Legislators consider Home Rule, other bills

CHARLESTON – From Home Rule to gun rights, the budget and more, the Legislature is expected to take up bills this week during the last week of the regular session.

Lawmakers are looking at bills that could be passed before the session officially ends Saturday evening.

Delegate Tom Azinger, R-Wood, said he is hoping the continuation of the Home Rule program can be passed. However, proposed amendments added in the House could drastically hurt it. Home Rule gives cities more flexibility to enact laws.

”The Home Rule program has been very important and helped a number of cities (including Wheeling, Charleston, Huntington and Bridgeport who participated in a pilot program),” Azinger said. ”Parkersburg is interested in participating.”

Azinger said participating mayors came to Charleston and testified how progressive and beneficial the program was for their cities.

”I really hope we can get that rolling,” he said.

There also has been a push to get a bill to build a casino in Pendleton County.

”A lot of people have been pushing that,” Azinger said. ”I am not.”

Sen. David Nohe, R-Wood, said two versions of a gun bill to protect gun owners’ rights were passed, one by each house. He expects one of those to be passed this week.

He expects a bill to deal with prison overcrowding to be passed as that was one of the governor’s key goals for this session.

”I supported it and I am looking for it to come to the floor for a vote this week,” he said.

Sen. Donna Boley, R-Pleasants, said she expects a lot of bills that passed one house may not get taken up in the other house as opponents would start lobbying against them.

”The leadership doesn’t seem too anxious to get some bills passed,” she said.

There are bills covering licensing fees for race tracks and the casino bill that she doesn’t expect to get passed by the end of the week.

Boley hopes to pass a resolution she sponsored to have the Senate study the common core standards for educational achievement. People are worried the standards, passed by states, will make curriculums more uniform and in effect nationalize the education process and “dumb down” the standards, she said.

Boley and others are worried about people not fully understanding what this could mean to students in West Virginia.

Delegate Bill Anderson, R-Wood, said he expects the mandatory seat belt law will pass this week, making not wearing a seat belt a primary offense that officers can pull people over for alone rather than a secondary offense which it is now. An officer would have to pull someone over for another violation before he could cite someone for not wearing a seat belt, according to the current law.

The bill has passed the House, where it stalled and died in the past, and it goes to the Senate for passage, he said.

”I think it is likely to pass,” Anderson said.

Anderson said work is under way on the state budget with both houses expected to pass a version of the budget before the week’s end. Lawmakers will come back together next week to focus on the budget to combine aspects of both into a single budget.

”This is the toughest budget we have ever had to put together,” Anderson said.

He said money many agencies received from fees and other money are being used to balance the budget.

Lawmakers are looking to see what remaining bills will be passed this week that might require funding so the proposed budgets can be tweaked.

A conference committee will be named to work out the differences between the two budget proposals.

Anderson, being the minority chairman of the House Finance Committee, said he will be serving on that conference committee.

”My focus this week has been on the budget,” he said.