West Virginia Greyhound Funds Targeted Again

File Photo by Scott McCloskey Gov. Jim Justice visits West Virginia Independence Hall in Wheeling in April to sign paperwork to veto a bill that passed the Legislature that would have eliminated the state’s Greyhound Breeding Development Fund.

WHEELING — Senate leaders say a bill to defund the West Virginia Greyhound Development Fund likely won’t make it out of the gate this year after being vetoed by Gov. Jim Justice in 2017.

Senate Majority Leader Ryan Ferns, R-Ohio; and Senate Majority Whip Ryan Weld, R-Brooke, both indicated they weren’t even aware Senate Bill 274 had been reintroduced this session by Sen. Robert Karnes, R-Upshur.

The bill is essentially identical to the one passed by the Legislature, but vetoed by Justice in 2017. Delegate Cindy Frich, R-Monongalia, also has introduced the bill as House Bill 4292 this session.

Both measures have been assigned to their respective judiciary committees, and then must be approved by finance committees.

Weld also serves as vice chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

“We really haven’t brought that up or discussed it,” he said of the dog breeders bill. “Last year, they had a pretty tough time getting the vote.

“I know I am extremely opposed to the bill. But I know they (supporters) have the votes still.”

What’s changed since last year is that Justice — one year ago a Democrat — is now a Republican. There has been concern voiced he might now want to appease the Republican majority on the issue of the dog fund.

“I don’t know how he feels. I haven’t had that conversation with the governor,” Weld said. “I’ve never changed parties, but I don’t know why he would want to change his philosophy.

“He seemed pretty strongly against it when he came to Wheeling (on April 6, 2017 to announce his veto),” Weld said. “He even knocked the Legislature then for voting in favor of it. It would seem fairly hypocritical if would veto the bill, then sign it into law the next year.”

Ferns said he doesn’t see the measure getting any traction in 2018.

“I have heard no discussion about it in our daily planning meetings,” he said. “And I do not think the governor will change his position on it.”

Delegate Shawn Fluharty, D-Ohio, also doesn’t believe the measure will get another vote on the House side.

“I don’t think they want that fight again,” he said of lawmakers who supported the bill in 2017. “It didn’t make sense then and it doesn’t make sense now.

“If they do, I can assure you that Delegate (Erikka) Storch and myself will be ready for it. We worked well together on the issue last year, and I believe it helped educate our colleagues on the importance of the greyhound industry to not just the Northern Panhandle, but the entire state.”

Storch, R-Ohio, said the bill doesn’t have a chance again in the Legislature, but that won’t stop sponsor Frich from voicing her opposition to the greyhound racing industry. “I’m sure she will make a push at some point, but I don’t think there is any desire there,” she said.

House Finance Committee Chairman Eric Nelson, D-Kanawha, now knows the position Wheeling would be in if the bill were passed, and if the greyhound breeding industry leaves the state as a result, she said.