in the day the Senate reconvened briefly this evening to receive a committee report from the Senate Pensions Committee. Senate Bill 4007, which relates to the retirement benefits of professional police officers and professional firefighters, was reported with the recommendation that it do pass and referred to the Senate Finance Committee for further discussion.

The following committees will meet tomorrow:
Finance - 9:30 a.m.- 451M
Judiciary- 9:30 a.m.- 208W

The Senate will reconvene tomorrow at 12:00 p.m.



Tuesday, November 17, 2009 - 04:17 PM

House Receives Committee Report During Evening Session
The House met briefly this evening to accept the committee report from Pensions and Retirement for House Bill 407 which relates to pension benefits for municipal police officers and firefighters. The bill has now been referred to the Committee on Finance, with amendment, for further consideration.

The following committees will meet tomorrow:

Finance-12:00 p.m.- 420M
Government Organization- 12:00 p.m.- 215E
Judiciary- 12:00 p.m.- 410M

The House will reconvene tomorrow at 5:00 p.m.

›› House bills introduced on this date


Tuesday, November 17, 2009 - 02:27 PM

House Honors Senator Byrd, Reads 11 Bills a First Time
This afternoon, the House convened to begin the 4th Extraordinary Session of 2009 by adopting House Resolution 401 to honor Senator Robert C. Byrd. In addition to honoring him as the longest serving member of Congress, the resolution also declares November 18, 2009 as The Honorable Robert C. Byrd Day.

The House also introduced and read a first time, 11 bills including House Bill 407, relating to pension benefits for municipal police officers and firefighters.

Another bill introduced this afternoon was House Bill 404, relating to the motor fuel excise tax.

The Committee on Pensions and Retirement will meet in Room 212W immediately following the floor session.

The following committees will meet tomorrow:
Finance- 12:00 p.m.- 460M.
Government Organization- 12:00 p.m.- 215E.
Judiciary - 12:00 p.m.- 410M.

The House will reconvene this evening at 4:00 p.m.

›› House bills introduced on this date


Tuesday, November 17, 2009 - 02:26 PM

Senate Begins Work of Special Session
Senators called into the 4th Extraordinary Session began deliberations regarding the issues placed on the Governor’s call .

Eleven bills were introduced during the floor session, all of which were read a first time before they were referred to their appropriate committees.

Three of the bills, Senate Bill 4009, Senate Bill 4010, and Senate Bill 4011, relate to supplemental appropriations of state funds.

Other bills which were introduced and read a first time included Senate Bill 4004, which relates to the motor fuel excise tax and Senate Bill 4007, which relates to the retirement benefits of professional police officers and professional firefighters.

The Senate Pensions Committee is scheduled to meet immediately following the floor session in the Senate President's Conference Room, Room 219M.

The Senate is in recess until 5:00 p.m. today.

›› Senate bills introduced on this date


Monday, November 16, 2009 - 10:23 AM

Lawmakers Return for November's Interim Meetings and Special Session
Members of the Legislature return to the Capital city tomorrow for this month’s interim meetings as well as for a special session. The Governor’s call came last week and will coincide with this month’s interim meetings.

Various agenda items have been placed on the Governor’s call including the administration of retirement benefits for professional police officers and professional firefighters. The proposed legislation would create a statewide professional police officer and professional firefighter retirement system and would also adopt a method of financing for existing professional police officers and firefighter pension debt.

Another agenda item would offer short-term relief to county school boards concerned about their retirees' non-pension costs.

Also on the call is legislation that would allow local governments to issue development bonds under a provision of the federal stimulus, and also legislation that would set a range for a part of the state tax on motor fuels that would change annually with wholesale prices.

Military absentee voting, gubernatorial pardons, a recently adopted alternative energy credit and federal tax law changes are also agenda topics.

A resolution honoring U.S. Sen. Robert C. Byrd as the longest-serving member of Congress in U.S. history has also been placed on the call.

Interim meetings begin tomorrow morning and end Thursday. The complete November Interim Schedule is available online.



Tuesday, November 10, 2009 - 02:16 PM

Nation Set to Observe Veterans Day
Americans all over the world will observe Veterans Day tomorrow, and while it is wonderful that this day is set aside to honor those that have gone to battle to protect our lives and freedoms, we should make sure that this is not the only time we reflect on the selfless sacrifice of these heroic men and women.

The debt we owe to our nation’s veterans cannot be fully repaid by setting aside a couple holidays every year. We can never remunerate with praise and platitudes what was originally given in blood and sweat.

Americans have never hesitated to heed the call of duty. From the battles that led to the birth of our nation, to the current conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, the tapestry of U.S. history has been woven by our servicemen and women.

It is history that gives further significance to this day. Veterans Day was once known as Armistice Day – recognizing the end of World War I.

The saying has become trite – “on the eleventh hour, of the eleventh day, of the eleventh month” – but the significance remains the same. Years of brutal fighting brought to an end. The War to End All Wars was over. It was a day of solemn celebration throughout the world.

However, it wasn’t the end to all wars, or even all major wars. Since the first Armistice Day, U.S. troops have been engaged in major conflicts in World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan.

As an acknowledgment of the continuing sacrifices of our country’s veterans, the federal government changed Armistice Day to Veterans Day in 1954. Since then, it’s been an opportunity to appreciate the sacrifices made by the nation’s nearly 25 million veterans.

Although today is now called Veterans Day, the original name reminds us of the true purpose of our nation’s military. These men and women do not serve to start wars but to end them, to bring about armistice – peace.

We owe too much to those who have answered the call of duty to forget about them 364 days out of the year. So on this special day and everyday, take a moment to think about those heroic men and women around the world that put their lives on the line so that we may continue to live in a free society.



Thursday, November 05, 2009 - 04:54 PM

Health Preparedness Newsletter - H1N1 Update
Below is the second edition of the HIN1 flu newsletter brought to you by Senator Roman Prezioso and Delegate Don Perdue, co-chairs of the Joint Select Committee on Health Emergency Preparedness.  The following are answers to a series of questions asked after the first newsletter.  

Q:    If I've got the symptoms and don't want to spread them to my family or others in places where I have to go (such as a doctor's office), which is the right type of mask to wear and where can I get that type?

A:    The CDC interim recommendations for facemask use for persons ill with confirmed H1N1 is that if an individual is going to leave the confines of their home the use of a facemask preferably the N95 or higher filtering mask (that is the best one) but a face mask such as a disposable surgical or dental mask is ok. Face masks help stop droplets from being spread by the person wearing the mask and are not designed to protect against breathing in small particles that contain the virus.  The information on the effectiveness of facemasks for decreasing the risk of exposure to the virus is extremely limited.


Q:    Mixed signals are being sent by the media. Don't wait too long before you see a doctor if you've got symptoms, because it may be too late to treat them. Don't go to the doctor just because you've got symptoms, you may get over it without treatment and don't need to be exposing the other patients in the doctor's office.  If I've got symptoms, how do I know when I should seek medical treatment?

A:    If one gets sick with flu-like symptoms that person should stay home and avoid contact with other people. Most people that have contracted H1N1 have had mild illness and have not needed medical care or anti-viral drugs and the same goes for the seasonal flu.

The warning signs for additional treatment beyond the symptomatic treatment would be if someone is experiencing difficulty breathing or shortness of breath, pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen, sudden dizziness, confusion, or severe or persistent vomiting. If you have doubts call the health care provider but don't go to the office unless advised to by the office staff.  Anti-viral drugs will not make the flu go away or prevent you from contracting it , but it may make you better faster and prevent serious complications if you are at a higher risk of complications.


Q:    Is it possible to get H1N1 and the seasonal flu simultaneously? If so, what can we expect. Are there special treatment steps we should take?

A:    It is possible to get both the seasonal flu and H1N1 at the same time but highly unlikely. The H1N1 being a "new kid on the block" would take over.  Also, if a person has taken a seasonal flu shot on a regular basis they have built up a stronger resistance to the seasonal flu virus thus lessening the probability of the dual contraction.


Q:    If one gets H1N1, I know we're not supposed to come in for at least 24 hours after our cough goes away, but how long does H1N1 take to run its course, 3 days? 10 days? Longer?

A:    If a person contracts H1N1 they should not come back to work until their fever has remained normal without fever reducing medications such as Tylenol or Advil for a period of 24 hours. The cough may linger for several weeks after the symptoms of the flu have subsided. It takes about 7 days for the H1N1 to run its full course.


The West Virginia Bureau for Public Health has established an informational website to help parents and students better understand the H1N1 (Swine) Flu. Please review www.wvflu.org to find out about the latest preventative measures and vaccine availability throughout the state.




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