The West Virginia Legislature now is racing to finish passage of legislation by Midnight, Saturday night, and many of the major issues will remain unresolved until the last stroke of the clock. The Legislature will continue to meet during the following week to approve the final version of the annual state government budget for the coming year.
Meanwhile, the Senate has resurrected the immediate reduction of the grocery tax from 3% to 2% by amending HB 2971. When the Senate's action on HB 2971 was brought to the House of Delegates for a vote on Wednesday evening (March 9th), I and thirteen other delegates authored another amendment to completely eliminate the grocery tax. Sadly, the Speaker of the House of Delegates ruled this amendment attempt as out of order, so I and an overwhelming majority of the House of Delegates subsequently voted to concur with the Senate's amendment to HB 2971 in order to at least reduce the food tax from 3% to 2%. It now is expected that Acting Governor Tomblin will sign HB 2971 into law.
In other developments, I have met with the Attorney General's Chief Deputy regarding the need to protect West Virginia's right to access our Potomac River water resource. The Potomac River jurisdiction long has been claimed by Maryland, even though the West Virginia watershed contributes 23.8 % of the water to that river. More to come, including public meetings between the Attorney General and local stakeholders on this issue.
Also, in regard to post legislative session "Interim Studies" by the Legislature, I have proposed that the Senior Citizens Issues Committee investigate the effect of West Virginia laws and regulations on our senior citizens, including an analysis of the size and growth of West Virginia's elderly population as well as a comparison to that of other and surrounding states.
In regard to citizen protection against fraud, I am working with the Attorney General Consumer Protection Division. Furthermore, their Senior Citizens Liaison, Julia R.Stevenson, has invited senior citizens with individual concerns and problems to contact her directly at (304) 636-6466 or (800) 368-8808.
The Legislature soon again will assemble in a special session this Spring to approve new citizen voting districts for West Virginia's Senators and Delegates. These new voting districts will be based on the population change results from the 2010 census. During that session, I will work in favor of creating voting districts that more reasonably reflect and represent the folks in local communities, instead of designing districts to protect the re-election of incumbent legislators and the special interests of political parties.