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March 7, 2011

 

FINAL WEEK OF SESSION; START CALLING NOW ON S.B. 608

 

This is the final week of the first session of the 80th Legislature of West Virginia.  The regular session is set to end midnight on Saturday, but both the House of Delegates and state Senate have a number of pieces of legislation before them.  Statewide issues that one house or the other needs to address include OPEB (Other Post-Employment Benefits), public employee pay raises, one cent reduction in the food tax, an intermediate appellate court and a new fiscal year budget. 

 

Both houses have passed plans for overseeing Marcellus Shale drilling.  The Senate version, S.B. 465, contains a section that puts any new oil and gas revenue derived from oil and gas severance taxes into the highway fund.  The current severance tax revenue is $64.8 million which goes to counties and municipalities.  The bill allows additional severance taxes be split equally between the state’s General Fund and the State Road Fund.  This is an attempt to provide a long-lasting benefit to increased drilling in the Marcellus Gas field. The funding transfer, of which there is no accurate estimate but could be substantial, will apply until June 30, 2016.

 

There are a number of bills still in play this week.  For a list of bills affecting the construction industry that are still alive and those that are dead for this legislative session, see the end of this CAWV Legislative Bulletin.

 

HIGHWAY ISSUES DEBATED ON SENATE FLOOR

 

Funding for highways passed muster in the Senate Wednesday as S.B. 608 was approved 26-7.  The bill adjusts fees for drivers licenses, vehicle registration and other Division of Motor Vehicle transactions.  The fees, which have not been adjusted since the 1970s, would generate about $39 million in new revenues to the State Road Fund.  Another highway bill was not as fortunate.  S.B. 606, a bill to help build the final 14 miles of Route 35 in Putnam and Mason counties, was defeated.  The bill provided a guarantee of $8 million from the WV Infrastructure and Jobs Development Council should toll revenues not be sufficient to repay the debt service on the bonds sold to finance the project.  The bill cleared the Senate Finance Committee Tuesday evening, just in time to be considered by the full Senate on Wednesday, the final day for a bill to pass in its house of origin. The bill’s passage seemed assured until a few senators spoke against charging tolls on the new four-lane road.  As debate continued, other senators questioned why they wanted to vote for bill that didn’t have support from the senators who represent Mason and Putnam counties.  After about 40 minutes of debate, the bill was defeated by a margin of 21-12.

 

S.B. 608 has been referred to the House Finance Committee and work begins this week to gain passage in the House.  S.B. 606 is presumed dead this session barring any unforeseen measure that would resurrect the bill.  The question now for the WV Division of Highways and the administration is the future of the $187.2 million Route 35 project.  Kokosing Construction has extended its bid until March 10.

 

The Senate Finance Committee also passed out S.B. 618 which will provide supplemental appropriations for the WV Division of Highways. 


 

LEGISLATIVE ACTION REQUIRED: CONTACT HOUSE MEMBERS TODAY TO SUPPORT SB 608

 

S.B. 608 is a bill to adjust drivers’ license and vehicle registration fees charged by the WV Division of Motor Vehicles. The bill provides an additional $39.4 million annually to the State Road Fund. The CAWV supports the bill for the following reasons:

 


Many of the fees have not been adjusted since the 1970s. Two were last increased in 1951.

 

The current fees don’t even cover the DMV’s actual costs.

 

The proposed fees are an average of fees charged in surrounding states.

 

WVDOH revenues are stagnant and West Virginia’s repaving schedule has slipped from a 12-year rotation to a 31-year schedule.

 

WVDOH needs $700 million more annually just to maintain the current program.

 

Federal funding for highways has dropped and will continue to drop.

 

WVDOH officials have stated the additional revenue will be spent on secondary roads and small bridges.

 

Favorable editorials have been written in the Morgantown Dominion Post, Charleston Daily Mail and Huntington Herald Dispatch in support of S.B. 608. Copies of the newspaper editorials are available for viewing using the above links. 

 

Jobs will be created in West Virginia’s hard-hit construction industry.


 

 

CONTACT HOUSE OF DELEGATES MEMBERS URGING THEM TO SUPPORT S.B. 608.  FOR A LIST OF CAPITOL PHONE NUMBERS, CLICK HERE. ALSO, HAVE YOUR EMPLOYEES START CONTACTING THEIR DELEGATES IN SUPPORT OF S.B. 608.

 

WVBT RUNNING AD ON METRONEWS “TALKLINE WITH HOPPY KERCHEVAL”

 

West Virginians for Better Transportation is running an ad on “Talkline with Hoppy Kercheval.”  WVBT is not a lobbying organization so the ad does not address a specific piece of legislation.  The 30-second spot instead talks about the funding needs facing the West Virginia Division of Highways and that the state’s 12-year paving cycle has slipped to a 31-year rotation.  WVBT commends legislators for looking at ways to bolster the State Road Fund.  To listen to the ad, click here.  CAWV members will recognize the voice as past CAWV President and current WVBT Chairman Bill Hilborn. The ad began Friday and will run this week from 10 a.m. to 12 noon on Metronews stations.  It also ran on the WVU-Louisville post game report Saturday.  With the thrilling last second WVU victory, many West Virginians were listening to the post game show.

 

ENERGY-SAVING CONTRACT BILL COMPLETES LEGISLATIVE ACTION

 

H.B. 2709 is a bill to allow county boards of education to enter into energy-saving contracts. All energy-saving contracts entered into with the state of West Virginia and institutions of higher education are up to 15 years in duration. The purpose of H.B. 2709 is to put county boards of education on an equal basis with other public entities. The bill completed its legislative action on March 1 and is on the Governor’s desk for his signature.

 

BILLS STILL IN PLAY DURING FINAL WEEK

 

All bills had to pass their house of origin in order to be considered this legislative session.  Many of the bills the CAWV opposed did not make it out to committees.  Some of the bills that are still advancing include: S.B. 2465 - the Chesapeake Bay Watershed bill which will provide millions for wastewater treatment facilities in the Eastern Panhandle; S.B. 272 which relates to Tax Increment Financing; S.B. 282 which continues the WVDOH design-build pilot program; S.B. 465 - the Marcellus Gas and Manufacturing Development Act; S.B. 510 which deals with the 2009 version of the International Energy Conservation Code for public projects; S.B. 608, the DMV fee increase bill; and HB 2890, the Energy Efficiency Act.  For a complete list of bills that passed either the House or Senate, click here.

 

BILLS THAT DID NOT PASS THIS SESSION

 

There were a number of bills that directly or indirectly affected how contractors and material suppliers run their businesses that were not advanced this session. Some were favorable to the industry and others were not.  A partial list includes: S.B. 24, requiring U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED Silver Certification on public buildings; S.B. 240, allowing State Purchasing to utilize reverse auctions; S.B. 395, dedicating General Fund surpluses to the State Road Fund; S.B. 462, restoring the state’s Prompt Pay Act; H.B. 2144, mandating liquidated damages on state construction projects; H.B. 2139, allowing state boards of education to enter lease-purchase agreements; H.B. 2114, prohibiting mandatory overtime; H.B. 2545, requiring OSHA 10-hour safety course; H.B. 3136, requiring separate prime bids on public construction projects; and H.B. 3141, requiring contractors to post bonds to cover any damage to roads leading to a construction project.

 

2011 LEGISLATIVE WRAP-UP TO BE SENT NEXT WEEK

 

Following Saturday’s adjournment of this year’s legislative session, a complete wrap-up will be sent to members next week.  Anyone with a question on the bills currently working their way through the legislative process should contact Mike Clowser at 304-342-1166 or mclowser@cawv.org.