Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin tonight praised Senate President Jeff Kessler and Speaker of the House Rick Thompson along with members of the legislature for passing several pieces of landmark legislation during the 2012 Regular Session.
"For the past sixty-days, President Kessler, Speaker Thompson and members of the legislature have worked with my administration to put the best interest of West Virginia families first and I am grateful for their collaboration," Gov. Tomblin said. "From making our coal mines and roadways safer, ridding our communities of substance abuse, changing our tax code to invite business development and to addressing our state's last remaining debt, this session produced substantial laws which will improve the lives of West Virginians; I could not be more pleased."
Some of the governor's legislative proposals passed during the session include:
H.B. 4086 Establishes tax relief for ethane steam cracker development. This bill focuses on job recruitment by reducing personal property taxes for companies constructing an ethane steam cracker in West Virginia which has a minimum of $2 billion in investment.
S.B. 469 Relating to Other Post-Employment Benefits (OPEB). This bill creates a funding stream to pay off the state's last remaining long-term liability of $5 billion by 2036, saving county school boards $485 million in future OPEB liability payments freeing up funds for local system uses.
H.B. 4351 Relating to mine safety. This bill strengthens rock dusting and new methane standards, codifies an anonymous mine safety tip line, increases fines and penalties, criminalizes advance notice of mine inspections, and requires pre-employment and random drug testing among other safety improvements towards preventing coal mine disaster injuries and fatalities.
H.B. 4087 Extends the moratorium on timber severance taxes. This bill extends the discontinuance of the severance tax on the privilege of harvesting timber, saving the timber industry approximately $1.3 million annually.
S.B. 211 Establishing the offense of driving while texting. This bill makes it a primary offense to operate a motor vehicle while sending or reading a text message. The bill also makes it a secondary offense for speaking on a handheld cell phone as of July 1, 2012, then the crime becomes a primary offense as of July 1, 2013.
S.B. 371 Establishes an innovation zone pilot project in McDowell County. This bill aims to help improve student achievement by allowing for more flexibility in education policies in McDowell County Schools, demonstrating concepts proposed in the statewide education efficiency audit.
H.B. 4236 Relating to the evaluation process for school educators. This bill will apply enhanced educator evaluation standards for teachers, principals and vice-principals while including student achievement in the evaluation process and providing support for those found to be in need of improvement.
S.B. 437 Relating to substance abuse prevention and treatment. This comprehensive bill requires reporting of controlled substance prescriptions within 24 hours, and establishes new licensing requirements for pain clinics. It also calls for enhanced reporting for methadone treatment clinics, requiring "best practice" controlled substance prescribing education and drug diversion training for health care professionals. It implements a real-time, stop-sale tracking system for pseudoephedrine purchases as well.
In accordance with a proclamation issued by the governor earlier this week, the legislature shall remain in session through at least Tuesday, March 13, 2012 in order to consider the budget bill. If an agreement can be reached, Gov. Tomblin will call a special session pertaining to the re-opening of Century Aluminum in Jackson County.