Senate OKs $837 Teacher Raises
CHARLESTON (AP) – The West Virginia Senate has approved a bill to grant teachers an across-the-board pay raise of $837.
The measure was among several that received approval Wednesday before a deadline for all bills to be approved in the house in which they started.
Sen. Bob Plymale, a Democrat from Wayne County and the education chairman, said the bill originally proposed a 2 percent raise. The amount was changed to a $1,000 across-the-board pay raise in an attempt to increase new teacher salaries as much as possible.
He said the raise was cut to $837 in an effort to stay within the amount budgeted for teacher pay. “I believe this bill does what we trying to do long-term, which is raise starting salaries to the highest possible,” he said.
The bill also grants service personnel a 2 percent pay increase.
SENATE PASSES BILLS SEEKING VOTER INPUT
The Senate has passed three constitutional amendments that might appear on West Virginia’s 2014 general election ballot.
The first amendment designates West Virginians’ rights to hunt, fish, and harvest wildlife. It also preserves the state’s ability to regulate these activities.
Another amendment says the state’s water resources should be protected, conserved, utilized and developed for the benefit and enjoyment of citizens. This constitutional amendment would also reaffirm landowners’ rights to ground water.
A third amendment addresses interest expenditures in a Future Fund. The bill would prevent generated interest from being spent for six years after its creation. If a bill creating the fund becomes law, the fund will invest a portion of oil and gas tax revenues for future infrastructure needs.
HOUSE PASSES $39M BUDGET CUT PATCH
House of Delegates members have approved $39 million in proposed cuts across areas like infrastructure, greyhound and thoroughbred racing to help balance a tight budget.
Finance Committee chairman Delegate Brent Boggs said the cuts take $20 million from water and sewer infrastructure projects, without affecting roads. Some of the remaining $19 million would come from 10 percent cuts in subsidies for dog and horse tracks, casinos, tourism and cultural facilities.
About $5.4 million for renovations at the Capitol would transfer into the general pot of state money.
Delegates approved the move 75-25 Wednesday.
BOTH HOUSES VOTE ON GUNS IN SCHOOLS
Two bills allowing officials to carry weapons in schools have passed separate branches.
The Senate passed a bill Wednesday to allow school resource officers to carry weapons on school property.
Sen. Corey Palumbo said these retired and off-duty officers stationed in schools are already being allowed to carry handguns in some schools across the state. He said the bill makes it clear they are authorized to carry.
The legislation requires school resource officers to meet all state training and firearm certifications.
The House passed a similar bill Wednesday allowing off-duty and retired officers acting as security for school to carry weapons on school buses, on school property and at school-sponsored functions.
BILL CRACKS DOWN ON DRUG PARAPHERNALIA
West Virginia businesses couldn’t sell bongs, bowls, mini spoons or other items marketed for illegal drug use under a proposal passed by the House of Delegates.
House lawmakers voted 94-2 Wednesday to make intentionally selling drug paraphernalia in West Virginia a misdemeanor, punishable by up to $5,000 in fines and six months to a year in jail. The Senate will consider the bill next.
Whether a product is ultimately declared drug use equipment would depend on its instructions, how it’s marketed or displayed, how often it’s bought for legitimate purposes and if a business sells related legal products.
The bill exempts items bought with doctors’ prescriptions, or pipes, papers and accessories for tobacco.
BREASTFEEDING BILL GOES TO SENATE
Delegates passed a bill allowing mothers to breast feed a child in any public location.
The bill states that breast feeding is a basic act of nurturing and important for the health of both mothers and children.
The bill has moved to the Senate. Similar bills have failed in the Senate in 2005 and 2012.
DRILLING WASTE WOULD GO TO COMMERCIAL SITES
The House has approved a bill allowing commercial solid waste facilities to accept drilling waste from horizontal well sites.
The bill allows drill cuttings to be accepted beyond waste facilities’ monthly tonnage limits through Dec. 31, 2016, if cuttings are placed in a separate cell.
Solid waste facilities accepting drill cuttings must install radiation monitors by Jan. 1, 2015.
Delegate Tim Manchin said drilling companies will be charged $1 per ton to fund Department of Environmental Protection studies on the viability of using existing landfills for cuttings. The fee will also go toward maintaining roads to landfills.