The West Virginia Legislature came back into session to allocate hundreds of millions of federal dollars to state agencies on Monday, June 7.
Governor Jim Justice called for an Extraordinary Session in a proclamation, bringing the legislature back after the first session closed earlier this year. In a press release, he noted the session would give various agencies “spending authority for federal funds that have been received since the end of the Regular Session for various programs.”
On June 7, the legislature passed seven bills, six on allocating federal funds throughout state agencies and one fixing a U.S. Code citation in the WV State Code.
House Bills 101 and 102 appropriate $150,000,000 to the State Road Fund under the Division of Highways. On social media, Senate Minority Leader Stephen Baldwin announced “Great news!!! Today, the legislature approved $151 million in new paving, bridge repair, and slips/slides all across WV.”
Baldwin included a list of projects in Greenbrier and Monroe counties:
– Pave 1.4 miles of Seneca Trail North
– Pave 3 miles of Rupert Rd
– Pave 2.1 miles of Blakers Mill-Asbury Rd
– Widen 0.69 miles by Lewisburg Elem & Aviagen
– Replace 1.2 miles of guardrail on Ronceverte Hill (which is already scheduled for replacing also)
– Pave 2.7 miles of Monitor-Greenbrier CL Rd
– Pave 1.8 miles of Lindside Rd
Drawing contrast with other Greenbrier County representatives, Delegate Todd Longanacre voted against H.B. 101.
S.B. 1001 allocates funds to the Department of Health and Human Resources for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2022. This includes:
– $14,959,019 to Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment under the Division of Health.
– $12,477,493 to Community Mental Health Services under the Division of Health.
– $40,464,237 to the Energy Fund of the Division of Human Services.
– $4,617,546 to Temporary Assistance for Needy Families in the Division of Human Services.
– $330,722,313 to Child Care and Development under the Division of Human Services.
S.B. 1002 set funds to the Department of Health and Human Resources for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2022:
– $4,886,344 to the Consolidated Medical Service Fund.
– $248,917,788 to the Division of Health, Central Office.
– $151,642,105 to the Division of Human Services.
S.B. 1003 gave funds to the Department of Education for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2021:
– $1,246,924 to the State Board of Education
– $40,000,000 to the School Lunch Program
S.B. 1004 also gave funds to the Department of Education, but this time for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2022:
– $1,246,924 to the State Board of Education.
– $52,000,000 to the School Lunch Program.
S.B. 1007 corrected an “incorrect citation to federal law” dealing with “exemptions of property in federal bankruptcy proceedings, allowing a debtor in bankruptcy to use the federal law exemptions under 11 U.S.C. 522(d)” and updating the effective date.
In addition, Senate Resolution 103 deals with the appointment of a nonmember committee on redistricting after the 2020 census. The resolution was unanimously passed by the House of Delegates.
Although not related to a bill, Senator Randy Smith (R – Tucker, 14th) took to the floor to criticize Justice’s recent announcement of vaccine incentives, such as the potential to win a lottery, trucks, or guns.
“The people in my district are extremely upset about what’s going on with our governor,” said Smith. “All the sudden he thinks he’s a game show host or something, Bob Barker or Pat Sajak. … They’re spending CARES money on lotteries and giving out gifts for the vaccine. I’m not for the vaccine or against the vaccine. My feeling is if you want the vaccine, you should get the vaccine. If you don’t, don’t, and that’s one of the good things about living in the United States of America and, supposedly, the free state of West Virginia. I don’t believe we should be using money to bribe people to do something that should be their personal choice.”
Smith also touched on the recent revelations about Justice’s finances from the Wall Street Journal, which revealed Justice was personally liable for $700 million in loans.
“Everyone knows what’s in the news, $700 million he signed off on for loans after he signed an ethics paper that says he doesn’t have anything to do with his businesses while he’s governor,” Smith said. “Evidently, he does. Nobody really cares it seems. … I’m fed up with it. He needs to start taking some responsibility and acting like the governor and we need to take responsibility, as an elected body, to make sure that these issues don’t happen.”
Smith’s comments received a response from Minority Whip Michael Woelfel (D – Cabell, 5th).
“I look around the room and I see that no one has a mask on, which is good. That means we’ve all been double vaccinated. Right? Or we’d have a mask on,” said Woelfel. “I don’t think the governor is a bully. … [The governor] is in litigation and there are always two sides to that litigation coin and I don’t think it’s appropriate for us to take cheap shots at the governor on what his family [or his] businesses interests, what his indebtedness may be. To the extent that the governor is encouraging people to be vaccinated, which is what he’s doing, and every governor is doing, they’re … encouraging people to be safe. This disease is a killer. It’s killed a lot of West Virginians. It’s killed by cousin. So if the governor wants to incentivize people to get a vaccination by giving them a lottery ticket … I applaud that. I think we should encourage that. It’s ironic that we’re all double vaccinated and we somehow oppose encouraging all of our fellow citizens to be vaccinated.”