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Ed bill overshadows lengthy agenda for W.Va. gov

Published on NewsOK Modified: March 17, 2013 at 3:53 pm •  Published: March 17, 2013
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CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — His proposed changes to West Virginia public schools are getting plenty of attention, but Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin also has more than two dozen other measures pending at the Legislature.

Halfway through the session, the governor is counting on lawmakers to begin advancing the rest of his 29-item agenda.

With the education proposal up for a vote Monday in the Senate, just two of the governor's bills have passed at least one chamber. The House last month approved his steep increases of fines for pipeline safety violations, following the fiery December rupture of a Sissonville natural gas line. Delegates on Friday sent the first of Tomblin's bills to his desk, a supplemental budget measure maintaining funding for child day care aid while paying court-appointed lawyers.

Around a dozen more of Tomblin's measures have cleared at least one committee, but the rest are idling.

Besides the schools bill, the agenda item with the highest profile is drawn from the recent Justice Reinvestment Initiative study of West Virginia's inmate crowding crisis. Among other provisions, it would increase supervision and drug treatment options for inmates upon release and reduce the number of parolees who are returned to prison for minor violations. The Senate Finance Committee expects to take it up Monday. Senate Judiciary advanced it earlier this month, though it still faces critics of its provision releasing non-violent offenders into supervised programs six months before their sentences end.

Tomblin has gotten traction with his call for jobs impact statements to accompany legislation. Lawmakers in both chambers and across party lines have expressed support for weighing the economic benefits or costs of pending bills. The Senate Economic Development Committee endorsed a version of that bill last week, while tweaking who besides the governor could request a statement.

The Senate health committee recently advanced the governor's bid to cut Medicaid transport costs by sending up a brokerage for arranging rides to medical offices. But those lawmakers also added a major exemption, allowing ambulance companies, senior centers and public transit to opt out of the brokerage.

The House's economic development committee has approved an agenda item that seeks to recapture $8 million annually for the general revenue budget. This bill would reclaim proceeds from taxes on corporate net income, insurance policies and extracted natural resources that now fund such special purposes as improving railroad service.

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