Broadband, harm reduction, transgender athletes; a recap of the 85th WV legislative session

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CHARLESTON, WV (WOWK) — Lawmakers worked late into the night Saturday finalizing the 85th legislative session for West Virginia.

This year was unlike any other for lawmakers; it had a republican supermajority, as well as strict COVID-19 restrictions.

And then, there was Governor Jim Justice’s push to repeal the state income tax, which ultimately failed.

After 60 days in session, the West Virginia legislature passed a $4,495,032,115 budget for the fiscal year 2022; $74 million less than last year’s budget.

281 bills passed 78 of which have already been signed into law by the Governor.

But the Governor lost out on his most desired bill, to repeal the state income tax.

“This is what I wanted to do for the people of West Virginia,” said Justice Saturday at a press conference pulling out $1483 dollars in cash, what he says is what West Virginia families will miss out on.

Delegate Michael Pushkin (D-Kanawha) says neither the people nor lawmakers shared the Governor’s enthusiasm for repealing the state income tax.

“I think the people feel that’s not the reason people are leaving here, that’s not the reason people are going to move here and that’s what we were hearing from our constituents,” he said.

The house of delegates voted it down with a 0-100 vote.

As part of the minority, democrats had an uphill battle passing legislation from the start.

The Capitol closed off to the public didn’t help either.

“Public hearings were very limited, public access was really limited and I think that’s the reason why the majority pushed the type of legislation they prioritized,” said Pushkin.

Some controversial bills included, the transgender student-athlete restriction on which teams they can play, requiring harm reduction programs to get licensed by the state before distributing needles to addicts, and a bill that would protect Confederate monuments.

“Some of the legislation was just, you know, hot-button type culture war type bills don’t really help anybody and really make the state look bad,” said Pushkin.

“Some of the legislation was just, you know, hot-button type culture war type bills don’t really help anybody and really make the state look bad.”

Del. Mike Pushkin (D-Kanawha)

Republicans tout passing charter school reform, broadband expansion, and simplifying licensure requirements this session.

“As a member of the majority party, we still have our disagreements within the supermajority caucus,” said Delegate Caleb Hanna (R-Nicholas).

Hanna created the Hope Scholarship, which would give state aid to K-8 students who choose to homeschool or go to a private school.

“I think we can all agree that everybody is different and everybody learns in a different way,” said Hanna.

There were also bills that called for loosening the state’s water quality regulations, they didn’t pass.
Now, with the session behind him, Justice says he’s not giving up on convincing West Virginians to repeal the income tax.

“I think it will be interesting to see if the governor calls us back in for a special session of any sort to readdress this,” said Hanna.

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